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College Farm, Hockliffe
Hockliffe Radio Station
Photo courtesy of Neil Rees

Four hundred grand for a flippin' party book? Good grief, I've been Pippa'd at the post.

If I'd known that sort of money was on offer I certainly wouldn't be scribbling local history, but instead be hawking my hazy memories of wild parties in the 1960s to Penguin books.

Although to quote the old saying, if you can remember such times then you weren't really there.

And what's it matter if my rear end doesn't look as good in a bridesmaid's dress - it's nothing that can't be sorted by a couple of mouse clicks on a digital photo editing suite.

But enough of this modern 'celebrity' nonsense, and so to proper books and proper writers, of which locally one of the most famous was the novelist Arnold Bennett.

After some 10 years in London, in October 1900 he came to live at Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe, and this was to not only pursue the ambition of becoming a freelance writer, but to also provide a home for his ageing parents.

By his own account he chose the town because it was 'on a certain main-line at a certain minimum distance from London', and while at Trinity Hall Farm he, or the 'Heir of Hockliffe' as he was known to his friends, received many offers of work. In fact during this period he would write 'Teresa of the Watling Street', a novel that based the farm as a background.

However, the book proved somewhat disappointing, and even he later described it as 'the world's worst novel.'

In January 1902 Arnold's father, Enoch, died, and since his widow left shortly afterwards, to live among friends and relatives, Arnold, with little to keep him at Trinity Hall, began to spend more time away.

Increasingly he began to live in a rented flat off Red Lion Square, London, and thus when in January 1903 the lease of Trinity Hall expired he left Hockliffe, and would move to Paris.

During the First World War he would become involved in a secret propaganda department, while during World War Two his old home at Hockliffe would .also become involved in secret activities, the story of which has been recently documented in a book by a local author, Neil Rees.

By his research it seems that in great secrecy a Czechoslovak radio communications station was built in the fields of Trinity Hall Farm, to where in September 1942 the radio station of the Czechoslovak military intelligence was moved, from a bungalow called 'Funny Neuk' in Woldingham Garden Village, in Surrey.

Here, through transmitting and receiving facilities contact could be maintained not only with the Czech resistance in German occupied Bohemia-Moravia, but also agents on Czechoslovak missions, and embassies in neutral and unoccupied countries.

From their offices in Bayswater, London, the work was overseen by the Czechoslovak military intelligence services, and from the Hockliffe station the information would be passed via the on site teleprinters to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and British Intelligence.

Under the command of Captain Gold, around 10 radio technicians operated the facility, and also accommodated was their dog, Jack, who having been a past inmate of Battersea Dog's Home was supposed to have been the guard dog, but instead became a pet.

At the station some of the radio equipment was made in a Nissen hut, which housed the workshop and power unit, while of two other huts one contained the kitchen and Captain Gold's bedroom.

After the war the huts were occupied by farm workers, but all were pulled down in the 1970s. In fact nothing now remains of the old radio station, although as a romantic remembrance some of the station personel married local girls, and would settle in the district nearby.