Ryan and I recently paid a visit to Hughenden Manor, a National Trust property in High Wycombe that was once the home of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Of more interest to us is the house’s wartime history, which was so secret it only came to light by chance 60 years later.
In 2005, Victor Gregory took his grandson to Hughenden Manor, to explain what he had done in World War 2. One of the volunteers at the house overheard his story, and this led to the story of Operation Hillside being uncovered.
Around 100 personnel were based at Hughenden, drawing up the detailed maps used for bombing missions during the war. Their work included preparations for the famous ‘Dambusters’ raid and for targeting Hitler’s mountain retreat Eagle’s Nest. Skilled cartographers produced accurate target maps from aerial photographs delivered by the RAF’s reconnaissance missions.
That video is from last year, and ends with an appeal for funds to create a new, accessible Hillside exhibit. This has now been done, and the new exhibition is housed on the ground floor of the manor. You can also visit the Ice House, which was used as a dark room.
The manor is now decorated for Christmas in ‘make do and mend’ style, with decorations hand made by the staff and volunteers. Paper chains and crocheted snowflakes abound, alongside the occasional decoration that points to the wartime secrets.
The RAF personnel stationed here would have been billeted in nearby houses and were each issued with a bicycle for transportation. Civilians would have had to supply their own!