Royal Observer Corp

We are very grateful to Dave Cutts for his help to build this collection of photographs.

Royal Observer Corp Building

From ‘Memories of Henham”. Our thanks to Frances Roberts and Carol Eaton for permission to reproduce the following text.

The above photo is of the Second World War Royal Observer Corps Ground Observation Post, Henham ‘How 1″. This building located in a field adjacent to the public footpath from Carters Lane to Glebe Meadow was used for the detection and reporting of enemy aircraft during the 2nd World war. Towards the end of the war they were also used for the detection, reporting and tracking of the V1 and V2 rockets launched from France. The information gathered was relayed by telephone to the Area HQ in Colchester. There the whole picture would be built up of the enemy’s strength and intentions from information gathered from all parts of Eastern England. With about 800 of these posts throughout the land they were a vital component of successful counter-attacks against enemy aircraft.

Unusually, the main concrete structure had the comparative luxury of a glazed roof which protected the two observers on duty from the elements. The timber building used for living accommodation and storage. Six observers covered a 24 hour shift. Several villagers remember taking tea to those on duty during the war. One of them remembers watching the V2 rocket which came over Henham and exploded in a tree near the cricket field.

During the ‘Cold War’, in the 1960s, the threat of nuclear attack was uppermost in the minds of those defending the country. By this time about half of these buildings had been demolished and the sites re-used to build underground bunkers, with all things necessary to survive a nuclear attack except a direct hit. The plan was, if the unit survived, to plot damage and radiation, giving warnings to areas of population and important services in the path of wind-borne radiation and fall-out.

The last 2 photos taken by Nick Catford in 1998. This part of the post was opened on 1st Nov. 1961 and closed on 1st Sept 1991. It was visited by Nick on the 8th May 1998 who reported the following on website.

‘LOCKED Externally the post is in good condition with all surface features intact although all the paint has gone. The hatch is locked but can be opened with a ‘T’ bar key. Internally it is clean and free of vandalism. The only furniture remaining is the cupboard and the wooden brackets for the table and shelf. Other items remaining including mattresses, light fittings and wiring, kitchen utensils and a few papers. Recently the bunker has been used by the Royal Signals as a triangulation station, operated by NO2 brigade home communications regiment for post strike HF comms. Although the bunker is empty it is rigged to be used and is checked regularly. The MOD pay the Parish Council to maintain the exterior and local residents have been asked to inform the police if the post is tampered with.’

From the estate of the late Gill Turner

Below are a number of records made by Ralph Turner (once of ‘Wyndies’, Crow Street) when he was a Senior Warden during World War 2 for October 1939. He probably used the observation post with its underground bunker which are hidden away down Carters Lane.

The first document identifies R. V. Turner and V. Prentis as Senior Wardens. Ralph Victor Turner and V. Prentis were assisted by Messrs Balaam, W. Turner, Ward, Vaughan, Harris and Hayden