3rd November 1958. From Soap to Spa.
Danesfield House, Buckinghamshire was built about 1900 in rock-chalk for the soap magnate Robert William Hudson, passed through several owners, until requisitioned to become RAF Medmenham in WW2, when it became the Intelligence Branch.(1)
It was sister to nearby Bletchley Park, the decoding centre, becoming the centre for aerial photographic interpretation, and said to have been as significant in defeating the Germans as the work at Bletchley.
In 1948 the buildings were bought by the Air Ministry to become Divisional HQ of 90 Group Signals which became Today in 1958 RAF Signals Command, when 90 Group was raised to Command status under Air-Vice-Marshal, Leslie Dalton-Morris.
He was one of five Air Officers Commanding in Chief during its short period to 1st January 1969.
It was in April 1941 that the Unit moved to Danesfield House having run out of space at Wembley, and re-named the Central Intelligence Unit (CIU).
Later that year it absorbed Bomber Command Damage Assessment Section and amalgamated completely when the Night Photographic Interpretation Section of No 3 Photo Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Oakington was integrated with CIU in February 1942.
Medemenham was involved in practically all RAF planning and operations in WWII and every aspect of Intelligence.
By 1945 the daily intake of material averaged 25,000 negatives and 60,000 prints and by VE Day its print library had documented and stored a world-wide coverage, holding 5 million stored prints from which 40,000 reports were produced.
As at Bletchley, many eminent people were employed including many archaeologists used to reading aerial photos such as Glyn Daniel. (2)
After the RAF relinquished control its glory days were over, being used for a time by Carnation Foods as its Corporate HQ, and becoming inevitably, as so many of these fine houses, as a luxury Hotel and Spa.
(1) Robert William was son of the founder Robert Spear Hudson.
(2) Daniel in the 1950s made his name for chairing BBC’s TV ‘Animal Vegetable and Mineral’.
Ref: elinorflorence.com/medmenham/Pic of House.
Ref: wikipedia.org/raf_signals_command/Pic of Insignia.
Ref: Robert Opie. postcard image of Hudson’s Soap..