Forward Ammunition Depot (Bures)
USAAF Station 526



 

 

While delving into the history of the village, the most fascinating discovery has been the finding of a large wartime ammunition dump in and around Bures Hamlet.
Today, very few remnants of the dump are visible, but through extensive research,
I hope to shed light on this remarkable site.

Please note that this page is just a glimpse of the larger body of material that has been documented.
Unfortunately, the full list of pages is no longer available online due to plagiarism issues. The research was being copied and posted on other websites without my permission, so my website was removed from public access

However, the information has been published as a paperback in 2020 (Ed1), 2021 (Ed2), and finally in 2022 (Ed3).

Additional Information on the Books


 

 

Area covered by the Forward Ammunition Depot (FAD)

Motorists driving between White Colne, Pebmarsh and Bures Hamlet, hardly give a thought to why these idyllic country roads have such large lay-bys, broken concrete bases in the grass verges and missing hedgerows.

In one particular case, there is a small wooden garden gate standing alone in a hedge that serves no useful purpose and leads into an open field.


In reality, this gate led to a Nissen Hut which was the location of an Administration Centre for the USAAF Transport Division.

The personnel controlled the flow of traffic along all the roads between Bures and White Colne/Earls Colne railway stations.

gate

Locally, this all started back in 1942 when the Americans arrived and started to survey the surrounding countryside. One farmer, just outside Bures still recalls how the American "top brass" arrived in a large staff car, parked outside and proceeded unannounced to wander around his land and the local area.
Were we destined for another airfield? With Wormingford airfield already up the road, this seemed unlikely.

Subsequently, the local community learnt that certain stretches of road were to be commandeered by the military for use as storage depots. Nobody was sure what this really meant or the implications.
During the Second World War, large quantities of munitions were produced and imported and needed to be stored prior to use. In order to prevent large ammunition dumps on airfields being destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing, they needed to be stored well away from these targeted areas.

The rural area between Bures, Pebmarsh, White Colne and Earls Colne could well have been the largest dispersal site in the country that utilised normal public roads.
There were two other sites like this in East Anglia but on a much smaller scale, Brandon and Earsham (Bungay)
The area west of the Bures, fulfilled the requirements of the military in that:
(a)it was a location sufficiently remote from the airfields at Earls Colne and Wormingford, which were prime targets for bombing;
(b)it was a location sufficiently close to the railway lines and airfields to reduce transport time and cost;
(c)it was close to a railway line, with links to the main lines
(d) easy access for building materials, Ferriers Farm sand and & gravel pit on site.
(e)the remoteness of the area meant that security could easily be maintained, with little chance of strangers going unnoticed or unchallenged.


The network of roads was constructed by a large number of black-American US Army servicemen. Local residents can still recall how they were made to work outside under atrocious conditions, with little consideration given to their welfare.


"The road to nowhere"

Access road into the FAD from Bakers Hall

The USAAF servicemen carried out road construction; ditches were filled in with rubble and concreted over to produce small areas of hard standing. These formed the storage bays, which were spaced approximately 50-100 yards apart for safety reasons
Hardcore for the roads was obtained from the brick rubble cleared from the bomb-damaged houses in London. A large number of lorries constantly travelled between London and the surrounding countryside supplying the insatiable demand for the road base material.
Evidence of this can still be found today with broken bricks and tiles ploughed up in the fields.
Hardcore/rubble was also transported by train to White Colne railway station, via Cambridge. The majority of this was used for runway building at Wormingford & Earls Colne airfields.
Vast concrete mixers provided the top surface layer. The amount of aggregate, hardcore and cement must have been on a gigantic scale when you appreciate the amount of additional road and dispersal sites that were constructed.
The sand and aggregate was obtained locally from local pits at Ferriers Farm and Alphamstone.
One local resident recalls it was near impossible to use the local roads after seven in the morning because of the number of sand & gravel lorries. Lorries rumbled thro` the villages from early morning until dusk.

Existing public roads were widened and those incapable of carrying any substantial weight, were reinforced with a layer of concrete. A typical example is the road between Daws Cross and Countess Cross, before the war was just a narrow dirt track but it was widened and a skim of concrete poured over the top, it has no base material whatsoever

I was also fortunate enough to view and copy the original blue-print for the road specifications published by the USAAF

At Bakers Hall Bures, a complete road system was built across farmland to facilitate the movement of trucks, the erection of Nissen huts and guard posts.

Evidence of these dispersal bays are still known locally as the "bomb dumps" and can still be seen today some 60 years later (picture). Broken concrete slabs, wide verges and in many cases gaps in hedges are all evidence of the work carried out by the USAAF.

Ravensfield Farm

 


The stacks were then covered in camouflage netting. Hawthorn and other trees along the roadside were left and acted as further camouflage to prevent detection from the air.

Guard posts were erected at strategic points around the area to form an impenetrable barrier to unwanted visitors. Traveler's were stopped and questioned as to the nature and reason for their journey. Local villagers were issued with "passes" in order to traverse the area.
All footpaths were closed to the public by the Secretary of State for Air on 2nd March 1943
The HQ for the entire dispersal area was located at "Wakes Hall", on the main A604 (now owned by the charity SCOPE). This was the main administration building and used for the issuing of passes, telephone exchange etc

Woods were very much in demand as they were the ideal location to camouflage staff accommodation and in one case the storage of "incendiary devices" It would be difficult for the Luftwaffe to see these buildings hidden amongst the trees.
One very large wood between Bures and Pebmarsh even had its own internal concreted road system and housed something like 14 Nissen huts used by American personnel.

 

The logistics for this work must have been on a monumental scale as it was a 24hr operation. Ammunition was being transported to the roads for storage whils`t in reverse other material was being loaded up for onward transportation to the local airfields. The roads were so congested a simple one way system was devised to keep the traffic moving efficiently.
The entire area was officially known as the "Bures Ordnance Ammunition Depot USAAF Station 526"

 

You can purchase the book direct or via Ebay
http://www.bures.org.uk/journal/book4.htm