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Wednesday 2nd October 2002
The Bodies on the Beach
by James Hayward
Reconstruction of body washed up at Shingle Street
Rumours persist of bodies washed up on the beach
The isolated village of Shingle Street stands on a wild and desolate stretch of Suffolk coastline, twelve miles east of Ipswich.
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Many maps omit the village, with some justification, for visitors will find few amenities there. Its public house, the Lifeboat Inn, was flattened by scientists from Porton Down almost
60 years ago, and today many of the houses are fairweather holiday homes.

Yet Shingle Street is surrounded by mystery. To the north lies Orfordness. A secret site since the First World War, the island has played host to a bewildering variety of hush-hush military
installations, including an RAF experimental flying field, and in 1935, the first Air Ministry radar station. Post-war residents included the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment.

In 1993 Orfordness - half wilderness, half military junkyard - was sold to the National Trust by the Ministry of Defence for £3 million.

A few miles to the south, on the mouth of River Deben, stands Bawdsey Manor. This striking neo-Jacobian pile succeeded Orfordness as a radar research station in 1936, and during the
Second World War it remained an operational Chain Home site. The last of the four 350 ft steel masts was demolished in 2000, and the manor now houses an international school.

Sandwiched between Bawdsey and Orfordness at the centre of Hollesley Bay, the village of Shingle Street also boasts a secret history. At the Public Record Office lies a slim, yellowing Ministry of Home Security dossier detailing 'Evacuation of civil
population from the village of Shingle Street in East Suffolk.' Indexed as HO 207/1175, at one time its content was to have remained an Official Secret until 2021.

For decades this inexplicable secrecy boggled minds across East Anglia. It was all to do with a secret bomb, some hinted. Others found room for the Ultra secret.

Then, in 1992, allegations that a German raiding force was burned to death there in 1940 exploded
across the national press. The rumours soon spread to include fatal chemical warfare trials and a friendly-fire disaster in 1944.

The result was the kind of undignified media scramble spurred by the Hitler Diaries, involving public outcry, the tabling of questions in the House of Commons, and the early declassification
of HO 207/1175. All of which went some way towards proving that the reality of Shingle Street's wartime past was rather more
prosaic.

After France fell in June 1940, Minister of Home Security, Sir John Anderson, created a coastal Defence Area between Southend- on-Sea and King's Lynn. In East Anglia alone, no less than
127,000 people left coastal towns to make way for the construction of an extensive network of fixed defences, including deadly minefields.

In line with this policy the Regional Commissioner for the Eastern Region, Will Spens, ordered the complete evacuation of Shingle Street on 22nd June 1940. Villagers had just three days
to find alternative accommodation, most moving inland to Hollesley and Alderton.

With just one lorry to assist in the hasty exodus, villagers were able to remove only bare essentials,
and many larger chattels such as furniture had to be left behind. Sadly, over the next few months extensive looting took place.

Page 2 »

Living on the south coast (Weymouth) I remember that one weekend in September 1940,probably 21/22 or 28/29th there was an invasion scare. Overnight the Home Guard had been called out by police with loud hailers. In the morning troops were positioned in the hedgerows. Note, that this was well before the incident quoted as 30/10 at Shingle Street. What happened?

Alf Smith, Australia

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