Secret Wartime Britain...

 

...Hidden Places that Helped Win the Second World War, from Pen and Sword

 

Title: Secret Wartime Britain

Author: Colin Philpott

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52673-547-8

This new 246-page hardback book from Pen & Sword and author Colin Philpott is a real treat.  There are a host of individual sites around the British Isles which are included in here and each has a story to tell.  They are split across 8 chapters which help guide the reader through the many and varied elements of Britain in WW2 which have still left a reminder, or not, on the landscape to this day. The chapters cover Factories; Command Centres; Spying & Listening Bases; Broadcasting & Propaganda; Decoys, Dummies & D_Day; Retreats, Reserves & Resistance; Interrogation, Internment & Indiscretions; and finally, Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Some of the sites are famous and have been preserved as museums, some are still there though derelict, others remain within restricted defence establishments while others have been redeveloped or disappeared altogether.  For example, although it took may years after the war ended before the story of Bletchley Park and the Codebreakers emerged the site is now a popular museum open to anyone to visit.

The variety of sites does include underground bunkers, such as one built under what is now a residential street in North London and which remains in place though abandoned. Then there are complete factories, built as 'shadow factories' for key manufacturers to have backup production facilities in case their main ones were bombed.  Open land was used for 'Decoy' sites, to fool bombers into targeting the wrong place, dummies were erected to imitate aircraft and landing craft, while many existing buildings were used that simply hid their role in plain sight.  Many of these, large country houses in particular, still exist and people living there today may have little idea of what once went on in places you may know well.

Personally I found an answer to a rumour I remember hearing about when I was at school, of wartime tunnels under Broadwater Down in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  At the time they were only local 'rumours' to me as a schoolboy but now I know that the Wilderness Tunnels are really there still.  A fascinating book and to sum things up, I loved it.

 

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin