Royal Observer Corps underground monitoring post and World War II visual spotting post, 200m north of Southfield House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021192

Date first listed: 15-Apr-2004


Ordnance survey map of Royal Observer Corps underground monitoring post and World War II visual spotting post, 200m north of Southfield House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Skipsea

National Grid Reference: TA 17562 54789


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The archaeological remains of the Cold War (1946-1989) are the physical manifestation of the global divide between capitalism and communism that shaped the history of the late 20th century. This was a period when the two superpowers, and their allies, developed massive nuclear arsenals and civil defence structures to counter the threat of nuclear war. The construction of Royal Observer Corps (ROC) Underground Monitoring Posts from the late 1950s reflected the changed reality of the Cold War brought about by the deployment of new technologies including the hydrogen bomb, which threatened massive destruction and radioactive contamination. The early stages of the Cold War saw the ROC involved in the visual detection and identification of aircraft, a role they had previously carried out in World War II. The corps, in existence since 1925, had established a network of observation posts and a national reporting system which was reinstated in 1948 to meet the new threat of the Cold War. These posts used existing World War II posts or a new structure introduced in 1952 known as an Orlit Post. This was a rectangular box formed from precast concrete panels, either sited on the ground or elevated on concrete legs or in a number of cases on pillboxes. ROC visual observation posts were equipped with a Micklethwaite instrument which enabled the altitude and direction of aircraft to be plotted. This, coupled with an observer's visual identification of the make of an aircraft, meant accurate information could be reported. By the late 1950s the development of faster jet aircraft made the visual reporting of aircraft ineffective and this role was finally abandoned in 1965 and above ground posts were closed. In the late 1950s the ROC took on the primary responsibility of monitoring and reporting the location and impact of nuclear attack. Construction of the system of Underground Monitoring Posts began in the late 1950s and was largely complete by 1965. Although some new posts continued to be built into the 1970s, a large number of the early underground posts were decommissioned in 1968. The last posts were abandoned when the Royal Observer Corps was stood down in 1991 following the end of the Cold War. Individual posts were formed into clusters of three or four sites providing co-ordinated raid reports via a master post to the group headquarters. Posts were usually built at the sites of earlier ROC observation posts and used the existing nationwide reporting system already established by the ROC. The posts had three main tasks: to confirm that a nuclear attack had taken place and its location; to estimate its power; and to monitor the passage of radioactive fallout. The posts were designed to operate in a post-nuclear attack environment, and to be self sufficient for an operational life of up to 14 days. All are buried to provide protection from blast and heat, and to reduce radiation penetration. The visible remains usually include an elongated mound with an entrance hatch, ventilator and attachments for the monitoring devices protruding from the surface. Internally the post was divided into two chambers. One, at the bottom of the access shaft, contained a chemical toilet and led into the second, a larger monitoring room in which were bunks, a desk, batteries for power, and a hand operated ventilation system. The monitoring equipment measured the intensity of an explosion using a simple pressure device called a bomb power indicator, the location, altitude and magnitude using an instrument called the ground zero indicator and the level of radiation fall out using a Geiger counter. Underground Monitoring Posts were the most numerous structures built in the United Kingdom during the Cold War. In total around 1518 were built (1026 in England). However, the number of active posts was nearly halved in 1968 due to the diminished risk of attack and to reduce defence expenditure. Following a survey of Cold War monuments all of the posts have been located, and those where they survive structurally intact and where fittings remain are considered to be of national importance. Their significance will be enhanced where they are associated with earlier, or contemporary, visual reporting posts, reflecting the changing role of the ROC during the Cold War.

The remains of the ROC early warning and monitoring posts at Skipsea survive well and significant remains of their form and operation is preserved. The early visual spotting post is relatively rare and together with the underground post provides evidence of the history and development of early warning systems during the 20th century.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a Royal Observer Corps(ROC) underground monitoring post and adjacent World War II visual spotting post standing within a fenced enclosure. It is located on the east coast of Yorkshire to the south east of Skipsea.

There has been an ROC presence at Skipsea since at least the early 1940s when a visual observation post was in place to monitor aircraft during the early stages World War II. The post closed down in 1945 but was reopened in the early 1950s and continued to be used by the ROC for visual spotting of aircraft during the Cold War until 1963. In 1959 an underground post was opened for the ROC's new role of monitoring nuclear attack and fall out. It was a master post supervising a cluster of three other posts and reporting to the 20 Group headquarters in York. The monitoring post continued in use until 1991 when it closed as part of the winding down of ROC operations nationwide.

The underground monitoring post follows the standard Cold War design and consists of a rectangular-shaped reinforced concrete underground bunker concealed beneath a mound of earth on an east to west alignment. Protruding from the top of the mound are an access hatch at the eastern end, an air vent at the western end and two metal monitoring probes in between.

The access hatch has a counterweighted metal lid which opens to reveal a 4.6m deep shaft containing a single metal ladder. At the bottom of the shaft there is a small chamber containing a chemical toilet and a door leading to the main chamber. This measures 5.8m by 2.6m and originally housed the monitoring equipment and rudimentary domestic facilities for a crew of three. At Skipsea a number of the original fittings survive including the intake apparatus for the monitoring equipment as well as a desk, cupboard, tool rack and chemical toilet. ROC bunkers could be very cold and many posts installed their own insulation. At Skipsea this included covering the floor with conveyor belt rubber and lining the walls with polystyrene tiles. In total the bunker and protective mound measures 14m by 8m.

The visual spotting post lies to the east of the mound. This follows a typical 1940s design and includes a brick built structure measuring 3.5m by 4m with a concrete roof. The door on the west end leads to a narrow room extending the length of the structure which acted as a store and shelter: the original stove for providing warmth and cooking still survives. To the south of this and occupying the bulk of the structure is the plotting room. There is a large circular opening in the roof of this room which allowed for the aircraft plotting instrument to have an unobstructed view of the skies. The floor of the room has been heavily undermined by rabbits although the lower part of the wooden post which supported the plotting table still survives. Attached to the western side of the structure there is a corrugated tin latrine and store.

The original enclosure surrounding the post still survives. It is has a simple post and rail fence with a picket gate at the western side. In total it measures 26m east to west by 17m north to south.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 35490

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Brown, et al, 20th Century Defences in Britain, (2001), 32-33
Thomas, R, (2003)

End of official listing