Ancient Monuments

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Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1)

A Scheduled Monument in Chardstock, Devon

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Latitude: 50.8406 / 50°50'26"N

Longitude: -3.0223 / 3°1'20"W

OS Eastings: 328114.52199

OS Northings: 105064.814669

OS Grid: ST281050

Mapcode National: GBR M4.WB59

Mapcode Global: FRA 46KW.8C2

Entry Name: Auxiliary Unit OUT-Station (Chirnside 1)

Scheduled Date: 26 October 2017

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1450334

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Chardstock

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Chardstock St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


A concealed Second World War Auxiliary Units underground station, known as CHIRNSIDE 1 OUT-Station. It was constructed by Royal Engineers in 1941 below outdoor privies and operated as a secret wireless station between 1942 and 1944. The station was designed to be used in the resistance effort in the event of German occupation.

Source: Historic England


A former Second World War Auxiliary Units (Special Duties Section) OUT-Station located within the grounds of a private dwelling at Bewley Down. The station is in an underground structure accessed from a former outdoor privy. The dugout was possibly built to an individual plan by the Royal Engineers, as part of the secret Auxiliary Units and was used as a concealed communications facility from 1942-1944. It comprises a low access passage from the base of the laddered access shaft, lobby, map room and wireless room. The latter is concealed behind a hinged wall built of reused railway sleepers. Above ground the entrance is concealed within a pair of stone outdoor privies with a corrugated iron roof.

The station was constructed in a pit approximately 3m deep, below and alongside the privy structure. The reinforced-concrete slab base of the dugout is approximately 3m by 1.5m and lined with three courses of concrete blocks to form plinths supporting the corrugated steel ‘elephant shelter’ that comprises the main sides and roof of the dugout. The access passage and lobby to the station is walled in concrete blockwork with a reinforced-concrete slab roof. Above the roofs is a zinc sheet for damp proofing and at above-ground level there is a layer of poured concrete to both east and west sides of the privy structure. The access shaft is constructed of shuttered concrete and concrete blockwork. Integral to the function of the structure is a ventilation system comprising a network of 100mm and 230mm glazed and unglazed pipes. Both map room and wireless room each have separate independent high-level outlet pipes and also associated low-level inlet pipes going to separate buried junction boxes which connect with separate ‘fans’ of inlet and outlet pipes.

The above-ground structure, a pair of outdoor privies, is constructed of rubble stone with a corrugated-iron monopitch roof. It is rectangular on plan. The privies are subdivided by a stone wall and the north privy has no fittings. The south privy has a C21 pine toilet cabinet with a counterweighted mechanism to lift it vertically once a latch approximately 3m to the south of the privy door is rotated. The latch is below ground and concealed under a modern metal plate, and is attached to the toilet by an iron rod set in a conduit.

Fixed to the north wall of the south privy, below and behind the toilet cabinet, is a steel ladder in the access shaft. At the bottom of the ladder is a restored counterweight system which includes original lead ingot weights marked: BROKEN HILL AUSTRALIA. The access corridor leads to a C21 lobby door. In the concrete roof of the map room is a circular vent opening and on the south wall is a shelf with three cup hooks, the right of which is connected to a cable that has been laid below the concrete floor slabs and runs to a release catch to the ‘sleeper’ wall to the wireless room. The lobby is open to the map room which has a restored ‘sleeper’ wall at the north end with attached collapsible timber table. Against the west side is a collapsible timber bench. The corrugated steel ‘elephant shelter’ has areas of corrosion, most seriously at its base where it adjoins the concrete block plinth (690mm high above the inside floor level). The ‘sleeper’ wall has a restored fixed timber frame across the width of the chamber clad with reused railway sleepers to the south face. The central section of the wall pivots once the mechanism has been unlocked, to give access to the wireless room. The wireless room has no fittings and the north wall is constructed of concrete block. A removed block to the bottom right forms the outlet for the dead letter drop. Further removed blocks from the central section of the wall, with an inserted timber lintel above, may mark the location of a proposed additional entrance or escape tunnel. Above the timber lintel is a circular ventilation outlet. The lighting, door fittings and cables are C21 replacements with some reuse of original fixings.

To the north-east of the station, modern drainage lids cover the ventilation outlet/inlet pipes and the 100mm message carrying inlet pipe.

The nearby trees, two of which retain remnants of cable embedded in the bark are excluded from the scheduling. The modern drainage lids over the ventilation pipes and toilet fittings are also excluded.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

OUT-Station (CHIRNSIDE 1), a Second World War underground wireless station concealed beneath outdoor privies, Selah, Bewley Down, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: the perceived threat of imminent German invasion and occupation was so great in 1940 that the formation of the Auxiliary Units was given priority by Churchill, and secrecy was paramount for its potential success. This underground structure embodies this crucial phase in our national story;
* Period: although one of a considerable number of monuments characteristic of the Second World War, it contains evidence of, and relates to, a secret and vitally important role in terms of national security;
* Rarity: it is believed to be one of only 50 underground OUT-Stations which were operational in Britain during the Second World War, most of which were destroyed thereafter;
* Survival: this site, along with all of those in the network, was stripped of equipment at the end of the Second World War. However, fittings survive and have been restored including a laddered shaft, entrance mechanisms, railway sleeper wall, and bench and table. The station survives well and is probably our most intact example of an underground OUT-Station, and testament to a policy of national interest for which there is little other evidence;
* Potential: it has significant potential to inform our understanding of how the Special Duties branch operated, or was perceived to operate under invasion conditions, which will increase our knowledge of this relatively little understood area of C20 military history;
* Documentation: due to the secret nature of the Auxiliary Units organisation, very little documentation ever existed relating to them, and some information is thought to have been destroyed. However, the CHIRNSIDE 1 restoration project was published in 2014 and this information will enhance our understanding of both the monument type and the wartime role of Auxiliary Units;
* Representative: remaining AU structures represent an important record of the evolving forms of warfare that were developing at this point in the C20.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
May, H, Blackmore, A S G, Hunt, D, Walford, T R N, Chirnside 1: Auxiliary Units Special Duties Branch OUT-Station, (2014)
Simak, Evelyn, Pye, Adrian, Churchill's "Most Secret" Special Duties Branch, (2014), 140-1
Warwicker, J, Churchill's Underground Army, (2008), 180-182

Source: Historic England

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