Spifire award honours veteran Bill's labour-of-love research

Hours of painstaking research into one of the country's most respected civil defence organisations have earned a Gainsborough man a prestigious national award.

Proud Bill Warwick with the Spitfire Trophy that honoured his research for the Royal Observer Corps Association.
Proud Bill Warwick with the Spitfire Trophy that honoured his research for the Royal Observer Corps Association.

The Royal Observer Corps (ROC), largely manned by volunteers in their spare time, was known as the eyes and ears of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Second World War and later during the Cold War. From posts scattered across the country, the volunteers were able to detect any threat of enemy aircraft.

But details of its history and heritage have been bolstered considerably over the past five years by the work of 82-year-old Bill Warwick, of Laughton Wood Corner, a former member of the ROC himself.

And now he has been rewarded with the John Simmonds Memorial Spitfire Trophy, presented every year to mark an outstanding contribution to the heritage group of the Royal Observer Corps Association (ROCA), which has been going strong since the ROC itself was disbanded.

Through war records, documents, diaries and photographs, Bill researches information, mainly online, about the role of the ROC, its members and even details of RAF pilots killed in action. Not only is information fed into the association’s own archives, it is also passed on to relatives unaware of how their loved ones lost their lives.

“I am doing it off my own bat, purely out of interest and to support the heritage of the ROC,” said Bill, who lives with Sandra, his wife for 58 years. “It ensures the history of the ROC is kept for posterity.”

The trophy was handed to Bill at a surprise presentation that coincided with his birthday. The ROCA’s national heritage officer, Edwina Holden, said: “Bill is a worthy recipient. He is a very enthusiastic member, whose work has been instrumental in our heritage team being able to access documents all over the country, in museums, council archives or private collections, as well as overseas. He has sent information almost daily, either by post or by e-mail.”

Bill was a post observer with the ROC between 1951 and 1960 and soon became renowned for his expertise and aircraft recognition skills. He remains a member of the Lincoln group of the ROCA and has been its standard bearer at parades up and down the country for many years. He has also organised visits and talks for branch members.

He is well used to winning awards too. For in the early 1990s, he received the British Empire Medal for his work in the highways management department of Lincolnshire and Humberside County Councils. He was a chartered engineer in building and civil engineering until retiring in 1996.