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HER Number:MDV59225
Name:World War II Auxiliary Unit Hide, Selah, Bewley Down

Summary

World War II auxiliary unit hide constructed beneath an outside privy block. A cunningly concealed entrance below a hinged privy leads to two chambers, the second of which is hidden by a false wall. There is a concealed message shute into the bunker from the hedge and radio aerials are hidden in nearby trees.

Location

Grid Reference:ST 281 050
Map Sheet:ST20NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishChardstock
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishCHARDSTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: ST20NE/125

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • AUXILIARY HIDE (World War II - 1939 AD to 1945 AD (Between))

Full description

May, H. + Hunt, D., Bewley Down, Chirnside 1 Auxilary Units, East Devon (Correspondence). SDV357245.

An account of the restoration of a Special Duties Branch wireless station, and the outcome of five year’s research into the history of the site, has revealed previously unknown facts about a clandestine wartime organization who’s history largely remains under official secrecy.
The station was cleverly concealed in a chamber excavated by soldiers under a privy with an access
shaft beneath the seat. The construction of the station and the elaborate layers of access security, together with the ventilation systems and wireless aerials concealed in trees, have been painstakingly researched by a multi-skilled team of professionals. Their studies delved into the history of this lonely site, the clandestine ‘Special Duties’ organisation it was part of, and Douglas Ingrams who lived there. Ingrams operated the wireless, Code name CHIRNSIDE 1, which was an outstation on the CHIRNSIDE wireless net; he was also the mystery ‘key man’, with links to MI 6, who recruited and ran a spy network covering Axminster, Chard and Stockland, while still managing his chicken farm. Discoveries on the site include aerials under the bark of trees and a pipe in an adjacent spinney into which runners dropped their messages in split tennis balls, without knowing that they would roll down into the wireless room in the ground below them. The book has detailed diagrams, plans and copious photos of this unique site. The extraordinary lengths that the Army took to covertly build, conceal and protect this wireless station from discovery, give clear indications of the importance of these spy networks to British resistance. Bewley Down is undoubtedly the best preserved of the few surviving after the war and now, through this book, the most thoroughly documented.


Horner, W., 1998, Auxiliary Hide, Bewley Down (Worksheet). SDV357192.

Site visit 29th April 1998. World War II auxiliary unit hide, beneath outside privy block within garden just west of 'Selah'. Cunningly concealed entrance beneath hinged privy leads to two chambers, the second of which is concealed by a false wall of railway sleepers that is hinged and swings upwards. Concealed message shute into bunker from adjoining hedge to west. Radio aerials concealed in two trees in gardens to west of privy. Apart from missing privy and ladder down, the bunker is in good condition. Original door release wires in situ, as well as the radio wires as mentioned. Concrete lined and roofed bunker.
Map object based on this source.


Ingrams, D., 1998, German invasion - British resistance: a glimpse of operation Sea Lion and auxiliary units, 13 (Un-published). SDV136101.

Detailed description of the bunker, described as a radio station, given.


Ordnance Survey, 2014, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV355681.

Map object based on this source.


Historic England, 2017, Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1), Selah, Bewley Down, Axminster (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360409.

Notification that Historic England is currently considering the wireless station for scheduling. They have completed a consultation report which sets out the factual information of the site upon which they will base their decision.
The underground dugout is in the grounds known as a C19 house of ‘Selah’, and was
constructed below a pair of garden privies in April 1941. It was built by soldiers under the
direction of Captain Arthur Douglas Ingrams, a local farmer and the owner of Selah. Ingrams
was a member of a secret organisation called ‘Auxiliary Units' (AU) that had been formed in
response to the increasing threat of a German invasion in the summer of 1940, with the
sanction of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The dugout was possibly built to an individual plan by the Royal Engineers, as part of the secret Auxiliary Units and was used as a concealed communications facility from 1942-44. It comprises a low access passage from the base of the laddered access shaft, lobby, map room and radio room. The latter is concealed behind a hinged wall built of reused railway sleepers. Above ground the entrance is concealed within a pair of stone garden privies with a corrugated iron roof.
See report for full details.


Historic England, 2017, Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1), Selah, Bewley Down, Axminster (Schedule Document). SDV360526.

Notification that the hide has been added to the Schedule of Monuments.


Historic England, 2017, National Heritage List for England, 1450334 (National Heritage List for England). SDV359963.

Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1)
Summary of Monument
A concealed Second World War Auxiliary Units underground station, known as CHIRNSIDE 1 OUT-Station. It was constructed by Royal Engineers in 1941 below outdoor privies and operated as a secret wireless station between 1942 and 1944. The station was designed to be used in the resistance effort in the event of German occupation.
Reasons for Designation
OUT-Station (CHIRNSIDE 1), a Second World War underground wireless station concealed beneath outdoor privies, Selah, Bewley Down, is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: the perceived threat of imminent German invasion and occupation was so great in 1940 that the formation of the Auxiliary Units was given priority by Churchill, and secrecy was paramount for its potential success. This underground structure embodies this crucial phase in our national story; * Period: although one of a considerable number of monuments characteristic of the Second World War, it contains evidence of, and relates to, a secret and vitally important role in terms of national security; * Rarity: it is believed to be one of only 50 underground OUT-Stations which were operational in Britain during the Second World War, most of which were destroyed thereafter; * Survival: this site, along with all of those in the network, was stripped of equipment at the end of the Second World War. However, fittings survive and have been restored including a laddered shaft, entrance mechanisms, railway sleeper wall, and bench and table. The station survives well and is probably our most intact example of an underground OUT-Station, and testament to a policy of national interest for which there is little other evidence; * Potential: it has significant potential to inform our understanding of how the Special Duties branch operated, or was perceived to operate under invasion conditions, which will increase our knowledge of this relatively little understood area of C20 military history; * Documentation: due to the secret nature of the Auxiliary Units organisation, very little documentation ever existed relating to them, and some information is thought to have been destroyed. However, the CHIRNSIDE 1 restoration project was published in 2014 and this information will enhance our understanding of both the monument type and the wartime role of Auxiliary Units; * Representative: remaining AU structures represent an important record of the evolving forms of warfare that were developing at this point in the C20.
History
The underground dugout is in the grounds of a C19 house known as ‘Selah’ and was constructed below a pair of outdoor privies in April 1941 when under the ownership of Captain Arthur Douglas Ingrams. It was built by soldiers under the direction of a Royal Engineers officer. Ingrams was the local organiser of a secret organisation called ‘Auxiliary Units' (AU) that had been formed in response to the increasing threat of a German invasion in the summer of 1940, with the sanction of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
One part of these units, the ‘Operations Branch’, trained teams of civilian men to go into underground hides in the event of German invasion, and surface later to attack the invaders and sabotage the supply systems. A second part of AU was the 'Special Duties' (SD) Branch consisting of local civilians trained to spy on the Germans in any occupied areas. 'Observers' would spy on the invader and pass their reports via a system of 'dead letter drops' and runners to concealed wireless OUT-Stations, such as that at Selah. The reports would then be transmitted out of the occupied area to military manned IN-Stations, which passed the reports onto the local army HQ. The SD branch was concentrated in coastal areas from Scotland in the north, southwards along most of the East Coast of England and westwards along the English Channel to include East Devon, central Somerset and the South Wales coast. The most likely invasion areas received priority in establishing dugouts and wireless systems. By 1944 some 3250 civilians were engaged in the SD organisation and trained to feed intelligence into 126 OUT-Stations.
The OUT-Station at Selah had the call sign ‘Chirnside 1’ (reporting to the IN-Station ‘Chirnside 0’ at Castle Neroche, Somerset) and was modified after completion in 1941 to incorporate a wireless room. The telecommunications network developed for SD Branch was deployed by the Royal Signals in 1942 and the Selah dugout was duly subdivided by a new concealed door to create a wireless room. Also, at least three of the trees close to the dugout had feeder cables concealed in their trunks for transmissions via aerials placed in the crowns, and the cables partially survive. The station had been designed and built to have its entrance concealed beneath the toilet housing in the south privy. The toilet cabinet could be raised on a counterweighted mechanism following the release of a hidden catch sunk in the lawn nearby, which was then hidden by bushes that have since been removed. A dead letter drop for messages from runners was concealed beneath a fake tree stump in the lawn to the north west of the north privy.
Shortly after the invasion of Normandy in 1944, the Special Duties Organisation was quietly stood down and the stations were closed. Orders were given to strip equipment and to cap dugout entrances. For reasons unknown, unlike the majority of these stations, Bewley Down was not ‘capped’ or destroyed and, although the wireless equipment was removed, it was left intact. In the early C21 a subsequent owner carried out an investigation of the structure and its ventilation system. Some of the fittings and mechanisms were restored and refurbished at this time.
Details
