A collection of stories from ROC 14th Group members ROC 14TH GROUP STORIES FROM THE GUILDHALL

Discover the lives of the men and women that helped win the war through their work at the Guildhall Ops room.

Captain Frank T. Bright

Captain Bright was a former mayor, member of the council and officer in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.  As a Councilor, he felt that the unused former Council Chamber in the Guildhall was ideal for the new location of a ROC observer center in Bury st Edmunds. As it was close to the telephone exchange and available at a low rent from the Town Council.

In 1938 Captain Bright recruited over 150 staff organized into 3 shifts.  They were initially under the command of the police. After an inspection, the Chief Constable wrote.

 “I think the Observer Corps work in this district is excellent all the men appear very keen and efficient. We are lucky in having a man like Capt Bright to command the Centre here. “

Peggy Wesley

Peggy Wesley (b.1910) and her sister Doris (b.1904) were the proprietors of Condor Nash, a ladies’ outfitters at 10, the Butter Market. During the war Peggy did all the housework in the flat above number 10, where the sisters lived, while Doris managed the shop. This gave Peggy time to work her shifts for the ROC in the OPS Room. For Peggy joining the ROC was “an escape”.

They remained there until the early fifties when Peggy married a widower Mr Jenkins and moved to Harrogate, following her husband’s death she moved back to Bury and lived with her sister, Doris in Park Road. They remained there until Peggy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was then moved to Risby Nursing Home where she died.

Sybil Ransom

Sybil Ransom (1919 – 2000), born in Lawshall, spent her war years devoted to the war effort at first through the Land Army on Jack Robinsons farm, Lawshall Green.

When women were allowed to join the Royal Observer Corps (ROC), she volunteered, doing shifts in the Ops room here, alongside working on the farm. On occasions, she would complete her nightshift in the Ops room, then cycle the eight miles back to Lawshall in time to help with milking.

She recalled many incidents that happened on the farm, one being when two German fighter aircraft came over low and spotted her another chap in the field, one of them deciding to open fire forcing them to dive under a tractor for cover. Another was watching a British aircraft circling slowly getting lower and lower and finally crashing in the field that they were working in. This turned out to be an aircraft from a Polish squadron based at Chedburgh.

Sybil later married Micheal Langdon (Marion Laskowski, 1926-1991) a Polish serviceman on Christmas eve 1948.

Beryl Frewer

Beryl Frewer’s interest in aeroplanes led her to join the Royal Observer Corps during the war.

Beryl recalled that they were not given much training but were told about the table and how to interpret the numbers. Otherwise, they were just given the earphones and plotted.

She was one of the 14 or 15 of people sitting around the table plotting both friendly and hostile planes. Beryl stated that ‘if you saw a German, you were plotting a German plane… you didn’t think anything of it, unless you were sitting on the Bury post.’

Whilst Beryl was with the Royal Observer Corps the American pilots came over which created more work for the ops room when they were doing raids. Beryl stated that this was their busiest time as they had to check them on the way out and on the way back.

When the war finished she was given two months’ pay to look for another job and later stated that ‘We were a bit stunned, you know, it finished so sharply’. Beryl went onto work at a telephone exchange.

Albert Edward Sammons

Albert Edward Sammons (known as Eddie to the Family) was born in Brixton, London to William and Maria on 1st September 1902. 

While he was too young to have fought in the First World War, Albert wasted no time in signing up to do his duty to his country in April 1921 when the Prime Minister announced a national emergency. At 19 years of age, on the 10th of April 1921, Albert signed up to the 2nd London Defence Composite Brigade Brixton as a driver.

However, the national emergency only lasted 90 days so on the 27th of September 1921 Albert signed up to the Regular Army, joining the Corps of Military Accountants for 4 years.

On leaving the Army in 1925 he joined his mother and stepfather in Bury St Edmunds. His stepfather, who had worked in London on the construction of the Underground, came with his employer to work on the building of the railway line into the British Sugar Corporation Factory.

During his time working there in the Second World War, Albert joined the Royal Observation Corps working in the ‘Ops’ room at the Guildhall.

Albert’s granddaughter Linda Greco stated that “As a family we had no idea that he had played such an important role in the national war effort.

When I researched ROC 14 I discovered a photograph of the group sitting outside the Guildhall from the East Anglian Daily Times. Above the photo was this headline: Can you name ROC heroes in wartime photo to help mark 75th anniversary of VE Day? And I was very proud to discover that I could. My grandfather, Albert Edward Sammons, 3rd from the left in the seated row.”