Top secret room WW2 Roc Operations Room At The Guildhall
One 20th– century addition makes the Guildhall unique – the WWII ROC Operations Room. The Observer Corps – later to be named Royal Observer Corps (ROC) in recognition of their role in the Battle of Britain – was a civil defence organisation set up following the air attacks of the First World War. During WWII (1939-1945), the ROC’s job was to track aircraft movements above the skies of Britain and send information to Royal Airforce Fighter Command. They were the ‘Eyes and Ears of the RAF’ and helped to save thousands of lives during WWII.
Volunteer ‘Spotters’ armed with binoculars kept watch night and day at field posts and vantage points in the town and surrounding countryside. They were given training and equipment to identify aircraft and calculate the height of aircraft accurately. They had a direct open telephone line to each other and to relay their observations to their ‘Plotter’ in the Operations Room at the Guildhall. ‘Plotters’ were paid employees of the Royal Observer Corps, trained to log and interpret incoming information and mark the position on the large plotting table. From 1942, women were actively encouraged into this field of work when they were called up for service aged 18. The ‘Tellers’ in the Ops Room were positioned on the gallery and kept a close eye on the movements of aircraft laid out on the plotting table. They relied on the teleprinter to pass on the vital information gathered to RAF Fighter Command.
The civilians who worked day and night in the Ops Room at the Guildhall came from all walks of life – teachers, garage mechanics, housewives and shop assistants. These remarkable but unsung local heroes helped change the course of the Second World War. Their crucial contribution to victory in the Battle of Britain and their part in the rescue of countless returning allied airmen cannot be overstated. We are proud to share their remarkable story.
The Guildhall’s ROC Ops Room is the only one of its kind left in the country. The No. 14 Group of the ROC based in this room employed state of the art communication technology and the room is set up with the plotting table, wall chart and the teleprinter in the adjoining Robing Room. There is also the remarkable clock, described as ‘The Clock that Saved Britain’, a unique electric Sector Clock for Britain’s air defence network, designed for complete accuracy in order to keep track of raids on the plotting table. The whole room was laid out to ensure that the gallery could clearly see what was going on. Lighting and paint colours were carefully chosen to maximise visibility and avoid reflection or shadows on the table.
The Ops Room is open on designated open days throughout the year and when there are other events or exhibitions at the Guildhall. Its remarkable story is brought alive by our well-informed and enthusiastic volunteer guides.