War and Rumours of War

James Hayward. Shingle Street: Flame, Chemical and Psychological Warfare in 1940 and the Nazi Invasion that Never Was. Les Temps Modern, 1994.

The Suffolk hamlet of Shingle Street lies just a few miles from the notorious Bentwaters AF base and Rendlesham Forest. It was evacuated for military use in World War II. After the war various legends grew about some 'event' during the war: that Allied soldiers had been killed in a friendly fire incident in 1943-44, or it was the scene of an attempted Nazi invasion in 1940.

The common theme of the stories is buried bodies, and the story merges into a larger rumour of a failed German invasion of September 1940 which was foiled by the British "setting the sea on fire". There were rumours of hundreds or thousands of burned bodies, and even 'eyewitness' accounts such as that by the journalist WilIiam Shirer who claimed to have encountered a Red Cross train and seen soldiers with burns, although no evidence has ever been brought out to substantiate these rumours.

When a piece suggesting the 'friendly fire' incident appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times in March 1992 it set off a series of reports and alleged eyewitness testimony which bears a close similarity to Roswell rumours of secret government files, which when released contained nothing of interest, thus prompting stories of files removed, deathbed testimony, undertakers tales, and even an MIB ringing up an investigator and warning him off further probing.

A few years ago I suggested to my Magonia colleagues that one way of testing claims of extraordinary historical mysteries was to present a fake TV documentary alleging that the Germans had invaded and occupied a small isolated area of East Anglia during the war, and wait for 'eyewitnesses'to come out of the woodwork. The Shingle Street story suggest that their numbers would not have been negligible. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 55, March 1996.


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