Norfolk Barns may have been Built by Nazi Sympathisers

Strange barns in Norfolk’s North Pickenham, in England’s south east, have been linked to a possible World War Two plot by Nazi sympathisers.

With World War Two in full swing in 1940, the Royal Air Force had been continuously looking for new airfields from which they could launch attacks and bases in which they could house their growing number of aircraft.  They found in North Pickenham a large area of land that had already been cleared, with only some old Dutch style barns left on the site. The barns had been built pre-war by the East Anglian Real Property Company for local farming purposes.

But the barns caused suspicion since they were empty and there were no crops planted in or around the surrounding area.  Dutch workers and the manager of the site were arrested and interrogated by the police force in Norfolk, as well as MI5, Britain’s intelligence agency. Most of them were released from custody a few weeks after they were captured, with only a few kept in detention and their children taken into government care.

To this day the mystery about the barns remains, but seventy years after the end of World War Two, historian Roger Thomas is calling for the release of records of those interviews and any information about the barns.  He is also asking for more research to be conducted to find out the truth about the barns.  Thomas wants to confirm whether or not the barns were built by pro-Nazi supporters in order to house incoming German paratroopers.

A government investigation was launched once the barns were discovered in 1940. It is thought that the interview notes and other pieces of information are being held in the Norfolk Records Office. Meanwhile Thomas has already found some related documentation in the British National Archives, the Lynn News reports.

In total there are thirteen barns, built in 1936 and 1937, dotting the Norfolk countryside as well as in Surrey, a county further south. Thomas suggests that the barns were either real and built by Nazi sympathisers, or were built for propaganda purposes to confuse  German troops that may have parachuted into Britain.

On the ground surrounding the barns, hedges were cleared and ditches filled; the ground had been stamped down flat.  Many German paratroopers during the war did not simply jump out of Nazi planes. The aircraft actually landed and the paratroopers exited once the plane was on the ground.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE