North Pickenham linked to Nazi invasion plot

One of the Dutch style barns which could have been part of a Nazi plot
One of the Dutch style barns which could have been part of a Nazi plot
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Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, mystery surrounds a series of strange barns in West Norfolk linked to a fiendish Nazi invasion plot.

In 1940 RAF pilots flying over the countryside looking for ideal locations to build bomber air bases discovered a perfect site which had already been cleared along with some unusual Dutch style barns in North Pickenham.

An investigation found the barns had been built in the run-up to the war by the East Anglian Real Property Company by naturalised Dutch workers supposedly for agricultural purposes.

But the problem was the barns were empty and no crops were planted on the compacted and hardened ground.

Many of the workers and the manager were arrested and interviewed by Norfolk police and officers from MI5.

But the truth may never be known unless important records of the interview with the site manager are uncovered and the answer may lie in the Norfolk Records Office.

Military historian Roger Thomas is calling for more research to be conducted into the story to confirm if the sites were created by Nazi sympathizers for German paratroopers.

Mr Thomas said: “We need to find more documentary evidence to prove it. It is a story where we need more research.”

He uncovered a document in the National Archives.

Mr Thomas, who works with English Heritage, said: “A question of the document is whether it is for real or whether it is black propaganda as they would use that as tool to confuse the Germans at the time. It seems unlikely as we have something there. These sheds are too large to be coincidental.

“In total there are 13 sheds in Norfolk.”

The barns were reported to be built in the late 1936 or 1937, as the German war machine was gearing up.

Pilots were flying over the country in May 1940 to look for suitable sites and East Anglia was considered an ideal location due to its proximity to the continent.

It was during one of these routine flights, the North Pickenham barns were uncovered.

Barns were also found in Beighton, Cantley, Guestwick, Halvergate,Paston, Southrepps, Buckenham and also Horsell, in Surrey.

He said: “What was happening on the ground was hedges had been cleared, ditches were filled in and the ground had been tampered down.

“German paratroopers were a big thing in British minds. But what people did not realise, the vast majority of German paratroopers did not leap out of aircraft but had landed on the ground. It is what happened in Holland.”

The pilot reported this back and after inquiries to ensure that this was not part of a decoy to fool the Nazis, a probe was launched in August 1940.

Mr Thomas said: “Most if not all the hedges and trees had been removed to give you a field of 20 acres. The field was bare of crops and really hard. Each location had one or two of these red roof barns. These were close to a road and found to be completely empty of crops or machinery of any kind.”

Police and MI5 arrested the manger of the EARP along with his workers, who were naturalised Dutch aliens.

Mr Thomas said: “We were arresting aliens at that time. Without finding the documents we can’t be sure.

“It would appear most of these people were released weeks later but only a handful were kept. The children were taken into care.”