In History

June 6th this year saw the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings in 1944. There have been a lot of stories and interviews regarding D Day but with its half-timbered houses and old church on the banks of the Thames, it is hard to believe that the village of Hurley held one of the last great secrets of D Day.

It was in this idyllic Berkshire village – unknown to its residents – that 150 Americans received and analysed vital covert intelligence from France ahead of the Allied invasion on June 6th. For 75 years, Station Victor was a radio centre run by the secret intelligence branch of the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS).  On June 4th this year, a blue plaque was unveiled at the entrance to Hurley Manor, HQ of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA. 

The men working at Hurley were warned that if they told anyone of their true role, they would be shot, while the agents working behind enemy lines took even greater risks. Capture by the Germans meant certain death but that did not deter the spies, including one Virginia Hall who was considered ‘the most dangerous of all Allied spies’ by the Gestapo, despite having a wooden leg. She named her false leg ‘Cuthbert’.  

The Hurley communications centre relayed messages between OSS agents from Norway to North Africa and their HQ near the US Embassy in London. The radio huts and eight masts that once stood on a hill outside the village have long gone but the truth of what happened between 1943 and 1945 was uncovered two years ago by retired police detective Phil Mullins. The real name of the huts on the hill (Station Victor) only emerged when Mr Mullins found a message from a US Navy veteran in which it was mentioned. 

More evidence of the wartime importance of Hurley stands in the gardens of Ye Olde Bell Inn, where only US officers had use of the bar. It was the venue for at least one covert meeting between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the US Allied Commander General Eisenhower. Two bomb shelters were built to protect the leaders in the event of an air raid. Churchill’s was demolished in the 1970’s, but Eisenhower’s still stands. 

While the big houses in the village were requisitioned for officers, the other ranks lived in barracks that stand in what is now a farmyard.  

The local girls were very happy to have the Americans there and were very popular with them. Mr Mullins has reported that at least one relationship resulted in a child but no one knows who it was. So it would appear that Hurley has one more secret to give up. 

Hurley's Secret War: OSS Station Victor

On 3 and 4 June 2019 a special event and exhibition took place in the Olde Bell Hotel in Hurley and a blue commemorative plaque was unveiled to mark the site of the secret OSS (Office of Strategic Services) communication stations, codenamed VICTOR.

Station Victor Exhibition

Olde Bell Hotel, Hurley

The Olde Bell Hotel opened its doors to welcome visitors to an exhibition of items relating to the Secret War and 1940s wartime Britain. A display of 1940s home front memorabilia and historic military vehicles helped set the scene.

Station Victor Exhibition

Station Victor Exhibition

Station Victor Exhibition

For more information visit www.stationvictor.co.uk

Related

Hurley
Towns & Villages
Hurley

Pretty riverside Hurley lies halfway between London and Oxford, being 55 miles from each by river. The river has always been an important part of the village’s history with records of a ford as early as the 6th century.

The Olde Bell
Inn
Exterior of the The Olde Bell, Hurley

Situated in the quaint village of Hurley, just minutes from the M4, lies the Olde Bell Inn. The 11th-century coaching inn is the perfect backdrop for both leisure and corporate guests.

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