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS A former Second World War Auxiliary Units (Special Duties Section) OUT-Station located within the grounds of a private dwelling at Bewley Down. The station is in an underground structure accessed from a former outdoor privy. The dugout was possibly built to an individual plan by the Royal Engineers, as part of the secret Auxiliary Units and was used as a concealed communications facility from 1942-1944. It comprises a low access passage from the base of the laddered access shaft, lobby, map room and wireless room. The latter is concealed behind a hinged wall built of reused railway sleepers. Above ground the entrance is concealed within a pair of stone outdoor privies with a corrugated iron roof.
DESCRIPTION The station was constructed in a pit approximately 3m deep, below and alongside the privy structure. The reinforced-concrete slab base of the dugout is approximately 3m by 1.5m and lined with three courses of concrete blocks to form plinths supporting the corrugated steel ‘elephant shelter’ that comprises the main sides and roof of the dugout. The access passage and lobby to the station is walled in concrete blockwork with a reinforced-concrete slab roof. Above the roofs is a zinc sheet for damp proofing and at above-ground level there is a layer of poured concrete to both east and west sides of the privy structure. The access shaft is constructed of shuttered concrete and concrete blockwork. Integral to the function of the structure is a ventilation system comprising a network of 100mm and 230mm glazed and unglazed pipes. Both map room and wireless room each have separate independent high-level outlet pipes and also associated low-level inlet pipes going to separate buried junction boxes which connect with separate ‘fans’ of inlet and outlet pipes.
The above-ground structure, a pair of outdoor privies, is constructed of rubble stone with a corrugated-iron monopitch roof. It is rectangular on plan. The privies are subdivided by a stone wall and the north privy has no fittings. The south privy has a C21 pine toilet cabinet with a counterweighted mechanism to lift it vertically once a latch approximately 3m to the south of the privy door is rotated. The latch is below ground and concealed under a modern metal plate, and is attached to the toilet by an iron rod set in a conduit.
Fixed to the north wall of the south privy, below and behind the toilet cabinet, is a steel ladder in the access shaft. At the bottom of the ladder is a restored counterweight system which includes original lead ingot weights marked: BROKEN HILL AUSTRALIA. The access corridor leads to a C21 lobby door. In the concrete roof of the map room is a circular vent opening and on the south wall is a shelf with three cup hooks, the right of which is connected to a cable that has been laid below the concrete floor slabs and runs to a release catch to the ‘sleeper’ wall to the wireless room. The lobby is open to the map room which has a restored ‘sleeper’ wall at the north end with attached collapsible timber table. Against the west side is a collapsible timber bench. The corrugated steel ‘elephant shelter’ has areas of corrosion, most seriously at its base where it adjoins the concrete block plinth (690mm high above the inside floor level). The ‘sleeper’ wall has a restored fixed timber frame across the width of the chamber clad with reused railway sleepers to the south face. The central section of the wall pivots once the mechanism has been unlocked, to give access to the wireless room. The wireless room has no fittings and the north wall is constructed of concrete block. A removed block to the bottom right forms the outlet for the dead letter drop. Further removed blocks from the central section of the wall, with an inserted timber lintel above, may mark the location of a proposed additional entrance or escape tunnel. Above the timber lintel is a circular ventilation outlet. The lighting, door fittings and cables are C21 replacements with some reuse of original fixings.
To the north-east of the station, modern drainage lids cover the ventilation outlet/inlet pipes and the 100mm message carrying inlet pipe.
EXCLUSIONS The nearby trees, two of which retain remnants of cable embedded in the bark are excluded from the scheduling. The modern drainage lids over the ventilation pipes and toilet fittings are also excluded.
Date first scheduled: 26th October 2017


Historic England, 2017, WWII Underground Station, Selah, Bewley Down, Axminster (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV360353.

Notification that Historic England have received aapplication to add the WWII underground station to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest and are now beginning their assessment of the structure.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV136101Un-published: Ingrams, D.. 1998. German invasion - British resistance: a glimpse of operation Sea Lion and auxiliary units. A4 Stapled. 13.
SDV355681Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2014. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV357192Worksheet: Horner, W.. 1998. Auxiliary Hide, Bewley Down. Defence of Britain Project. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV357245Correspondence: May, H. + Hunt, D.. Bewley Down, Chirnside 1 Auxilary Units, East Devon. Digital.
SDV359963National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2017. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital. 1450334.
SDV360353List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2017. WWII Underground Station, Selah, Bewley Down, Axminster. Notification of Application to Add Building to List. Digital.
SDV360409List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2017. Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1), Selah, Bewley Down, Axminster. Notification of Completion of Assessment. Digital.
SDV360526Schedule Document: Historic England. 2017. Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1), Selah, Bewley Down, Axminster. Notification of Addition to Schedule of Monuments. Digital.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded


Date Last Edited:May 24 2019 3:46PM