Harold Archer, ROC Memories

ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS MEMORIES
Harold Archer
24th January 2017

I first enrolled May 1963 @ Group Control 22 Group Carlisle on the Wednesday night Crew (no. 4.) My service No. was to be 63602. I was enticed, “you get a quarterly grant”, to “try it out” by a certain Jim Spencer!

I have no firm memories of serving Officers or Crew supervisors but G.R.O.’s from that time have the G.C. as Obs/Cdr. Lawder the D.G.C. as Obs/Lt. Johnstone. The Officer of Crew 4 is listed as Obs/Off. Sneezum! I, however, can only remember Eric Barclay as Crew officer?

The “axe” which fell in 1968 led to a reduction to three crews (as well as many post closures) and Crew 4 became Crew 2. Sadly one of the Crew officers will have departed at that time along with some Group Officers not to mention Chief’s, Leading’s and some Observers.

Sometime during this period (late 60’s?) Ken Maynard became G.C. and Peter Barrington was appointed D.G.C. with David Dagnall arriving as G.T.O. Further changes must have followed as Andy Hardie (as D.G.C.) and Arthur Holland (as G.T.O.) feature in later G.R.O.’s. Not that I, as a mere Observer, was aware of these changes or, indeed, of any changes to Crew Officer Appointments.

Employment circumstances changed over the years ’68 to ’70 and they led, eventually, to my first resignation in 1970.

In 1972 promotion to a permanent job back in Carlisle meant I could re-enrol in the Corps and Crew 2 had me back but a further, rather rapid, promotion took me to Burnley and thus another resignation from the Corps in 1973.

A sought change in career led to a return to Carlisle and another re-enrolment in July ’75, again to Crew 2, but with a change of Service no. to 128608.

G.C. was now Dougie Edgar, appointed in Jan. ’75, following Ken Maynard’s retirement, with Andy Hardie still D.G.C. but Arthur Holland was no longer G.T.O. as his job title, since April ’75 was now G.S.O. Crew Officers were now Bill Haddon (1), Eric Barclay (2) and our very own Kathryn Little (3).

My next significant change was Dec. ’76 when I was slow in stepping backwards and ended up as Triangulation Supervisor with the rank of Chief Observer.

George Dorricott arrived in March ’77 as G.S.O. with Adrian Angove taking over around Sep. ’79 when George landed a job with C.C.C. Emergency Planning Dept. Andy Hardie retired, I think, mid’80s’ish with Don Underwood arriving as D.G.C. on promotion from, I think, Lincoln.

Someone, somehow, persuaded me to apply for the Crew Officers job when Eric retired, in the autumn of 1980, and I became an Obs/Off in Jan. ’81 with responsibility for Crew 2. Jim Anderson followed me in Dec. ’81 when he became Crew officer for Crew 1 following Bill Haddon’s resignation.

The autumn of ’82 saw the retirement of Dougie Edgar as G.C. and Adrian Angove persuaded me to apply for the job. For some reason they gave it to me so I became Ods/Cdr. Archer in Jan. ’83. Ian Little filled the resulting vacancy @ Crew 2, Adrian moved on to 31 Group and Peter Keane arrived as G.S.O.

Don Underwood had to retire for health reasons around mid to late ’84 with the vacancy for a D.G.C. being filled by a certain Peter Blockley. Shortly afterwards we lost Peter Keane as he was promoted to Western Area H.Q. as A.S.O. The wonderful Alan Lawley arrived as G.S.O. and Ian Little then departed to the full time ranks @ Winchester. Ernie Simpson transferred into Crew 2 as Crew Officer from a Group Officer posting. Actual dates for the above will hopefully be confirmed from documents held or other folk’s memories.

Our next major change in 22 Group was when Peter Blockley was moved to Dundee (Sector) Group about, I think, mid ’87. June Grey arrived, on promotion, as D.G.C. Ernie Simpson left us and (again, I think?) Roger Pett took over Crew 2. Obs/Capt. Les Coffey pinned the R.O.C. Medal on me in Nov. ’87 during that years C.L.O.C. I had been in the Corps for nearly 20 years at this point but only 12 years continuous service leads to a medal award, 24 years for full timers!

My final move occurred in Jan. ’88 when I took over as Western Area Commandant, based @ Preston, with Fred Edgar promoted to 22 Group G.C. Sadly Fred had to resign fairly swiftly due to changes in his employment situation. Ken Dodd took over as G.C. around Oct. ’88? Alan Lawley had also moved on by then with Peter Fray taking over as G.S.O. The only other change I can remember before the dreaded “STAND DOWN” was Mary Temple being promoted to replace Roger Pett who had to resign for health reasons.

Other significant, though not necessarily memorable, events over the years included attending some R.O.C. Camps. Memory (if it can be trusted) tells me R.A.F. Honington in ’67 was my first camp. Others followed, ’81 @ West Raynam, ’83 @ Scampton, ’85 @ Leeming, ’86 @ Newcastle and finally ’89 @ Watton. ‘81’s highlight for me was standing on the Inspecting Officers foot as I explained the intricacies of Methods of Instruction as I guided him round the classroom. Nothing was said then, or later, but the hosting Officer sent a hostile glare as they departed but no limp was evident as he left!

That incident MIGHT have been remembered however as I drew the short straw in ‘83 and ’85 having to serve as Parade Commander for the V.I.P.’s visit on both occasions. The Newcastle Camp left no positive impressions with me, neither did ’89 @ Watton although that camp, for me, was “foreshortened” as I only attended the Senior Officer’s conference.

I was also, twice over, one of the lucky Corps members who got to meet the Queen. The first occasion was in 1985 at a Garden Party held at Bentley Priory and again in 1991 at the Royal Review of the Corps, again held at Bentley Priory. June and I were supposed to have afternoon tea, along with others of course, with Her Majesty and Prince Philip but she gracefully declined the offer of sandwiches which meant, apparently, we ALL did! We hadn’t eaten since very early morning so we had to scavenge the remnants from other dining areas once the Royal Party had moved on.

That’s it! Some memories lacking certainty in date detail, but a brief summary of years fondly remembered!

 

Senior Officer Appointment: Observer Commander Harold Archer, 22 Group Commandant 1st January 1983
Medal Presentation by Deputy Commandant R.O.C. Obs/Capt. Lesley Coffey to Group Commandant 22 Group R.O.C. Obs/Cmdr. H Archer.
Royal Garden Party, Bentley Priory 1985
Sep.1991, Bentley Priory. Section of Audience @ Royal Banner Presentation.
ROC Royal Review, Afternoon Tea introduction, Bentley Priory 1991
ROC Senior Officers, Royal Review 1991