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1925-1991: Cuckfield - they also served who only stood and stared

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

In a meadow in the south of the village stands a memorial stone placed there to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Observer Corps, an eagle eyed band of servicemen and women who for 66 years scanned the skies as Britain’s first line of defence.

The Cuckfield Observer Post, marked by the aforementioned memorial stone, was set up in 1925, the same year the core itself was formed. In those early days volunteers in plus fours and gumboots used a rickety wooden plotting instrument on a tripod. They had no shelter so the Cuckfield corps searched the heavens in all weathers for lumbering biplane bombers.

When the Second World War broke out, the Cuckfield post (called Kilo One) took on a new importance. By then it also had a place to shelter in the form of a small wooden hut. An underground concrete bunker was added later to a sandbagged enclosure.

Cuckfield Royal Observer Corps circa 1945

From there, the Observer Corps plotted Luftwaffe aircraft over Britain throughout the war. The Corps also identified Hitler’s Flying bombs, the V1 and V2, before the newly-invented radar registered these latest instruments of war. The second flying bomb to hit Britain was plotted by the Cuckfield sky-watchers before it fell to earth between the London-Brighton railway and Brook Street.

After the war, the Royal Observer Corps continued watching for enemy aircraft and the threat of nuclear war. Kilo One remained operational throughout the years since 1945 and became one of only three of the original fourteen posts set up in Britain in 1925 to remain on its original site. (Although, it did move a few yards west from its original position in 1927!)

The Royal Observer Corps in action circa 1945

The Cuckfield post remained active until the Royal Observer Corps was stood down in 1991.

In its 66 year existence Kilo One played a large part in the life of the village. Many Cuckfield people served with the Corps and to this day a rare camaraderie still exists between those who braved the elements to stand in a lonely field watching the skies.

Cuckfield 900 Souvenir programme (1992)

For more on the Cuckfield Observatory please follow the link:



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