Wilton Park - Historical Grounds for Objection

Three extracts from objections sent to SBDC on the Wilton Park Outline Planning Application

Nigel Morgan (son of an interrogator at Wilton Park during WW2) wrote:

In World War Two this site was the base for a secret but major MI19 interrogation centre of prisoners of war, with its interrogators (of which my father was one) and its “secret listeners”;

It was also the main centre of MI9 at Shean Block, destroyed by developers in September 2014. MI9 was tasked with supporting available European Resistance networks and making use of them to assist Allied airmen shot down over Europe in returning to Britain. MI-9 infiltrated agents, usually by parachute, into occupied Europe. These agents would link up with a Resistance cell and organize escape-and-evasion efforts in a particular area.

On that basis, any planning consent should require these vital WW2 organisations to be permanently remembered in a meaningful way. These could include a major plaque, or that some roads be named after those who worked there. On that issue, WW2 historian friends and I can help.

Dr Helen Fry - Historian wrote:

To completely ignore any wartime recognition of this site - its secret history is only recently coming to light and played a major part in winning WWII (see my extra comments at the end

During WWII, and the Cold War, this site played a significant part in secret operations. In WWII, this large site had 2 separate parts used by branches of the secret intelligence service - MI9 - a branch of MI6. In one major area, secret listeners bugged the conversations of German prisoners in their cells / rooms and gathered an extraordinary volume of intelligence that fed into all operations and battles of the wartime from 1942-45. It was here that some of Hitler's generals were held before transfer to a disinter site, Trent Park in North London. Wilton Park held captured Field Marshal von Rundstedt, for example (files verify this at the National Archives in Kew). Here, the secret listeners were tracking Hitler's secret weapon programme as well as his atomic bomb programme. Wilton Park's deputy in WWII later wrote "If it wasn't for these sites, it could have been London and not Hiroshima that was devastated by the atomic bomb".

At the end of the war, Wilton Park was one of the most important sites for re-educating German POWs in democracy and the denazification process that enabled stability to be brought to post-war Europe. This work must not be underestimated as part of our post-war foreign policy.

The other part of the Wilton Park site (Shean Block) was the headquarters of MI9 - escape and evasion - from where British intelligence mounted and organised operations for our captured airmen and soldiers to escape from Nazi POW camps in Europe . At Wilton Park, a number of "James Bond" gadgets were developed and dispatched across Europe to help our prisoner escape (e.g. tiny Silk maps, exploding pens, tiny compasses hidden in monopoly sets).

Wilton Park is too important in WWII not to mark its history on site. There needs to be a lasting memorial / sculpture / statue to this incredible work that, along with Bletchley Park, helped win the war.

Sarah Paterson - MA DipLib Historian wrote:

I am especially concerned that the plans make virtually no reference to the vital role that Wilton Park played in the Second World War.  It performed three main functions - and most of these activities were totally secret, which is why they are not as well known as they deserve to be.  It was also a significant Cold War site.

  • Firstly it was the Headquarters of MI9 - the military intelligence branch tasked with helping Allied prisoners of war escape and assisting evaders, including the creation of ingenious escape aids such as silk maps, compasses secreted in buttons, convertible flying boots, etc.  

  • It also served as a 'bugged' holding centre for senior Italian and German officers - with Field Marshal Busch dying there in 1945, and as an interrogation centre

  • It was an important 're-education' centre for German prisoners of war between the end of the war and 1948. German civilians also studied there between 1948 and 1950. The importance of this work can be seen in the fact that the Foreign Office continued and developed this work at Wiston House in West Sussex maintaining the name Wilton Park

  • The Eastern Command Headquarters Bunker, and the language training that went on at the site were important for the Cold War period

The site evolved and changed during the war years - and then in the Cold War years - and this should be marked so that although the buildings may have disappeared it is clear what was happening in the different areas of the site.  I believe the cadet building dates from the Second World War so it is not correct to say that nothing from this era survives.  I am particularly concerned about the proposed treatment of the walled garden - the gaps in it tell a story - and looking at this in conjunction with the Bunker we can establish exactly where the interrogation centre was because it was located within the walls of the garden and the bunker was built abutting two of the wings (I have a plan showing this).  This site incorporates pre-, Second and Cold War history and should be marked.  Spatial awareness is extremely important on this site, and I hope that a historical trail/interpretation boards/memorial will be included in any plans.  I would be very happy to assist with this if this would be helpful.


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