*Please note where the O.B.’s are on private land, permission was obtained.
A secret Second World War bunker built on the orders of Winston Churchill lay hidden under a Thorpe St Andrew estate for almost 70 years.
Its entrance is behind a bookcase, its aerial was disguised in a tree with the feeder cable under the bark, and there was an escape tunnel in case its operatives were discovered.
Now the underground wireless station, on private land at Pinebanks, off Yarmouth Road, has been protected as a scheduled monument by the government on the advice of Historic England.
The rare IN-Station, also known as a Zero Station, was part of a mysterious secret wireless network operated mostly by civilian agents.
Wireless stations were set up in 1940 by Winston Churchill in response to the increasing threat of German invasion.
It is thought that just 32 of the bunkers were built in England during the Second World War, with just a dozen discovered so far and the Pinebanks bunker is one of the most intact examples.
The station, which received messages from OUT-Stations in enemy-occupied areas, was found by a retired groundsman in the gardens of Pinebanks in 2012.
It has now been awarded special protected status to preserve it and to celebrate its history.
Heritage minister David Evennett said: “This underground wireless station is a rare and unusual example of our Second World War heritage and deserves to be protected.
“It is a reminder too of the often forgotten role so many civilians played in the war effort often acting in secret and undercover.”
The recruits in Churchill’s Secret Army, also known as the British Resistance Organisation, had to verbally swear to secrecy, with one hand on a Bible. In some cases even their families knew nothing of the role that required them to leave their homes regularly at night.
Historic England’s Tony Calladine said: “This amazing place that has survived intact played a highly secret but vitally important role in preparing us for a feared invasion during the Second World War. Because so much information about the stations was either hidden or destroyed, this small but significant dugout has great potential to teach us about a relatively little-known area of our 20th century military history.”
A spokesman for Ocubis Ltd, development manager for site owner Berliet Ltd, said: “We have been liaising with BDC and Historic England and, as we have always stated, will ensure the setting of this historically important former Norwich WW2 IN-station in Thorpe St Andrew is preserved.”
It is thought that the bunker was built under the Jarrold family’s tennis court at Pinebanks in the 1940s.
Details only emerged after the family’s former gardener, who had to sign the Official Secrets Act, told a young groundsman about the construction work he had witnessed.
The gardener did not disclose this until after his retirement, and he did not reveal the location, with this emerging later.
Winston Churchill had set up a secret army unit called GHQ Auxillary Units with a particular branch known as Special Duties, and wireless stations were built as part of this.
Civilian volunteers living in the most threatened coastal areas of the country were trained to spy and report on German military activities from within occupied areas, with their messages received by IN-Stations like the one at Pinebanks.
Details about their locations and construction were kept secret and very little documentation of the stations exists.
Information was protected in case they should be needed again in the future.
Historic England is asking the public to come forward with information about family members who were trained to be civilian spies, or any clues as to where the remaining 20 IN-stations lay hidden.
SEE THE FULL REPORT ON THIS LOCATION HERE.
We have added a very detailed report on the Ashbrittle Auxiliary Unit by Aux researcher Chris Perry and our Devon CIO Nina Hannaford.
The patrol were based at the village of Ashbrittle, 6 miles west of Wellington in south west Somerset.
What makes Ashbrittle’s Operational Base special is the level of work that went into the chimney and the remaining concrete air vent base moulded from concrete to resemble a tree.
See many images and more info on this patrol here.
Operation Turnip continued in Kent today despite poor weather. The team arrived just after 8 am at the Operational Base and started to clear away mud and brambles. We tweeted progress pictures throughout the day on Twitter which seemed very popular with our followers.
Our thanks to Jamie Burton, Alec Warren and Ben Lewis who worked very hard today to help project leader Phil Evans. Follow the progress of this project here
Our Kent CIO Phil Evans has today announced that work on Operation Turnip will continue this year with a 4 man team.
In the next month Phil will head up the workforce and the project will once again pick up a pace.
You can read more about this work here
Today we have added a basic report on the Special Duties Out-Station located at Bewley Down in Devon.
The secret underground bunker, code named Chirnside 1, is located beneath an old outside privy and has recently been restored over a nine year period.
A book is the result of that project, with contributions from a team of ex-military and civilian experts assembled by the current homeowner.
Through out the renovation unique discoveries have been made such as the arrangement of the ventilation pipes in a complex pattern, including junction boxes for multiple pipes, and the range of cabling used to connect wireless sets to the aerial trees. Probably the most fascinating finds are the wide range of hidden hooks, latches and catches that operate the various concealed bolts and secret doors to access the dugout and to get into the radio room.
There are a 100 illustrations and photos throughout the 120 page book, with the images carefully aligned to the relevant text.
There is also a talk being given about this renovation and more info on this can be seen here.
The report was compiled by our Devon CIO Nina Hannaford with local research kindly provided by Stuart Emmett and Gareth Wearne.
The escape tunnel comes out under a large tree root (See image above) this may have provided good camouflage.
See the full report here
You can now take a tour of the newish replica Operational Base at GHQ Coleshill thanks to our new video with CART researcher Bill Ashby.
The OB was built thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a replica of the existing wartime Operational Base elsewhere on the Estate, that needs protecting.
It has mainly been constructed by volunteers with Coleshill local Roger Green now conducting many of the tours.
See more here
Our Devon CIO Nina has just added a patrol report to the site on the Porthleven Auxiliary Unit Patrol in Cornwall.
They gained access to their Operational Base through a break in an old stone wall which was concealed by a hatch which was opened by lifting the attached ivy. This led into a wood lined tunnel 6-7 feet long. There was then a drop down to the more familiar OB structure of a corrugated iron hut approximately 12 x 16 feet. A further wood lined tunnel came off the main body of the OB leading to a smaller area where some of the explosives were stored.
Read the full report here