South Walsham Patrol

County Group

South Walsham lies approximately mid-way between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Sergeant Edmund John Starkings


Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Corporal William John Gould

Fruit grower & nurseryman

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private George Herbert Edrich

Auctioneer & estate agent

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Brian Lancelot Evans

Grocery shop assistant

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Leslie Frederick Smith

Horseman on farm

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Gilbert James Starkings

Dairy farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private John Winter White

Farm labourer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Operational Base (OB)

What remains of the OB today forms one of the features of Fairhaven Water Gardens.

The information board beside the fenced-in structure explains that this is an old ice hole which was regularly used until the early 1940s, when the estate grounds were used by the Home Guard for training. One of the garden’s employees told us that they dug out part of the structure, the entrance and exit of which had collapsed by that time. The garden opened to the public in 1975.

Until 1946 the Hall, woodland, water garden and the adjoining Broad were all part of the South Walsham Estate. During the war the Hall and formal gardens had been used as convalescence home for officers and the woodland and water garden were in use as a training ground for the Home Guard. Pleasure boats were sunk in the inner Broad which was covered with barbed wire to prevent flying boat landings and tanks were hidden in the garden.

According to John Starkings, the son of Sergeant Starkings, the OB was discovered by the army and “that was the end of that”. We were not able to establish when exactly this happened and if the Patrol built a second OB at another location. Mr M Gould, son of Patrol member W J “Billy” Gould, also knew about the OB’s location but not that it had been discovered. He told us that a hollow tree stump was used to conceal the chimney, and that his father had a case of hand grenades in the cupboard under the stairs along with a .303 rifle and a Sten gun in the wardrobe. He also knew of the existence of the OB at Mautby.

The entrance has collapsed and exposed the end wall of the structure which consists of an underground Nissen hut, with the end wall – constructed from corrugated iron sheets (painted white) - near the exit still in place.

A round depression in the ground above indicates that at least part of the emergency exit passage has collapsed. A ceramic field pipe emerges from the ground by the rear corner and the shard of another lies nearby.

The start of a back filled passage leading away from the end wall near the exit can still be seen in the chamber.

The wall near the entrance is missing and the ground in front of where this wall would have been has been landscaped, forming a couple of wide steps leading down towards the opening. We presume that any traces of the former entrance were removed by this landscaping.

Two upright railway sleepers, presumably used to hold in place the sidewalls or perhaps the end wall, or both, are still in place (one on each side) immediately adjoining the exposed opening. Part of a badly corroded flat corrugated sheet can still be seen against the sidewall. The end wall is missing.

Due to sand and soil back filling the main chamber from both ends, the floor level is raised considerably, leaving only a crawl space underneath the roof.

A round depression in the ground, about one metre distant from the north-east corner (near the entrance) indicates that something else has collapsed here, perhaps a small storage chamber built into the side of the entrance passage.

Two footpaths lead right past the site which is marked as “Ice Hole” on the map that is handed out to every visitor, and in order to prevent accidents it is surrounded by a wooden fence. The opening at one end of the structure is blocked by a length of mesh fencing, preventing access to the interior.

The size is difficult to establish because of the landscaping which has removed all traces at one end of the structure. We estimate that it would have been 3 x 5 metres.

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
Fenced in structure
OB Image
Caption & credit
Vent pipe
OB Image
Caption & credit
End wall of the structure
OB Image
Caption & credit
The start of a back filled passage
OB Image
Caption & credit
Main chamber
OB Image
Caption & credit
Information board
OB Status
Collapsed with few visible remains
OB accessibility
The OB site is publicly accessible

South Walsham Patrol


TNA ref WO199/3389

Hancock data held at B.R.A

Evelyn Simak and Adrian Pye

John Edmund Starkings, Acle (son of Patrol member Sgt EJ Starkings);

Mr M Gould, South Walsham (son of Patrol member Cpl Billy Gould);

Jean Hastings (daughter of Patrol member GH Edrich). –> Personal interviews.