January is always a good time for the Royal Observer Corps Benevolent Fund to reflect on its activities; it is the charity’s year-end and we are into the report writing season. Last year was quite a momentous one for anniversaries, and a busy one for the ROC Association and their Heritage Team. The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain had national significance. It raised the profile of the Observer Corps and their role in the conflict, with a generation learning about our heritage, rather than having experienced it.
Another reminder about the ROC’s work was evident on the Royal Air Force Concert Tour, where the Corps’ march ‘Skywatch’ was featured in all of their UK concerts. The Chief of the Air Staff was present at the ceremony in St Clement Danes church in London in October, for the final Laying-up of the Sovereign’s Banner of the Royal Observer Corps; taken from RAF College Cranwell, twenty years after it had been lodged there when the Corps was stood down and exactly ninety years since its formation.
All of those events marked things from the Corps’ service in days past and gained us good publicity. However, there is another element of the ROC that continues to serve now, and into the future. The ROC Benevolent Fund is still here, serving many thousands of former ROC members in the community. The major challenge we have at the Fund is to ensure that we are known about by former members, or their dependents, in need.
We know that many are not aware of our continuing existence. Much of last year’s activity has helped to raise our profile, as well as that of the Royal Observer Corps itself. Much of that has also reached the friends and families of former members. In support of all that good publicity we launched a new ROCBF website last year and new social media platforms, to build on the publicity and help spread the word about our work.
The number of applications for assistance continues to be lower than we would expect, and has been for a few years now, based on previous figures. We know that we are very accessible but we need to shout louder, and we need YOU to shout louder too, about us and our work. Our main task in 2016, as ever, will be to process cases for the benefit of former members in need, hardship or distress. Of equal importance, will be our efforts to reach out to the many thousands of those that served in the ROC, and their dependents, who don’t realise that we are still here to help. We are not seeking funds, just your help with reaching out, so that we can continue to serve those that once served.
Christopher Howard, Chairman of the Managing Trustees