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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.