Letter: Horsham’s critical role in home defence

Horsham Drill Hall
Horsham Drill Hall

As 2019 has been designated, Horsham’s Year of Culture, might I suggest that a relatively unknown role that Horsham played during the War – also in the so-called Cold War that followed – to my mind, that is an important part of our town’s cultural heritage.

During the 1939-45 War, the Royal Observer Corps played a vital role in home defence and Horsham was the Metropolitan centre of operations with the task of identifying enemy aircraft and giving advance warning to the Royal Air Force also to the Royal Artillery anti-aircraft contingents.

The ROC area headquarters, Number 2 Group were located behind the Drill Hall in Denne Road which has since been re-developed – without a trace of the original building.

During the post-War years, the role of the Royal Observer Corps changed – due to the development of fearsome atomic and hydrogen weapons – to their new rather chilling role, trained to report the onset of a nuclear attack and the consequent deadly fallout.

This policy involved the creation of a series of underground monitoring posts throughout the UK – 1,563 to be precise. And one such post still remains hidden under thick undergrowth in Horsham. And much of it is in its near original condition – with many interesting artefacts. It was known as ROC Post 26.

It is my understanding that in 2013 a small preservation group was formed with the intention of restoring Horsham Post 26 to its operational condition with a view to opening this relic of the Cold War to the public.

I also understand that as of March 2014, discussions were still ongoing with Horsham District Council to grant permission for its restoration. Given the importance of the year 2019, it would be interesting to know how much progress has been made to date with this most interesting project.

I am a nominal member of the Royal Observer Corps Association having been an ROC member for a brief spell in a monitoring post located under Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Course in south London – before moving to Horsham in June 1968. And I feel that the restoration of Post 26 is a very worthwhile undertaking which when completed would be of great interest to the general public – particularly in the year 2019.

Another imaginative attraction to help keep Horsham on the map. After all, forewarned is forearmed!

Robert B. Worley

Bourns Court, Ayshe Court Drive, Horsham