Were Nazi troops headed for my house?
Asking about here in the office, everyone has their favourite ‚Äúgo-to‚ÄĚ search terms when exploring our newly released collections. As someone who believes in a bit of hometown pride, I often search for ‚ÄúDevizes‚ÄĚ to see what historic documents I can turn up on my own stomping ground. For a small Wiltshire town, the results so far have been surprisingly many and varied, with letters written from the house next to my favourite Chinese turning up in Colonial America, travel guides for canal walks in Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture, and tales of war-time community spirit in First World War to recall a few.
However, my favourite to date comes from Service Newspapers of World War Two released in April this year. In this resource, my search for Devizes rewarded me with an article from American weekly newspaper Stars and Stripes, titled ‚ÄúNazis planned back-door ‚Äėinvasion‚Äô of England‚ÄĚ. The article tells of the Nazi plot to launch a Christmas Eve invasion of England from a military prison in the town. It paints a vivid description of the planned invasion, which was to be spearheaded by the breakout of 75,000 Nazi prisoners of war. The plot was well developed, with ten prisoners having previously escaped from the prison to go on ‚Äėreconnaissance‚Äô about the town. Their plan was to seize vehicles and supplies ‚Äúfrom the two nearby hospitals‚ÄĚ and free all the German POWs within a 60 mile radius. Luckily, not only for the citizens of Devizes but the Allied war effort in general, the plot was discovered by anti-espionage officers, and the plot leaders cross interrogated.
What particularly interests me about this story, is that I drive past the military prison this article is about every day on my way to work (It has since been converted into flats). Furthermore, my current house is part of a complex of houses converted from the old town hospital‚Ä¶ Which leaves me questioning, were Nazi troops headed for my house?
Read the article in full here.