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The Story of Group 11, Royal Observer Corps

I have recently acquired a book called  “The Story of No 11 Group” Royal Observer Corps. The book was edited by C.OBS. J. Newton Head Observer, Fox 2 Post. The book was completed in 1946. 

The Observer Corp was formed in 1914 had had the role of spotting plans both enemy and our own as the crossed over their airspace. They identified the type of plane, its height and direction. This information was communicated further up the chain of command.

I am struggling to fully understand the content however it seems the South Holland area was serviced by Dog 1, 2 and 3 Observer Posts. So any help in telling their story in South Holland would be much appreciated.

A notable figure seems to be Obs. /O was W H Waldock – well known to all the “Dog” post a bulb farmer and a native of Spalding, joined Dog One in June 1941. He had seen service with the Lincolns from 1914 to 1919, receiving his commission in the 10th Batt. Of the Regiment. He was one of the first Group Officers to be appointed under the re-organisation scheme, early in 1943, and after being bombed out of the RAF school of Aircraft Recognition at Eastbourne by F.W.190’s. he helped at the first Post Instructors courses throughout the Group. He was a very popular figure amongst his southern posts before ill health compelled his resignation during the early part of 1944.

DOG ONE: No 11 Group – ROC

The Head Observer and 6 other men formed the crew of Dog 1 on its creation in 1936; this number was increased to 13 in May 1937, and a further 8 were added in May 1939. Before the outbreak of war training consisted of occasional visits to aerodromes for recognition and height judging with an occasional flip. The post was manned for about 12 hours in 1938 at the time of the Munich crisis and continuously manned from August 25th, 1939.

Like other posts our early days were spent in the fresh air ” until with the approach of autumn a sandbag surround was built by members of the crew (overtime unpaid) despite which, the keenness of the crew plus lashings of beer made the work enjoyable.

It was soon discovered that dust from the sandbags and fumes from the paraffin stove in the small wooden cubby-hole attached rendered further improvement necessary and in a few months a wooden surround and a more convenient hut were erected. In 1940 we were given permission to build a brick and concrete dug-out, palatial by comparison and much appreciated by all.

To begin with routine duty was the order of the day, but reference to the log book would cause one to wonder by the numerous requests to detain various suspicious persons, or keep a look-out for such and such a person or car number so and so, if we were allied to Intelligence or the Secret Service.

On 18th November 1939, our worries were multiplied by delivery from the R.A.F. of 3 paraffin flares which were lighted and extinguished upon instructions from Centre. Many were the flannel bags and pairs of shoes damaged by the re-fuelling of same, and unloading of paraffin, invariably delivered by a huge lorry and I W.A.A.F. To everyone’s great disappointment (?) these were removed by the R.A.F. on 25th May 1940.

From the autumn of 1940 enemy activity kept the crew on their toes and among many incidents the following were of special interest to us.

Early in 1941 incendiaries and H.E. ‘s were dropped on several occasions quite near to the post and in May of the same year Spalding received a large number of incendiaries which fired a considerable part of the town and were followed by about 36 HE. ‘s.

On August Bank Holiday Sunday, 1942, Spalding was again visited in daylight by a D.O. 217. The observers on duty had a grandstand view of the Dornier being chased by a Beaufighter but were disappointed when Jerry cleverly eluded the Beau in cloud, turned back, released 4 bombs and scampered home.

Fortunately, the post had occasion to track only a few V1’s none of which dropped in the intermediate vicinity. Two volunteers of D.1. volunteered and were accepted for Seabourne operations, during which period other members of the crew assisted to man neighbouring posts. Three members obtained commissions in the RAF and one commission in the Army. 

During the 5 ½ years an Annual Dinner was held and numerous social occasions and when stand down was announced for the 12th May 1945 it was received with mixed feeling of relief and regret. 

DOG TWO No 11 Group ROC

A crew of 20 formed Dog 2, which was formed in April 1939. After some training D 2 went into action with the Observer Corps at the beginning of the war. Our equipment was a hut and canvas wind screen, but the enterprise of our crew gradually made things more comfortable, bullock trays made an admirable enclosure for the instrument and one end was covered with sheets of corrugated iron which kept some of the cold winds at bay, later improvements were a dugout and a glass screen round the enclosure. Later still we moved the hut to the enclosure and improved the screens until we were as comfortable as one could expect. We are very proud of the fact that all this was done by our own efforts without official help from Observer Corps headquarters. In operations we experienced all the varieties in the ever-changing air war, including flying bombs, we were also able to see s the vortex made by the V.2 rockets as they left their firing bases in Holland. 

