Final farewell to Shrewsbury woman who had a nuclear war role

Former members of the Royal Observer Corps gathered for a final farewell to a Shrewsbury woman who for many years was part of the volunteer team who would have dealt with the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse.

Mrs Margery Middlecote, front, holding the trophy, with chief and leading observers based at Shrewsbury and surrounding area. The date and occasion are unknown.
Mrs Margery Middlecote, front, holding the trophy, with chief and leading observers based at Shrewsbury and surrounding area. The date and occasion are unknown.

Margery Middlecote, who was 96, joined the ROC during the war at the age of 18 when the organisation was the "eyes and ears" of the RAF, spotting and plotting incoming enemy aircraft, before the Cold War saw its role evolve into reporting nuclear bomb bursts and monitoring levels of radioactive fallout.

She was president of the Shrewsbury area branch of the ROC Association from 2004 until her death, previously serving as treasurer, and about 20 former members of the corps attended her funeral at Emstrey Crematorium, where the Shrewsbury ROC Association standard was at the service.

At her desk at Stadco, December 1990.

Mrs Middlecote, from Copthorne, served in the ROC for 36 years, rising to become an Observer Lieutenant, and was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 1990 New Year's Honours list for her services to the corps and also to Stadco at Shrewsbury, where she worked.

Her husband Ray died five years ago.

"She was a very private person – she never really talked about her life," said Mrs Chris Jones of Shrewsbury, who together with husband David also served in the ROC – David ended up as commanding officer for Shrewsbury.

"She was very efficient both in the ROC and her job, very organised, always very smart, and very independent. We knew her well."

Both had known Margery for many years.

Margery at an officers' convention at RAF Rudloe Manor in Wiltshire in May 1971.

Chris said: "She was born and bred in Shrewsbury, in the Coleham area, and was 18 when she joined the ROC which at that time was behind The Column in London Road. In 1962 the Shrewsbury headquarters was situated in Holywell Street.

"I went one night a week. It was divided up into what we call three crews, and those three groups attended one night a week each. It was all voluntary.

"It was like you see on television, with big tables and plotting boards."

The Royal Observer Corps headquarters at Shrewsbury, where Margery worked, seen here in January 1962.

Away from her ROC role Margery worked for engineering firm Stadco in Shrewsbury for over 40 years. She was secretary to Alan Mace, director of the assembly and pressings division.

For many years she was a volunteer for the National Trust, starting at Attingham in 1992, helping organise events, teas and classical concerts, and on retiring from Stadco she went into the office at Attingham on Saturdays dealing with things such as staff rotas.

"She was in the arts society in Shrewsbury, and was also a member of the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery."

Margery, centre, receiving her BEM in 1990.

After retiring from the ROC in 1980 she became honorary treasurer of the local ROC Association, and later president. As for the ROC, the fall of the Berlin Wall and seeming end of the Cold War led to it being stood down in 1991.

The Shrewsbury branch of the ROC Association, which covers a patch stretching to Chester and Knighton, today has about 90 members.

"It meets regularly once a month at Reabrook Social Club," said Chris.

Margery's maiden name was Adams and she and Ray married on November 7, 1959, at Abbey Foregate Congregational Church, and were married for 58 years until his death in 2017. They had no children, nor did her younger sister Letty, meaning there is no surviving family.

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