Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The secret side of Hughendon Manor and why artists killed people with their paintbrushes.

Hughedon Manor is in High Wycome in Buckinghamshire. It's famously the home of Benjamin Disraeli.

Disraeli was an odd Prime Minister - a most unlikely choice. He was a terrible flirt, and as Queen Victoria was known to be lonely, post Albert, (I was going to say randy), they got on like a house on fire.

Disraeli is the only person ever, that's had a monument put up to him by a reigning monarch. It's in the local church.

However, I'll do the Victorian bit on the next posting. I was more taken with the story of Hughendon Manor in the second World War.

It's a story so secret, that the National Trust, who own the property have only just begun to find out about it, and realize it's huge importance during the war, for top secret operations. All their information has been uncovered since 2004. Now I don't know about you, but I find that just a bit amazing.

The Germans knew about the secret operations going on there because a German pilot was found with a hit list stuffed into his socks and it included Hughendon Manor. Hitler wanted it bombed. The local people of High Wycombe had no idea what was going on there, but they did suffer from a doodle bomb attack; they probably didn't understand the particular reasons why.

It was the operations centre for map making.

60 army personnel and 40 civilians (mostly artists; any kind of artist was seconded; graphic designers, painters, cartographers etc) along with 10 security staff.  The south side of the house was in full sun, and was filled with artists who used the light to painstakingly draw maps from photographs taken on the latest missions over Germany. These would be collated with existing maps and new ones drawn to include new proposed targets. The maps would be used in the dark, so they used dark pigments, keeping to black and silver with the exception of magenta (bulls blood) used for target buildings etc. 

After the maps had been drawn, they were photographed, printed and despatched overnight to RAF bases around the country. The maps were used for all sorts of raids including the Damn Busters.

The following photographs were taken in the Ice House (left) which was manned by a handful of army men known as the Ice Boys. They produced their own newspaper, and got up to all sorts of pranks.

 A camera like this was used to take photographs of the completed maps.

 The equipment they used to look closely at the photographs was very crude indeed. I could see the photos better with just my glasses.
 Making the ice house home. Tea and cartoons.
A reproduction of the newspaper. Only a few editions were printed because the paper shortage put an early end to it's production.
Both the army personnel and the civilians were kept under strict army supervision for obvious reasons of security.

Sargeant Hadfield was in charge of security, and lived in the top of the house, with his wife, and two young daughters, and his dog.

The National Trust have done up a couple of rooms in the basement of the house to give a flavour of what life was like for the family during the war.
 Ration books, recipe books, games, and a sewing machine.

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