A smaller group than of late (perhaps it was the beautiful sunshine surprise !) but nevertheless we were pleased to welcome Mr Bernie Knill a volunteer from Hughenden Manor who had returned for a second time to complete the history of Hughenden Manor and to tell the group about the little known, and important use of the Manor during the Second World War.
Hughenden had been the country residence of Benjamin Disraeli during the 1840s and its history over the years was well known and the house (now owned by the National Trust) is a well visited ‘treasure’ within our local community. However, following a visit to the house by Victor Gregory (an original WW11 worker at Hughenden) and his grandson, and the question ‘what did you do when you were here ?’ – Victor revealed a startling story pertaining to the house and indeed its war history. This time also coincided with the 60th anniversary and all was revealed from the archives relating to the works which went on.
The site code named ‘Hillside’ was close to Bomber Command and when Air Marshall Harris (Bomber Harris/Butcher Harris) took over command he realized that there were no detailed maps for the pilots to use when making Sorties on the enemy. This was soon to be rectified and Hughenden became the site where the relevant maps were made. Photographs show the dining room being used as a large office and also used was the Ice House in the grounds close by. Also involved were RAF Benson where squadrons with Spitfires and Cameras were deployed and sent out to take photographs returning to RAF Medmenham and then bringing the photographs to Hillside where the many civilians (mostly women) checked the same and passed them on to RAF Naphill. After this the maps were sent out to the airfields to the pilots who were then able to make accurate attacks on Germany and enemy lands.
Cliveden and Danesfield Houses were also used close by to the relevant airfields. The Wycombe Abbey School was taken over by the USAF and many servicemen were billeted in High Wycombe and surrounding areas. All this activity was TOP SECRET and it was never talked about. The fact that the 60 years had passed and
the government released the details it may well have passed by as a totally unknown activity so close to home !
Mr Knill was thanked for his very interesting talk. He did remind people that the history is still available to be seen at Hughenden Manor and well worth a visit. In typical British tradition we all enjoyed a cup of tea and messages were given out. A pleasant afternoon.