Site Records

Site Name: Wilton Park (Beaconsfield): Eastern Command War Headquarters & AFHQ 5

Minerva Way
OS Grid Ref: SU960902

Sub Brit site visit 8th March 2005

[Source: Nick Catford]

At the start of WW2 the Wilton Park Estate near Old Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire was leased to the War Office for use as a top secret interrogation centre for prisoners of war.

Initially the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (CSDIC) was established within the Tower of London, moving to Trent Park at Cockfosters in North London in December 1939. With the increasing number of POW's passing through the interrogation system, two additional camps were proposed, one at Wilton Park (Camp 300) and the other at Latimer, also near Beaconsfield.

At Wilton Park the 'White House' the three storey Palladian mansion built in 1779 by Josias Du Pre, the former governor of Madras was turned into an officers' mess for staff and interrogators.

The White House in about 1950

A series of Nissen huts were built for staff of other ranks. Prisoners were housed in a compound comprising low, flat-roofed brick and concrete cells with four interconnecting corridors.

After conversion, Wilton Park was occupied in July 1942 and in the middle of 1943 the first high ranking prisoners began to arrive at Wilton Park. These included Marshall Messe, Field-Marshalls von Rundstedt and Busch and Rudolph Hess.

The CSDIC closed at the end of 1945 with most POW's being repatriated or moved to other camps. Wilton Park was then taken over by the Foreign Office becoming a centre for the de-Nazification of German POW's. In 1949/50 the estate became the home of the Army School of Administration with the Army School of Education moving on to the site in April 1950. Shortly afterwards the Foreign Office moved to a new location, taking the name Wilton Park, to Steyning in Sussex. During the 1960's three language wings were established at the school with Libya's Colonel Geddaffi studying there in the late 1960's.

The three language wings merged to form the Army School of Language in 1970 which in turn became the tri-service Defence School of Languages in January 1985.

The DSL is a joint-service military establishment with both military and civilian staff. Its main role is to provide foreign language training to the British armed forces and English language training to military personnel from overseas. .

One of the language laboratories

It also has over 30 years' experience of teaching languages to civilians, mainly in government service.

The compound in which the cells had been housed was demolished in the mid 1960's and the White House was demolished in 1968 to make way for a 15 storey accommodation block, the tallest building in Buckinghamshire. This too is now empty and is only used for occasional training exercises. All WW2 buildings on the site have now been demolished

In 1950 the United Kingdom Commanders-in-Chief Committee was established at the head of the British military administration. The overall aim of UKCICC was to "defend the United Kingdom so that it can remain a main offensive base for as long as possible and an advanced air base in all circumstances" A protected base for the UKCICC Joint Operational Headquarters was sought. Three sites were examined, Wilton Park, Stanmore which already has a bunker from WW2 and Fort Southwick, Portsmouth, the HQ of the Commander of Naval Home Forces. Eventually Stanmore was picked as the site for the UKCICC HQ.

With the ever increasing threat of a nuclear strike from the Soviet Union there was a proposal in 1951 to provide protected accommodation for the five army commands. In addition protected accommodation on a smaller scale was to be built at the Army District and Sub-District HQ's.
After WW2 the five army commands were located in non protected accommodation:

  • Eastern Command - Hounslow Barracks
  • Western Command - Queens Park, Chester
  • Northern Command - Imphal Barracks, York
  • Southern Command - Wilton Park House, Wilton near Salisbury
  • Scottish Command - Craigiehall, Edinburgh

Despite these proposals only one bunker was built; priority was given to Eastern Command which covered London, Aldershot and South East Districts. In 1954 a single storey surface blockhouse was built at Wilton Park as the War Headquarters for Eastern Command which was relocated there from Hounslow Barracks which was within the London target area. The bunker also accommodated the London District War HQ and Communication Centre

Aerial photograph of Wilton Park in 1968 - by this date the White House had been demolished but the Nissen hutted camp was still intact. The bunker can be seen middle right below the tall chimney.
Reproduced with kind permission of Simmons Aerofilms Ltd.

Protected accommodation was also proposed for the other Districts in Eastern Command but the proposed joint civil/military HQ scheme to build protected Regional Seats of Government put paid to this idea by 1957. Wilton Park was retained as the London District Headquarters but the
military commanders were relocated to the RSG's.

Click here for more information and pictures of
Eastern Command War HQ/AFHQ 5


[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 25th March 2005

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