The information below was kindly sent to me by Dennis Reeves, an observer who served at Kingsdown ROC post (MAI 21) between 1983 and 1989. The picture reproduced shows the interior of the post today, copyright and courtesy of Nick Catford. These posts were three-man nuclear bunkers designed and constructed so that the Observers inside could plot blast location, fallout, etc., in the event of a Soviet nuclear strike against the United Kingdom. With a little bit of research you might even discover one of these posts near to you!
MAI 21 post, Kingsdown (aka the underground concrete portacabin). In winter we tended not to use the posts as they were cold. We used the barracks in Deal. The ambient temperature rarely got into double figures unless there was a crowd of you in there. We did bend H&S rules now and again and have a radiant camping gas heater at the bottom of the shaft with the hatch open a little. Wind was a problem (both weather and digestive!). Being exposed to the channel on a hill it used to 'boom' via the vent shafts. Regs said we should leave all vents open 'except during an attack warning red'.
The post didn't suffer any serious damp and once you got used to the slight chill it was OK. We had chemical toilets but never used them (they were saved for war!). It was a quick pop upstairs and 'pee up the fence'. The girls did much the same, just checking for any passers-by. Anything else had to wait or pop into town. My wife (now ex) was also in the ROC at the same post. She was the 'Leading Observer' (2 stripes). I was just an 'observer'. I still have my old manuals, although I think my ex binned the uniforms a few years ago in a fit of tidying. I even used to take my dog down the post. If it was dry he would have free run inside the compound, if it was wet I'd take him down inside. He was a 6st mongrel so it was fun 'piggy backing him down' with a bit of help in case he slipped back. He could get up the shaft by himself. If you meet anyone else from 21 post ask if they remember 'Ted' the dog. Some CND types tried to enter the post on one occasion - they got halfway down the shaft when Ted started barking (he was loud!) - they went back up a lot quicker than they came down!
I do have a few photos but as yet I haven't found them. If you look at the SB/RSG ROC photos of 21 post you will see a white box on the floor - thats my old kitchen wall unit we put down there for storage. The compound was well kept in those days, almost as good as No. 1 Court at Wimbledon! Looks a bit rough these days. Both my ex and I came from military families so the whole concept was familiar ground. Being close to Dover meant that if the balloon did go up ground or sea bursts were almost certain. In the other direction was Manston - also worthy of a SS20!
There was a tremendous closeness amongst the post members, more than any other organisation I've been involved with. When I transferred to west Wales with work I missed it a lot. I transferred to St. Twynnells (also on the SB site) but it wasn't the same. Alas we were stood down and then disbanded and finally sold off. Sad really. If you think of the current world situation the ROC would be of some use with the threats knocking about.
Author: John Vaughan
Submitted on: 04/03/2006