75 years on: How Nottinghamshire prepared for a Nazi invasion

nazi-nottingham-defence-map
The MOD and Home Guard drew up detailed maps of how Newark, right, would have been defended against a German ground invasion. (Photo: Nottinghamshire Archives)

Documents found in Nottinghamshire’s archives have revealed the defence tactics that would have been used if the Nazis had invaded the county.

The documents show how Nottinghamshire County Council and the County Controller were preparing people for a potential German invasion following Operation Sea Lion, a proposed invasion of Britain before D-Day.

They show the extraordinary detail involved in MOD and Home Guard plans to defend Britain and Nottinghamshire, town-by-town, street-by-street, against an attack which many officials privately believed was a real possibility prior to summer 1944.

“The War Office decided they needed to prepare localities as there was a danger of them dropping troops into the centre of the country,” said Ruth Imeson, Heritage Services Manager of Nottinghamshire Archives.

“The plans were very detailed on a local level, and included advice such as if nine people jumped out of a plane then they must be German, because British planes could not hold that many people.”

Leaflets were handed out to residents to instruct them what to do in event of invasion. PHOTO: Nottinghamshire Archives.

People were recruited to the Home Guard, and Ruth added that maps from the time show where men would take their rifles to defend their town and where road blocks would be.

The documents also revealed how ‘Invasion Committees’ were formed throughout the county, which provided their own training and plans in the event of invasion.

Their first meeting was held on March 20, 1942- exactly 75 years ago.

The Invasion Committees required jobs such as casualty services and communal feeding to be done. PHOTO: Nottinghamshire Archives.

“The main Invasion Committee was part of the County Council, much like they have today, but it looks like every individual Parish and town had their own local committee,” added Ruth.

The Committees were set up in Retford, Mansfield, Newark, Worksop, Arnold, Carlton and West Bridgford as well as numerous other areas of the county.

The Invasion Committees offered roles such as the Home Guard and Warden Service, outdoor work, casualty services, communal feeding, nursery centres, office work and fire fighting services.

They also asked that in the event of invasion, people donate items including shovels, horses, kettles and crowbars.

The Committees trained alongside the military to be in a ‘state of readiness’, and were still considered essential in 1943 when their schemes had been fully formed.

The Invasion Committees included a major County Council committee, as well as many parishes and towns. PHOTO: Nottinghamshire Archives

In September 1944, the Invasion Committees were disbanded by the War Office.

Other instructions given to citizens, via leaflets, stated that they should assist the military by avoiding roads used by them, ignore rumours and be a good neighbour.

Ruth added: “People were out making sure church bells were not rung, as if they were rung it meant an invasion was happening.

“It was their job to lock up the church tower.”

The documents have recently become available at the Nottinghamshire Archives, on Castle Meadow Road, Nottingham, and can be viewed by the public.

Nottingham proved to be an important asset to the war, not least because Newark was a vital part of the county’s, and ultimately country’s defence against the Nazis.

Maps were drawn up to show where garrisons would be stationed in Newark. PHOTO: Nottinghamshire Archives

“Newark was a strategic position because you had the bridge next to the castle and Devon bridge further up,” Ruth said.

“You have the River Trent and Newark had two railway stations in the Second World War.

“The Germans could have been delivered into Nottinghamshire by air, rail and river in Newark.

“The men based in Newark during World War Two would have stood in the same spot that the Royalist Army did during the Civil War.”

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