They say a picture is worth a thousand words and when you see an aerial shot of one of England’s most beautiful country mansions, Chatsworth House, in a wartime book created in Nazi Germany it’s sobering, writes Charles Hanson
The jewel in Derbyshire’s crown was highlighted in German plans for the invasion of the UK back in wartime Britain in 1939.
A photo of Chatsworth together with images of Derby, Burton, Buxotn and Alton Towers long before it became a theme park, together with locations across the UK, appeared in German books and documents, created with meticulous detail 80 years ago.
They were made to support Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe), Nazi Germany’s code name for the plan for an invasion of the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War.
Ultimately, Hitler wanted to take control of the UK. In a bid to do that, the Nazis drew up a comprehensive dossier listing and mapping out cities, towns and major landmarks across the length and breadth of Britain. Industrial information, such as the fact that Derby was home to Rolls-Royce and Burton was a brewery town, was included.
Stately homes, such as Chatsworth and Alton Towers, which was requisitioned by the War Office as an officer training unit in the Second World War, were inevitably included along with towns and cities but it’s still strange to see pictures of familiar places in those Second World War plans.
The discovery was made in lot 5275 in our July Militaria Auction. The photographs appear in a Third Reich Luftwaffe Luftgeographisches Einzelheft aerial photo reconnaissance book covering Britain and Ireland, published in 1939. The lot, which also included books covering Southern and Eastern England, 1943, and Egypt and Cyrenaika, 1942, had a humble estimate of £80-£100 as the items are not terribly rare but their value in terms of our wartime history is immense.
On July 16, 1940 Hitler issued Führer Directive No. 16, setting in motion preparations for a landing in Britain. He prefaced the order by stating: “As England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, still shows no signs of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary to carry out, a landing operation against her. The aim of this operation is to eliminate the English Motherland as a base from which the war against Germany can be continued, and, if necessary, to occupy the country completely.”
The plan was to ensure the RAF was “beaten down in its morale and in fact, that it can no longer display any appreciable aggressive force in opposition to the German crossing”.
Despite the meticulous preparations all was not as assured as it seemed. Many in Germany doubted the possibility of Operation Sea Lion’s success and much time was wasted as work was duplicated by different departments keen to gain Hitler’s approval.
How different life could be now if Hitler had succeeded. Historica finds like this are so compelling. They remind us of important events, often blurred and long forgotten, that put our lives today into context.
We have so much to be grateful for. So many members of our Armed Forces lost their lives in world wars, fighting for the freedom we take for granted today.
Many people from Derbyshire were among them. In the same July Militaria Auction was a splendid set of British medals which came in by chance at one of our free valuation days at our Etwall HQ. A gentleman brought along his father’s medals and, as is so often the case, thought them to be of little value.
We were delighted to give him some unexpected good news. They went into auction with an estimate of £450 and the potential to exceed that figure. The First and Second World War British Fleet Air Arm Medal group consisted of nine medals awarded to HB Gill. They included a Military MBE GR V, 1914-15 Star, War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal, 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
If you have any items at home that you think may be of value, do bring them to us for free assessment. Our next Militaria Auction is on November 22, plus we have a host of other specialist and general auctions covering everything from paintings and jewellery to toys, jewellery and watches.
We offer free valuations at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire DE65 6LS, on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 10am-4pm, and Saturdays, 9am-noon. Valuers are also available at Fairways Garden Centre, Clifton Road, Ashbourne, DE6 2GN, every Monday, 2.30-4pm. To find out more, visit www.hansonsauctioneers.co.uk.