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At the May meeting of Matlock Probus Club our Chairman, Mr Clive Robinson, welcomed members and visitors. Our Speaker, Mr Alan Belton, was welcomed to the meeting. He had travelled from Essex and kindly agreed to do a presentation for us on “Secret Stories of the Military Intelligence at Smedley’s Hydron during the 2nd World War. His illustrated talk was a fascinating insight to what went on in Matlock during this period.

Alan is a retired Army Radio operator and he also did Photographic Interpretation (which at the time of the 2nd World war was done by photographing placed from low flying planes – this was a very dangerous job as the planes had to fly low to capture the images and they were unarmed in order to allow the planes to fly quicker. Now, this is done by using satellite imagery).

There was little information about Smedley’s Hydro and the work they did there until Alan began looking into records available. The building was used as a School of Military Intelligence (which is now celebrated with a Blue Plaque on the building). The Matlock Civic Society have done a lot of work looking into this period in Matlock’s history and Alan managed to take advantage of some of the information gathered by them.

Military Intelligence was first used during the Boer War and continued off and on through the 1st and 2nd World Wars and through the threat of the Cold War. A man called Tom Churchill (no relation to Winston !) began to look for a building perfect for housing Military Intelligence around the Matlock area (it was thought that this area would be less likely to be suspected as being a Headquarters for Intelligence and therefore less likely to be targeted by the Germans). The training consisted of men (women were not thought suitable for such jobs!) learning how to behave when dropped behind enemy lines and held numerous maps, equipment and enemy uniforms and dress. There was also a building on site that was used by the RAF Aerial Photographic Interpretation section. Dirk Bogarde spent time at Matlock (he was said to be a very good at Photographic Interpretation) and also Enoch Powell. The Hydro was chosen for meetings to discuss the Invasion of Europe and Montgomery was a frequent visitor (probably arriving by train into Matlock).

An amazing insight into secret goings-on in Matlock during World War II. The vote of thanks was given by Mr Roger Flint.

If you would like to join our friendly group of retired men and women for interesting talks – we meet on the 1st Thursday of each month (except August) at 10.30am for coffee/tea, followed by a presentation and an optional carvery lunch at the Duke William, Church Street, Matlock Green. Our next talk will be on 6th June when Maureen Taylor will speak about 70 years of Elizabeth II.

For more information please ring Clive Robinson, Chairman, 01246 582938 or Nigel Carabine, Treasurer, 01629 823581.


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