The Observer Corps was officially formed in 1925. A series of observation posts were established during the First World War to spot and identify enemy aircraft over Britain. The Observer Corps built on the legacy of this system. 

Largely made up of volunteers who trained themselves in aircraft recognition, the Observer Corps played a crucial role during the Battle of Britain as part of the Dowding System

The radar stations positioned along the coast were only able to look outwards. Once inland, it was up to the Observer Corps to identify enemy aircraft and to estimate the size and height of the formations. This information was passed to an Observer Corps Centre and then to Group and Sector Station Operations Rooms where it was used to inform Fighter Command's operations.

In 1941, in recognition of their contribution, the Observer Corps became the Royal Observer Corps (ROC).

The ROC continued to serve throughout the Second World War. They provided early warning of air raids and later in the war helped spot incoming V1 and V2 rockets. Observers even served aboard the invasion fleet on D-Day to give early identification of incoming aircraft.

The Observer Corps and the Battle of Britain

The Observer Corps and the Battle of Britain

Learn more about the Observer Corps and hear from IWM curator Adrian Kerrison on how these expert aircraft spotters helped save Britain from invasion in 1940.

Visit IWM Duxford

Discover the Battle of Britain story. Plan your visit today.

Launch the Observer Corps Experience now

Poster image for the Observer Corps experience featuring a QR code to launch the app on mobile.

Launch the Observer Corps Experience now

See if you can spot an incoming Luftwaffe raid and warn Fighter Command in time.

On desktop? Open your smartphone camera towards the QR code to launch.

On mobile? Click here to launch the experience.

Explore Our Collection

Explore some of the objects and photographs in our collection documenting the history of the Royal Observer Corps during the Second World War.