During World War Two Trent Park (a Grade II listed building to the west of the borough) was requisitioned by the War Office as a POW camp. It was to be a camp for high ranking enemy officers. It was run by M19 (later M119) as a Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre headed by Lieutenant Colonel Kendrick.
Bugging and recording equipment was installed in the basement of the house. There were hidden microphones in six of the bedrooms and five interrogation rooms connected to the ‘M Room’ where Jewish German exiles listened in on conversations.
Although there were bars on the windows of the house within the grounds of Trent Park prisoners were allowed considerable freedom. They could use the outside courtyard on the south side and the lawn and the west and north side. Longer walks were allowed when accompanied by a British officer. As a POW camp it was pretty comfortable. Prisoners could play billiard or table tennis, paint and play music. A tailor visited fortnightly. Guards saluted the German officers. The whole atmosphere was meant to be relaxed and friendly designed to make the prisoners feel safe in the hope they would let fall vital intelligence.
Evidence gained by these methods included information on U-boat tactics, the German radar system, and the development of the V-2 rocket. Some of the first evidence of German atrocities against Jews was also obtained through these channels.
Although Trent Park was used as a POW camp it was still bombed on several occasions. The first time was in October 1940 and then on eight further occasions. Very little damage was done to property and there were no casualties.
There have been persistent rumours that Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy Fuhrer was incarcerated in Trent Park after landing in Scotland in 1941 on a solo peace mission. No evidence has been found to corroborate this.
A couple of fascinating books about how British Intelligence eavesdropped on German POWs at Trent Park and other locations are:
Tapping Hitler’s Generals by Sonke Neitzel
The M Room by Helen Fry