Churchill's British Resistance - The Special Duties Branch

 

Ousden Auxiliary Unit Signals Control Station, Littly Wood.

This page was last updated at 4:41pm on 25/10/12

Thank you for selecting information on the Ousden Auxiliary Unit Signals Control Station in Suffolk. The info below has been supplied by CART's Norfolk CIO, Evelyn Simak and CART's Suffolk CIO Adrian Pye.

Call sign: Gorey 
                                   
Two concrete platforms forming the bases for a large and a small hut; condition good but covered with leaf mould, overgrown and hence invisible.

Size: Large hut – 19 x 43 ft (5.80 x 13m); small hut – 7 x 11 ft (2.10 x 3.30m)

Orientation: E/W with the small hut at the larger hut’s SE corner (see diagram)

Ousden in-station formed part of the so-called Inner network.  Stations on the Inner network did not have outstations of their own but rather served the purpose of gathering (and under certain circumstances relaying) information.  All these Inner network stations were in contact with one or more Control stations that were supplied with information by their own specific networks comprising a number of out and sub-outstations.  For instance, Ousden station was linked with Norwich Control station (Norfolk network, call-sign ‘Bowling’), with Thornham Magna Control station (Suffolk network, call-sign ‘Chariot’) and with Halstead Control station (Essex network, call-sign ‘Buttercup’) as well as with another station on the Inner network which was located in the Chesham area (Buckinghamshire), further to the south-west.

The in-station comprised a large wooden hut located about eight metres from the edge of Littly Wood - now a private woodland with public access, owned by the Wills Charitable Trust. Like many other above ground In-stations it was designed to look like a Meteorological hut and at the time it was surrounded by a barbed wire fence.  According to Capt Ken Ward (based at Bachelors Hall), ATS staff was supplied with a daily weather forecast so as not to raise any suspicions in case somebody asked. Typically, the station was situated on high ground, at approximately 130 metres above sea level, which is almost as high as anybody can get in the County of Suffolk.  A much smaller building, presumably housing either the generator or a toilet, adjoined at the south-eastern corner.

The village of Ousden is about five kilometres distant from Bachelor’s Hall, Hundon – which was the first headquarters and testing station of Auxiliary Units (Signals) until sometime in 1942 when the operation was moved to Hannington Hall (offices and billets) and Coleshill House (workshops) in Wiltshire.        

Ousedn SDS Control Station

View across the site of the Control station, with the concrete floor of the small adjoining shed seen in the foreground.

 Ousden SDS Control Station Plan

Plan drawing of Ousden Control station © Adrian Pye

The following information comes from an interview with Ted Knights, conducted by Dr Will Ward in 1999:
Mr Knights lived in a house near the Control station site. The house had a washhouse in its garden which was used by ATS personnel for storing their bicycles.  The ATS women were billeted at Dalham Hall and usually two of them would arrive in the morning and stay all day, to be replaced by two others at night.  During times of heavy troop movements altogether five of them would arrive.  Mr Knights also remembered that occasionally a man called round in order to deliver water.

Mr Knights recalls that the hut was built from wood and stood on a concrete base.  One day the Army arrived in trucks, with enough men to build two huts and they felled the trees that were absolutely necessary but left the remainder as cover.  They then laid a concrete base and brought the materials required for building the hut in a couple of trucks.  After completion, the compound was surrounded by a few strands of barbed wire on stakes.  (Note: this would have been standard procedure: all camps housing ATS staff were surrounded by barbed wire even when located within a regular army camp.)  After the ATS had left, Mr Knights went into the hut which he described as having been basically one large room with a toilet and a stove and a few windows.  The hut had what Mr Knights thought to have been a pitched roof, with an aerial on top. The structure was dismantled and the components removed by the Army after the war.
 
The wood is described as having been felled in 1955 and replanted in 1966 but on occasion of our site visit we noticed that quite a number of old trees remain in place.   Mr Knights was certain that there is no dugout in the woods – as he used to walk most days in the woods and was sure that he would have found it.  

Marina Bloxam (taped interview) mentions a dugout somewhere near the hut, the entrance to which she describes as having been hidden under a gorse bush. She was one of the ATS subalterns who were based at Dalham Hall and for some time worked at the Ousden site, and she recalls having left their bikes in Mr Knight’s washhouse.   Many of the details contained in her description, however, could not be confirmed and it is possible that some features were confused with one of the other sites where she also worked.  During the time Les Parnell was based in Suffolk, for instance, Marina Bloxham was at Halstead (Essex) and his Royal Signals colleague, Cpl Arthur Gabbitas, remembers having met Nina Patricia Swan (nee Knapp), Margaret Buxton and Joan Barker but not Marina Bloxam.

We have seen two letters written by Les Parnell who was one of the AU Signals maintenance men whose task it was to change the batteries and check the aerials at wireless stations in East Anglia.  In one of said letters he agrees with Ted Knights in that there was no dugout at Ousden whereas in the other letter he thinks that there was one.  Memories fade and for this reason recollections dating back many decades ought to be taken with a pinch of salt.  Mr Parnell recalls that the aerial was up a tree, with the feeder cable hidden in a groove that was cut into the tree’s trunk and then covered over.

It has been established that the wireless links between Ousden and Thorpe St Andrew/Norwich, between Dynes Hall, Halstead, and between Thornham Magna In-stations all worked by line-of-sight.

BRO Museum, Parham; A Gabbitas (Auxiliary Units and Auxiliary Units Signals newsletter Nov 1995; Dr Will Ward (DoB), CART CIO Dorset; Interviews withTed Knights, Ousden and Marina Bloxham, ATS (via Dr Will Ward); Brian Drury; John Warwicker, ‘Churchill’s Underground Army’ (2008) and ‘With Britain in Mortal Danger’ (2002)

If you can help with any info please contact us.