May 212016
 
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Inside the WWII secret wireless station, or IN-Station in Norwich, which has just been protected as a scheduled monument. The entrance to the third chamber, which is where the escape tunnel begins from © Norfolk Historic Environment Service.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.

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.

Pinebanks in Norwich picture by Adrian Judd for EN

Pinebanks in Norwich picture by Adrian Judd for EN

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.

Email communications@HistoricEngland.org.uk

Report by Sam Russell (Eastern Daily Press)

SEE THE FULL REPORT ON THIS LOCATION HERE. 

Sep 292015
 

Chirnside 4 Puckington OUT Station 2Today we have added a report by Chris Perry and Nina Hannaford to the site.

The Special Duties OUT Station was located near Puckington in Somerset and had the codename of ‘Chirnside 4’.

The station would have communicated directly with “Chirnside Zero” at Castle Neroche near Buckland St Mary.

Read their excellent report here.

 

Jul 012015
 

Captain Ken WardCaptain Ken Ward was an integral part of the development of the Special Duties Branch (A secret radio network set up around the country to broadcast German movements post invasion).

Ken was a Royal Signals Adjutant who started work in the SDB with 16 other radio hams. Ken made the radio sets before installing them in the coast stations. He then taught the operators how to use them as well as maintaining them.

Once installed teams of 2 would go out from wherever they were based and visit the stations, change and charge the batteries.

Problems with the early radio sets resulted in Ken agreeing to make a new one. In about 3 weeks flat he had produced the TRD, which was an all in one box.

Our thanks to research by Bill Ashby & Ken’s daughter Kate for this bio.

Read more about Ken’s military career and Aux work here.

May 192015
 

Widworthy Special Duties Out Station 2

Thanks to research by Chris Perry and Nina Hannaford we have published a new report on the Widworthy Special Duties Branch OutStation, code named ‘Chirnside 2’ in Devon.

Widworthy appears to differ to most OUT Stations in the area which were often within the gardens or grounds of the “Key Man” who operated it.

“Chirnside 2” was located in a dugout in Widworthy Wood half way up the hillside overlooking Widworthy Church and Widworthy Barton. It may well have been placed here due to the lack of wireless reception at the “Key Man’s” home.
This has left it difficult to identify the operator.

Read their complete report here.

 

Mar 302015
 

Wivelscombe SDB - 6Today we have added information on the Special Duties OUT station known as Golding 4 in Somerset. The info and images have been supplied by CART’s Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford and Aux researcher Chris Perry.

The secret wireless was sited at Captain Wight Boycott’s home Oakhampton House (sometimes recorded as Oakhampton Manor) Wiveliscombe. The site has been recorded as being in the attic but it is known a dugout was present so it COULD have originally been placed in the attic whilst the dugout was being built.

“Runners” would then have brought messages to the dugout.

In Devon messages these were left in secret compartments (Quite often message bolts) hidden in gate posts (see above) and this would have been ideal at the location though we cannot prove this happened here.

Read the full report here

 

Feb 242015
 

Hawkchurch SDB 2

Aux researcher Chris Perry with assistance from Nina Hannaford has today published a report on a Special Duties Out Station.

The report is about the wireless site, recorded as “Hawkchurch” Out Station, on the Devon / Dorset border (in Devon from 1896) which is actually in the nearby hamlet of Fishponds Bottom which is in Dorset on the edge of the Vale of Marshwood.

The wireless was located in a “chicken shed” at the rear of a house locally known as “Briscoe’s Farm”.

Read their detailed report here

Jan 062015
 

Edgarley SD 2Edgarley ‘Chirnside Five’ – Special Duties Radio OUT Station has today been added to our Special Duties Branch microsite.

The Special Duties wireless set was recorded as operating out of a hut or box at Edgarley Manor Farm, Edgarley in Somerset. This was concealed as, or part of, a chicken house that was located between the farm house and Wick Lane.

There is some doubt over the actual operators of the station but the landowners (Captain) Kenneth and Dorothy Marsh have ideal credentials to be involved. Locally it is suggested a woman was the main operator.

Read Nina Hannaford’s full report here 

Dec 232014
 

Castle Neroche 3 - Chirnside ZeroWe have added three new reports on locations used by the Special Duties Branch.

These are the Zero INstation codenamed ‘Chirnside Zero’ at Buckland St, Mary. 

‘Chirnside 1 A’ located at Axminster and ‘Golding 2 A’ located at Bishop’s Clyst.

This research has largely been carried out by our Devon Researcher, Nina Hannaford and allows us to understand more about this still secret radio network.

Aug 132014
 

Chirnside SD Bewley Down 2Today 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. 

Jun 232014
 

A new book called Chirnside 1: Auxiliary Units: Special Duties Branch Out-Station has recently been published by H.P. May, A.S.G. Blackmore, T.R.N. Walford, D. Hunt.photo 1

The blurb reads,

When an eleven year old schoolboy returned home to East Devon from boarding school in 1941, he found soldiers excavating an enormous hole in the garden next to the outside Privy. This was the beginning of an underground construction which became an integral part of a most secret WWII operation.

Named the Special Duties Branch of the Auxiliary Units, civilians were trained and exercised in gathering intelligence about enemy forces in the event of a German invasion of Britain. These civilians were supported by regular military personnel, namely ATS and Royal Signals, who assisted in operating a network of wireless stations through which intelligence details were passed to Army HQ.

This account of the restoration of a Special Duties Branch wireless station, and the outcome of five year’s research into the history of the site, has revealed previously unknown facts about a clandestine war time organisation who’s history largely remains under official secrecy.

The book can be bought in our shop here. 

Paperback: 138 pages
Publisher: Dudfield Publications (May 2014)
ISBN-10: 099291390X
ISBN-13: 978-0992913908