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New claim about Shingle Street

PUBLISHED: 14:57 13 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:39 03 March 2010

A WARTIME mystery over a possible German invasion of the Suffolk coast has been reignited by a new claim that the story was faked to boost the country's morale.

A WARTIME mystery over a possible German invasion of the Suffolk coast has been reignited by a new claim that the story was faked to boost the country's morale.

The enduring Second World War debate over a "failed Nazi invasion" at Shingle Street, near Woodbridge, burns on after a BBC East Inside Out documentary suggested that rumours of an unsuccessful attack were spread to encourage the country that it was winning the war.

Monday night's programme claimed that Sefton Delmer, organiser of Britain's "black" propaganda unit who lived near Bures, could have concocted the story.

Investigative journalist Phillip Knightly said: "I would not put it past Sefton Delmer to deliberately ignite a few hundred gallons of petrol somewhere off the coast where he knew it would be seen, and to make certain some of the bodies that came ashore had signs of burning."

In another twist to the mystery, the programme said the rumours could have been used to cover up the loss of lives on a British naval destroyer.

Thomas Waterhouse was part of the 20th destroyer flotilla called to a report of enemy invasion barges off the Denmark coast. One destroyer was sunk in a minefield.

Mr Waterhouse said: "We were unable to know what happened to our casualties but it would be quite believable that for local consumption people had said they were the results of a failed invasion attempt. People didn't want bad news and they were prepared to go along with any cock and bull story to keep their spirits up."

However, Ronald Ashford, an 81-year-old retired jeweller in Aldeburgh, remains convinced the Germans did try to invade Suffolk. He was a volunteer with the Local Defence Volunteers and was positioned at the lower end of Aldeburgh when there was a red alert one evening in August, 1940.

They heard "tremendous gunfire and explosions" and were told a German landing had taken place. Eyewitnesses said the shoreline was littered with burned bodies.

"He has claimed the target was the radar station at Bawdsey Manor and the Germans also intended to take the airfield at Martlesham.

Mr Ashford has researched events of 1940 and set up a website. He said he did not believe the propaganda theory. He said: "I was not there but near enough to see what went on. I am a living witness to what happened and these are not lies that I have written about and researched."

WEBLINK

www.shford.fslife.co.uk/ShingleSt

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