Appeal for photos of Second World War lookout post opposite Worthing Pier

A birds eye view of the rooftop post and shelter in the 1960s
A birds eye view of the rooftop post and shelter in the 1960s

I am trying to further my research by locating some old photographs of the building which today houses the amusement arcade, Harry Ramsden’s, The Royal Arcade, Richard John and other businesses, directly opposite Worthing Pier.

The period I am looking to view would be from as close to the Second World War as possible to the early 1970s.

A birds eye view of the location of the ROC rooftop post today

A birds eye view of the location of the ROC rooftop post today

The reason for this is I am trying to gather further photographic evidence and approximate dates of when a lookout-type structure was constructed (and later removed) on the roof of the former County Restaurant (now Harry Ramsden’s) for the Observer Corps, later the Royal Observer Corps, from April 9, 1941.

This organisation was formed before the days of radar and was trained to identify friendly and enemy aircraft and, using specifically designed equipment, establish the height and direction of travel.

This information was passed on by telephone headsets to other Observer Corps posts in the enemy aircraft’s direction of travel to maintain continuity, where the information was sent to group headquarters, who then subsequently passed all the details onto the Royal Air Force to intercept.

Many towns and cities had an Observer Corps presence and in Worthing’s case, the post was originally located on the roof of the Southern Pavilion at the end of the pier.

Shelter on top of the County Restaurant in 1965

Shelter on top of the County Restaurant in 1965

This post was relocated in June 1940 when the pier was sectioned to avoid it being used as a landing stage in the event of a German invasion.

The lookout structure mentioned was constructed to give the Observers some protection from the elements and is believed to have been built after the war and to a good standard which, now being in peacetime, had the comfort of glass windows.

Suggestions have been made that it may have been built using timber and glass from Wenban Smith as two of the Worthing post members happened to be brothers, Paul Anthony Kemp-Potter and Frederick Richard Kemp-Potter, both co-directors of Wenban Smith Ltd, timber merchants in Newland Road.

It is believed it replaced an earlier wartime shelter which was more shed-like in design, although this earlier shelter would have been protected with sandbags and obviously would not have had glass due to the risk it would cause in the event of a bombing.

Worthings wartime Royal Observer Corps members

Worthings wartime Royal Observer Corps members

The Worthing Royal Observer Corps post moved again several years later where a new post was opened in October 1961 at Brooklands Pleasure Park to the east of the town.

As the Cold War had now arrived, their post was constructed underground in September 1962, as by now the Corps’ role had changed and it was now responsible for reporting the onset of a nuclear attack on Britain from the confines of 1,563 bunkers specifically constructed throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This post closed due to government budget cuts in 1968, reducing the post coverage down to roughly half the previous figure.

The Corps continued until the end of the Cold War, with underground posts closing and those in Observer roles stood down in September 1991, with some other roles continuing until as late as 1995.

An ROC post with instrument showing the equipment used to identify enemy aircraft height and direction of travel

An ROC post with instrument showing the equipment used to identify enemy aircraft height and direction of travel

Despite the Corps having moved several years earlier, photographic evidence shows that the lookout structure above the County Restaurant appears to have survived until at least 1965 and later photographs will hopefully reveal when it was dismantled.

Photographs of the Corps presence in Brooklands would also be very welcome.

Back in 2008, I researched the Royal Observer Corps in Worthing with much help and assistance from several ex-Corps members and was pleased to be able to put all the information in a book tilted The Royal Observer Corps in Worthing, which is still in print and continues to do well, with some copies rather amazingly having gone abroad.

It can be obtained through all good bookshops, Worthing Museum, eBay, Amazon or direct from myself by calling 07793 435428, priced at £4.99.