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Lock, Stock, and History

The Walls Have Ears —- The Secrets of Trent Park, WWII.

Trent Park, a large estate located north of London, was a traditional hunting estate for English kings and wealthy British industrialists.  Perhaps its most interesting history was its use as a prisoner of war camp during World War II.  However, it was not just any POW camp, it held high ranking members of the Germany military and the elite of the German officer corps. During World War II, 84 generals and number of lower ranking officers made Trent Park their home.

However, unlike most other POW camps, Trent Park was more like a vacation retreat than a prison.  Inmates were allowed to interact freely without restrictions.  Most guards were only placed outside the perimeter of the grounds, few guards were actually stationed inside the grounds, and they had strict orders not to interfere with the inmates actions unless they were infringing on  institute rules.  While in the compound the inmates had their own rooms with stylish furnishings and large four poster beds.  Each inmate had his own shower and bathroom.  Servants waited on the inmates hand and foot, and they were served the best gourmet foods prepared by the best chefs.  The inmates also had access to fine clothing, cigars, wines, whiskeys, and liquors.  The estate included a theater, a swimming pool, a recreation center, and a gymnasium.  The inmates of Trent Park were even allowed walks on the many acres of gardens and forests that made up the estates, with an escort of course.

What the inmates of Trent Park didn’t know was that Trent Park held an incredible secret.  The high ranking German prisoners believed that their exceptional treatment was merely a result of their higher status than the common German POW.  Little did they know that Trent Park had a special purpose. The estate wasn’t run by the regular British Army.  Instead it was being run by a unit of the British Secret Intelligence Services.  Bugs and listening devices were planted or hidden everywhere throughout the estate.  Around the clock, 24/7, British agents were recording, listening, cataloging  and transcribing everything they said, and the posh surroundings of Trent Park led to very loose lips indeed.  From 1942 to 1945, 64,427 conversations were recorded.  These conversations included everything from chitchat to gossip, but also important war secrets, strategies, secret weapons, political beliefs among high ranking officers, and various other bits of important intelligence. In one instance information gleaned at Trent Park allowed the British to locate and destroy the V2 rocket site at at Peenemunde on the northern coast of Germany, which was preparing to launch deadly rockets at Britain. The topic of war crimes and atrocities was also common talk, and much of the information was used to convict high ranking Nazi’s of war crimes after the end of the war.

The German generals and officers imprisoned at Trent Park never caught on to the Brit’s secret operations.  Today Trent Park is a part of Middlesex University.  It is only recently that the information collected at Trent Park during World War II had been declassified and released to the public.

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