News

The one-of-a-kind
Guildhall WW2 Operations Room

7 Mar 2022

What was the Royal Observer Corps?

The Royal Observer Corps (or ROC) were a civil defence organisation set up following the air attacks of the First World War. The wartime ROC’s job was to track aircraft and send their information to RAF Fighter Command.

Housewives, garage mechanics, teachers, solicitors, shop assistants – a huge variety of civilians made up the ROC – known as the “Eyes and Ears of the RAF”.

The Home Guard prepared defences in case of invasion by land, while the Royal Observer Corps kept their eyes on the skies, spotting enemy planes and helping guide allied aircrews safely home.

What is the Operations Room?

At the start of WW2, radar was in its early stages and wasn’t capable of tracking aircraft over land. Royal Observer Corps Ops Rooms filled that gap.

The Guildhall Ops Room was a crucial part of a defence network known as the Dowding System. It was one of 40 ROC Ops Room spread across the country. Between them they helped keep surveillance on every inch of the British skies.

Without these Ops Rooms the RAF wouldn’t know where to send their aircraft.

Without the ROC the Battle of Britain would have ended very differently.


How did the Ops Room work?

The heart of the Ops Room is the plotting table.

The ‘plotters’ who sat around the table communicated with ‘spotters’ positioned in lookout posts across the region.

The spotters used binoculars and measuring equipment to gather intel and then reported the aircraft they saw (or in some cases only heard).

The plotters translated that information onto the Ops Room plotting table using specially coded counters.

‘Tellers’ were people positioned on a raised platform who monitored the plotting table and made the decision when to call to the RAF.


Why is the Guildhall Ops Room so important?

The Guildhall Ops Room is the only one of its type left in the country.

It is the only place where you can explore an incredible untold part of our national story.

The Ops Room is a lot of things to a lot of people – an amazing place to experience hidden history, a brilliant learning resource, and a living memorial to a little-known group of everyday heroes.

The Ops Room is run by a charity and staffed by volunteers.
We need your support to help tell its special story.

If you would like to get involved please email our team at learning@burystedmundsguildhall.org.uk or call us on 01284 247037.


You can explore the incredible story of the Ops Room and
the civilians who staffed it at the Guildhall’s special free exhibition:

Ration Books to Rock ‘n’ Roll!

25th March – 10th April.