Secret Britain – The Hidden Bits of our History by Justin Pollard

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by Boldnotold, Feb 20, 2011.

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  1. Boldnotold

    Boldnotold Book Reviewer

    This is a paperback book which, according to the blurb on its cover, uncovers the cover-ups and conspiracies, the secret passages and hidden identities, the forgotten stories and dark secrets of the grave. It consists of a series of short essays, each describing an event, location, or life of a person which, however tenuously, fits that description.
    I read a review of it in a magazine, and asked A-Y to procure it for me as I thought it would appeal to this audience. The publisher was very helpful, sending a second copy when the first went missing in the post.

    The book starts well, with a description of the Berners Street Hoax, and a story about Captain Warner’s Invisible Shell, which shows that the gullible people given responsibility for military procurement have always been exploited by the unscrupulous. It reveals some genuine secrets, for example the involvement of a postman called Flowers in the invention of the first electronic computer at Bletchley Park and inspired Alan Turing, the underground city at Burlington near Corsham (for use by our political masters whilst the rest of us dealt with the nuclear winter) and the uses of Orford Ness and Shoreham by our military authorities. Readers of this site may enjoy the story of the ‘Naughty Nuns of Higham’, or learning that Arthur Ransome spied in Russia as well as writing children’s books.

    However by the time I’d read the ‘secrets’ of the village of Eyam, which cut itself off so as not to spread plague in 1665/6, and the rotten borough of Dunwich, and other stories, I started to be frustrated and annoyed that many of the so-called secrets were in fact well-publicised stories.

    The author describes the book as a collection of historical curiosities, but I found it to be a collection of a few interesting stories padded with a lot of rather dull ones. This was very disappointing, given the effort the publisher had made to get the book to me for review. Perhaps it would be better used as a book for dipping into, rather than one to read end-to-end. In any case it’s not one I’d recommend wholeheartedly or indeed read a second time.

    Classification – one anchor.
  2. Purple_twiglet

    Purple_twiglet War Hero Moderator

    "the underground city at Burlington near Corsham (for use by our political masters whilst the rest of us dealt with the nuclear winter"

    Site 3 (AKA Burlington / Turnstile / Stockwell) etc has not been a secret for nearly a decade. The more interesting question is what its role really was, as it seems that after 1963 it was primarily intended as a decoy site. (I'm a deep geek on Site 3, having been there several times and done a lot of research into it...)
  3. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    PT - I have copied your comment to the book reviews site.
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