Local History 3 : The Thatched Barn In WW2

Thursday 30 April 2020

There are many stories about The Thatched Barn : famous frolicking actors before the War, fire destroying the thatch after the War, but the best stories come from its secret work for the SOE during the War.  Over 200 local film craftspeople well versed in deceiving the camera with prosthetics, wigs, makeup, and props that looked like one thing but were really another, worked on equipping our secret agents.  From exploding cigarettes, lumps of coal and rats, to radio suitcases with false bottoms, from fake German money and Nazi documents to a one man submarine tested in the Barn’s swimming pool. The full story is here on the second page of our May 2017 Newsletter.

Here’s one local gentleman’s story about the Barn :  “… mention was made of wartime experiences at The Thatched Barn.  I was told about this when having my haircut by Mr Battle, the barber operating from Theobald Street, near Tompkins, the butchers and later at the top of Theobald Street, opposite the Crown. It was about 1962 when he told me that during WW2 he had to sign the Official Secrets Act and told to report to the Thatched Barn. When he arrived, the chap on the gate let him in and directed him to a door on which he knocked. Imagine his surprise when the door was opened by a soldier dressed in a German uniform. Mr Battle told me that he went there many times to cut hair in a German fashion for agents that were going to be sent to Germany and during his many visits, he heard only German spoken.” David Clark

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