The great event at D 2 was on the night of 24th July 1942 when a German was brought down near the post. Observers L E Everett and J Stennett had a most alarming experience, but deals with matter very efficiently, it was a busy night, clear and moonlight, with hostile aircraft all around, some parachutes were noticed coming down from the German plane that had been set on fire by our fighters, and Observer S Bayston who came to the post to lend a hand thought he could best serve by taking a rifle and searching the vicinity for the German airmen. He had gone a little while when the observers on duty (who were busy tracking) heard a shout from nearby, thinking it was Bayston who had returned they called to him to come in, nothing happened and then there was another shout, so Everett asked Stennett to take the torch and investigate, as the shouting came from the far side of a small dyke some 8 or 9 yards from the post, when he got to the edge of the dyke he saw a man standing there and was suspicious. He beckoned him to come across and went to fetch a rifle. The man crossed the dyke and they found out he was, as they suspected a German airman, he was challenged with the rifle (which was not loaded) and he threw all his gear down on the ground and surrendered. On getting him into the dugout he was found to be bleeding from a cut on the face, so they gave him attention until the Police arrived. By this time Observer Bayston had stalked another German airman hiding behind a hedge, not far from the post and managed to bring him into custody. Thus D. 2’s bag, was two prisoners in one night, doubtless this was a record for the Group. We had bombs and machine gun fire from enemy aircraft very near to the post on several occasions, but luckily no one was injured.

At various times visits were made to aerodromes, and most enjoyable times spent. A Fighter Sector station with a plotting table, etc, was at one time the most favoured, it seemed to be more closely linked with the work of the ROC. 

The most outstanding visit was to a Bomber station, where a small party spent the whole night. Bombers were operating and they saw the aircraft set off on their mission and then went to the ops. room where they were able to see and hear all that happened whilst the bombers were going out doing their job and best of all they were able to sit among the pilots when they returned and hear account of the raid when it was being told to the intelligence officer, we found the hospitality on these visits were most generous. During the later days of the war we had visits from Flying bombs, the warnings were almost continuous, but only three came over area, one in particular gave us a fright, coming almost over the post at only tree top height, luckily it kept going , we also shared in the last intruder attack that was made in the spring of the year, all round us roofs were shattered, but the R.O.C post escaped by some miraculous means. 

DOG THREE – NO 11 GROUP – ROC

First formed in December 1936, Dog 3 was one of the earliest posts. In those far away days, the Police called upon Mr Tegerdine to choose a site and enrol a few men as special constables to train and man the post. By the spring of 1937, 12 men were on the job and they commenced training interspersed with visits to adjoining aerodromes. We took part in the various defence exercises and stood to during the Munich crisis of 1938. All was well for another year until 24th Aug.,1939, when the stand to order came and we commenced a long period of over five years watchkeeping with its continual improvement in operation and organisation. The first men to take over were Observers Bettinson and Baxter. 

We had in the course of our duties many enemy aircraft over and we heard hundreds during the hours of darkness, we seemed to be situated on their route to Midlands and the West. In December 1942 we were equipped with a “Darky” set. On many occasions we were able to assist aircraft in difficulties and help them to get obtain their bearings. 

One very amusing incident happened during the Flying bomb attacks. The crew were asked by Centre if they could see a Flying Bomb approaching and the answer was “NO”. On the question being asked again, the reply was still “No—but we can see a bike lamp coming up the road”.
 Then they immediately realised that the lamp was a Flying Bomb. The vapour trails caused by V2 rockets were continually in evidence. Throughout the war, the crew was principally composed of agricultural workers and they did a grand job on the post, particularly when one remembers they had to work long hours, especially during hay and harvest time.

In looking back over the years one can say that the period of re -organisation in 1943 was of great benefit to Dog 3, it enabled all to see the advantages that could be obtained by organised instruction and we collected Basic Certificates for all and a high percentage of intermediate certificates also came our way. 

Now that the standing down has arrived we shall lose that happy comradeship we all felt but sincerely hope to revive it at least once every year at a re-union.

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