ROC Annual Summer Training Camps

Royal Observer Corps  Annual Summer Training Camps…

After the concept was first introduced in 1948 by the then Commandant ROC, (Air Cdre Percy Bernard, 5th Earl of Bandon), annual summer training camps were held to enable spare-time volunteers, while spending a week in uniform at an RAF station, to attend a series of lectures, training courses and social events. A series of six to eight training camps would be held annually, with approximately 500 to 600 spare-time observers attending each week. Ranks below those of officer would be accommodated in vacant barracks block accommodation, while officers would be accommodated in the station Officers’ Mess. Vacant offices and aircraft hangars would be converted into temporary training facilities.

A core-team of instructors, provided with pre-formatted lesson plans, would be drawn from those spare-time officers present, who in turn would be supervised by a team of up to nine full- time officers. Full-time officers would be present for the duration of the summer programme of training camps, one of which being appointed as Camp Entertainments Officer; organising events including social dances, visits to local places of interest and an end of camp grand raffle. On the last full day of each camp, a Cabinet Minister or senior RAF officer of the rank of Air Vice-Marshal or above would visit to inspect a Guard of Honour, tour the training facilities and address the assembled personnel.

A typical camp’s day-to-day programme would consist of:

Sunday – Afternoon arrival of junior officers and volunteer NCO instructors.
Monday – Instructors spend day familiarising and rehearsing. Students arrive during afternoon. Formal evening opening assembly, (in uniform), followed by ‘Meet and Greet’ in the NAAFI club.
Tuesday – Morning parade. Lessons from 0900 to 1730, with one hour break for lunch. Evening free, with optional coach trips to local places of interest and entertainment venues.
Wednesday – Morning parade. Lessons from 0900 to 1200. Afternoon and evening free, with optional coach trips to local places of interest and entertainment venues.
Thursday – Morning parade. Lessons from 0900 to 1730, with one hour break for lunch. Evening free, with optional coach trips to local places of interest and entertainment venues.
Friday – Morning parade followed by VIP visit; Guard of Honour, tour of training area and VIP address. Afternoon lessons followed by closing assembly and grand raffle. Evening farewell social dance in NAAFI Club.
Saturday – Morning dispersal.

Initially it was not difficult for RAF stations operating on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis or between squadron deployments to accommodate a seasonal influx of ROC personnel. During their first few years of operation, ROC annual summer training camps had even taken place entirely under canvas. In later years, reductions in RAF manpower resulted in there being vacant accommodation and training facilities at most RAF stations in the UK, including those home to front-line operational units such as RAF Scampton and RAF Waddington. The final camp venue at RAF Watton had actually closed in 1990 and was supported by a skeleton staff of caterers, stewards and RAF Regiment security patrols, all of which were drafted in from nearby RAF stations.

There were no camps held during 1966 and 1991, when up to 3,000 observers gathered instead for Royal Reviews and garden parties at RAF Bentley Priory. In 1986, and for the only time in the history of ROC annual summer training camps, the RAF was unable to provide an RAF station capable of providing the facilities and accommodation required. The ROC then took the unusual step of locating the camp at the Medical Faculty within Newcastle University, with observers being accommodated in student halls of residence. A temporary bar facility was added to the senior lecturers’ dining room, which itself functioned as an officer’s mess.

Until 1984 the camp training programme consisted of approximately twenty lessons, each concerned with distinct and unrelated subjects. From 1985 onwards, the training syllabus was reorganised as a series of five or six concentrated mini-courses concerned with specific subjects which observers would study throughout the entire week, thus permitting individual subjects to be taught in greater detail. Subjects included Techniques of Instruction (TOI), First Aid, Triangulation, Transition to War (TTW) and Communications Management. UKWMO Assistant Sector Controllers provided a ‘Warning Officers’ course for control observers, detailing the UKWMO Warning Team’s role and responsibilities in the event of war. [Extract from Wikipedia]

1948 Annual Summer Training Camps established.

First Camps held at RAF Thorney Island
1949 Camps held at RAF Thorney Island
1950 Camps held at RAF Waterbeach
1951 Camps held at RAF Waterbeach
1952 Camps held at RAF Waterbeach
1953 Camps held at RAF Waterbeach
1954 Camps held at RAF Waterbeach
1955 Camps held at RAF Strandishall
1956 Camps held at RAF Wattisham
1957 Camps held at RAF Tangmere
1958 Camps held at RAF West Malling
1959 Camps held at RAF West Malling
1960 Camps held at RAF Binbrook
1961 Camps held at RAF Binbrook
1962 Camps held at RAF Horsham St James
1963 Camps held at RAF West Raynham
1964 Camps held at RAF Newton
1965 Camps held at RAF Weeton
1966 Royal Review no Annual Summer Training Camp held
Silver Jubilee Royal Review of the Royal Observer Corps held at Bentley Priory, June 24th when the Queen presented the Corps with its banner. [WOTBA p110]
1967 Camps held at RAF Conningsby
1968 Camps held at RAF Honnington
1969 Camps held at RAF Watton
1970 Camps held at RAF Watton
1971 Camps held at RAF West Raynham
1972 Camps held at RAF Brawdy
1973 Camps held at RAF Lindholme
1974 Camps held at RAF Lindholme
1975 Camps held at RAF Colerne
1976 Camps held at RAF Little Rissington
1977 Camps held at RAF Cosford
1978 Camps held at RAF Cosford
1979 Camps held at RAF Cosford
1980 Camps held at RAF West Raynham
1981 Camps held at RAF West Raynham
1982 Camps held at RAF West Raynham
1983 Camps held at RAF Scampton
1984 Camps held at RAF Scampton
1985 Camps held at RAF Leeming
1986 Camps held at Newcastle University
1987 Camps held at RAF Waddington
1988 Camps held at RAF Waddington
1989 Camps held at RAF Watton
1990 Final Annual Summer Training Camps held at RAF Watton