at the Royal Air Force Club, Piccadilly, London on 18th March 2008 at 12 noon in the Cowdray Lounge bar.
Open: The 'open' pages may be issued to
Forces' magazines to raise awareness of the Corps.
On Tuesday18th March a group of former ROC members met at the Hard ROCk Café for coffee before moving on to the RAF Club a hundred yards away, where we had been invited to attend the presentation of an ROC Badge to the club by Mike Thompson, a former member of 16 Group, 16 Post Poynton.
On entering the RAF Club and being directed to the Cowdray Lounge bar we were welcomed by Peter Owen the General Manager and Secretary of the Club, and offered wine or soft drinks.
Mike then gave an excellent talk on the history of the ROC and the reasons why he felt that the ROC Badge should be on display within the RAF Club. He then made the presentation of a framed ROC Badge to the Club, along with an ROC 50th Anniversary Commemorative Plate and a special version of the ROC Squadron Print of the wartime Spitfire, 'Observer Corps' 'EB-Z'.
ROC Squadron Prints of the Spitfire were also presented by Mike to AM Cliff Spink, AVM George Black and Roy McDowell.
Peter Owen announced that the club would provide drinks and buffet lunch in the lounge. This very generous offer was very much appreciated by everyone present.
We were all very proud to be at the presentation, and felt a debt of gratitude to Mike for bringing his idea to fruition.
The Badge will be on display in the Badges Corridor, which is covered from floor to ceiling with paintings of RAF squadron badges and other units.
"Good afternoon, welcome everyone, thanks for attending especially to the two previous Commandants of the Royal Observer Corps, Air Marshal Cliff Spink and Air Vice Marshal George Black. I introduce Peter Owen who is the General Manager and Secretary of the Royal Air Force Club.
The Observer Corps was formed in 1925 to support the Royal Air Force by reporting of enemy aircraft. In 1939 it was mobilised. In 1940 it took a major part in the Battle of Britain, the RAF's most illustrious Battle Honour, and won special praise from Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding of Fighter Command for guiding interceptions of enemy aircraft and giving air raid warnings. In 1941 it received the "Royal" title in recognition of its work.
In just over eighteen months it had been mobilised, taken part in a Battle that decided the fate of the country and been awarded the "Royal" title. If this was the record of a full time professional front line unit of the armed forces it would be a excellent one. The fact that it was the record of a volunteer, part time reserve unit is absolutely incredible.
The other major role in the Second World War came about when Observers were asked to volunteer for hazardous service, but they did not know what for. They found themselves on D Day, on landing craft and merchant ships controlling the anti-aircraft guns. Appropriately we have here today the President of the Seaborne Association, Air Vice Marshal George Black, who was Seaborne himself with the Royal Navy for the Suez campaign flying Seahawks.
After the war the ROC was stood down and reformed in the in the role of reporting nuclear bursts and radioactive fallout. World War 3 never happened but we did find out latter that we were within twelve hours of call out during the Cuban missile crisis.
What is very special about the Royal Observer Corps is the people, the camaraderie, and the esprit de corps. This special spirit lives on today in the Royal Observer Corps Association, even though it is some seventeen years since stand down.
Peter, I would like to give to the RAF Club this ROC Badge. It depicts one of the Elizabethan beacon lighters at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588, who we like to think of as the first Observer Corps.
Mike, the Badge, and Peter Owen (from RAF News photograph)
Secondly, I would like to present the Royal Observer Corps Commemorative Plate. It was produced by Royal Doulton of Minton Fine Bone China for the 50th anniversary in 1975. This was ordered off the internet and I was delighted when it arrived by post, but on opening the parcel, it was in three pieces. I contacted the sender to ask for my money back, but he said he had another one and would send it more securely next time. I said no you won't! I will come and collect it, but that took two hours there and two hours back, but it was worth it to present it here to you.
Thirdly, I have a special surprise item that you do not know about. This is a special version of the ROC Squadron Print. It states at the top "Presentation of the Royal Observer Corps badge, painted by the College of Arms, to the Royal Air Force Club, London; by Observer M K Thompson, 16 Post Poynton, Cheshire, 16 Group Shrewsbury". During the Second World War the Commandant of the ROC asked for £5,000 to purchase a Spitfire for the RAF. A large sum of money today, a massive sum then. The ROC raised nearly double this amount and the aircraft depicted is the Spitfire that was purchased with "Observer Corps" on the side and the ROC badge. It achieved three kills. This is a very rare print as the usual minimum number of prints is 200, but I have special contacts and they kindly produced just 20 copies."
[Note: Only 20 of the Squadron Print were produced, none is for sale, and Squadron Prints will not be producing any more.]
I next presented a print to Air Marshal Spink, who thanked me very much for organising the event today, and said "Well Done". Traditionally in military parlance a "Well Done" is the highest praise that can be given, and I am very honoured and pleased.
I then presented a print to Air Vice Marshal George Black, and mentioned that he served with Ray Bradley, from my Post, in his national service days, and he said "yes at RAF Driffield, a long time ago". The Air Vice Marshal was wearing the Seaborne Association tie, which I had not seen before. It is similar to the ROC crested tie, but the ROC badges have the King's crown, and they alternate between the stripes with the red Royal Navy Petty Officers badge.
Mike would also like to express his thanks to all who
attended and especially to those who helped with the arranging of the event.