Shingle Street (where we were staying), Suffolk 2004
Just about the perfect location for some winter solitude.
Photo by Tom Ardill (Little Hands Clapping)
"Even in the most abandoned spot in the entire region, Shingle Street, which now consists of just one wretched row of humble houses and cottages and where I have never encountered a single human being, a spa centre by the grandiose name of German Ocean Mansions designed for two hundred guests was built at the time, if one can believe the records, and staffed with personnel who were recruited from Germany. Today there is no trace of it [...] And it is a fact that until recently file labelled Evacuation of the Civil Population from Shingle Street, Suffolk was in the archives of the Ministry of Defence, embargoed for seventy-five years as distinct from the usual practice of releasing documents after thirty, on the grounds that (so the irrepressible rumours claimed) it gave details of a horrifying incident in Shingle Street for which no government could accept public responsibility. I myself heard, for instance, that experiments were conducted at Shingle Street with biological weapons designed to make whole regions uninhabitable. I also heard tell of a system of pipes extending far out to sea, by means of which a petroleum inferno could be unleashed with such explosive rapidity, in the event of an invasion, that the very sea would start to boil. In the course of the preparatory experimentations, an entire company of English sappers were said to have met their deaths, inadvertently as it were, in the most appalling manner, according to eye witnesses who claimed to have seen the charred bodies, contorted with pain, lying on the beach or still out at sea in their boats. Others maintain that those who died in the wall of fire were German landing forces wearing English uniforms. When access to the Shingle Street file following a lengthy campaign was finally granted in 1992 in the local press, it revealed nothing that might have justified the top-secret classification, or substantiated the stories that had been circulating since the end of the war. But it seems likely, one commentator wrote, that sensitive material was removed before the file was opened, and so the mystery of Shingle Street remains. — Presumably part of the reason why rumours like this one concerning Shingle Street endured so obstinately was that, during the Cold War era, the Ministry of Defence continued to maintain Secret Weapons Research Establishments on the coast of Suffolk, and imposed the strictest silence on the work carried out in them."
(WG Sebald, 1995, The Rings of Saturn)