Observer Corps VR

Would you have had what it took to protect the few?

This was the question being asked of people around the country – and the world – ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 2020. ‘The few’, so famously referenced by Sir Winston Churchill in his iconic speech, are of course the brave pilots of the RAF who risked so much to protect the country from invasion.

But they could not have succeeded without knowing what they were up against. Early warnings of incoming Luftwaffe raids – how many aircraft, what type, where and headed in which direction – were critical to RAF Fighter Command’s speedy response. This vital job fell not to seasoned military veterans, but to the civilian volunteers of the Observer Corps.

Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford approached Arcade to develop an experience that allowed the public to get a small taste of what it might have been like to bear this heavy responsibility: welcome to the Observer Corps Experience!

September 15th, 1940, is now seen as the climax of the Battle of Britain, with the increasingly desperate Luftwaffe launching its heaviest attacks against the British mainland throughout the day.

By scanning a QR code on specially designed outdoor ads, or following a link shared via email, social media and digital advertising, curious history fans could step back in time to this momentous day, and into the shoes of the men and women of the Observer Corps.

The Power of Mobile VR

Originally imagined as a WebAR experience, we quickly identified the opportunity to embrace mobile VR as a better and more cost-effective alternative. With this approach we were able to immerse users directly into a full 360 virtual environment, simulating the kind of coastal look-out positions the Observer Corps would have taken up.

The result is an instant sense of stepping back in time to this critical, perilous moment in British history.

Once there, the user is quickly introduced to the challenge ahead, using narrative and historical characters from the day itself. We were thrilled to work with IWM historians to ensure the experience was as accurate as it could be, whilst offering the kind of fun, rewarding experience that history fans of all kinds would enjoy.

The ‘game’ itself focused on identifying the planes that fly overhead, using historically accurate silhouette cards that Observer Corps personnel would have used. Our users didn’t have access to the intensive training that was available to civilian volunteers in 1940, but we were still able to give them a taste of the responsibilities of a genuine Observer Corps observer. We were also able to simulate, in our own way, the increasing intensity of that famous day as the Luftwaffe attacks became heavier and heavier.


We used our own bespoke analytics platform to track the performance of the Observer Corps Experience. IWM actively promoted the experience via outdoor advertising, online TV ads, social media, print newspaper ads and direct marketing across two bursts in September and November, and resulted in over 36,000 unique users, over 43,000 sessions, and an average use time of well over three minutes.

Want to Have a Go?

To try the Observer Corps Experience for yourself, scan the QR code below or tap on the image if you’re on mobile.

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It's been great fun working with Arcade on this - such a great team!
Siobhan Sharp, Marketing Manager, IWM Duxford