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Buy into military history: Famous wartime landmarks turned into homes

Buy into military history: Famous wartime landmarks turned into homes

Although there will be no crowds or military march past at this year's Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, you do not have to travel far befor

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Although there will be no crowds or military march past at this year’s Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, you do not have to travel far before you find reminders of the sacrifices previous generations made for their country.

It has long been the custom to name streets after battles and war heroes. Today, housing developments are built around landmarks that were vital when Britain was at war.

RAF Alconbury, near Huntingdon, for example, was home to the 685th Air Materiel Squadron, comprising American servicemen. 

According to Ted Penn, a quartermaster who returned to Alconbury, aged 92, in 2012, life was relatively uneventful on the base — until May 27, 1943, that is.

Top secret: Old Droxford Station in Hampshire is for sale. Churchill based himself in an armoured train parked in sidings here during the D-Day preparations

Top secret: Old Droxford Station in Hampshire is for sale. Churchill based himself in an armoured train parked in sidings here during the D-Day preparations

Top secret: Old Droxford Station in Hampshire is for sale. Churchill based himself in an armoured train parked in sidings here during the D-Day preparations

Penn had spent the morning of that fateful day chatting with the 18 men who were loading 500lb bombs onto B-17 bombers. 

Around midday, the men told Ted to head off for lunch and they would join him later.

‘Half way down the hill I heard a terrific explosion,’ says Ted. ‘The force rocked me off my bike. 

‘A bomb had detonated. It killed all the men I’d been talking to and injured 21 others. Nothing was left but a big crater.’ 

Now, with 5,000 homes being built at Alconbury (now Alconbury Weald) the airfield is transformed. Yet the developers are keen to tap into the site’s wartime past.

The watch office is now a heritage museum and the planes’ taxiing area has become a park. Half a million trees have been planted to soften the landscape.

‘The challenge with a new community is to give it an identity,’ says Rebecca Britton, head of communities at master developers Urban & Civic. ‘Alconbury’s military past gives it a sense of soul.’

Prices at Alconbury Weald start at £179,950 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Sometimes single properties are indelibly associated with the war. The HQ of Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming (the founder of MI6 and the fictional inspiration for M in the James Bond stories), in Whitehall Court, London, is for sale at £5.5million.

On June 4, 1944, Charles de Gaulle visited Churchill (seen here with Lady Churchill in 1961), at Droxford. Today, the station has been transformed into a four-bedroom house

On June 4, 1944, Charles de Gaulle visited Churchill (seen here with Lady Churchill in 1961), at Droxford. Today, the station has been transformed into a four-bedroom house

On June 4, 1944, Charles de Gaulle visited Churchill (seen here with Lady Churchill in 1961), at Droxford. Today, the station has been transformed into a four-bedroom house

Although little is known about what went on in wartime in this penthouse, there are clues to its top secret function, notably the bomb-proof flooring. 

Look out for the building’s cameo appearance in the new Bond film, No Time To Die, when Daniel Craig parks his Aston Martin outside.

Old Droxford Station, in Soberton, Hampshire, a seemingly ordinary railway station, also has a ‘top secret’ past. 

During the D-Day preparations, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was based in an armoured train parked in its sidings. The site was chosen for its deep cutting where the train could find cover if attacked.

On June 4, 1944, French leader Charles de Gaulle visited Churchill at Droxford. Today, the station has been transformed into a four-bedroom house. 

With its signal box a feature in the 2.5-acre garden, it is still recognisably the spot where the two leaders met to discuss D-Day.

Old Droxford Station is for sale with Knight Frank, priced £1.5million.

It isn’t only service personnel we remember on Remembrance Sunday. 

Some 43,500 civilians were killed in the nine months of the Blitz, and the Royal Arsenal’s munitions factories, producing explosives, guns, shells and bombs, were a prime target for the Luftwaffe.

Nearly 80 years later, Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich, south-east London, will consist of 5,000 homes, restaurants, bars, shops and leisure facilities. Prices will be between £477,500 and £1.425million.

Owning a home on a site where the world wars are commemorated can interest the younger generation, too.

‘We have a bunker here and the school children bury their own time capsules in it,’ says account manager, Helen Chambers, 48, who lives on the new development on the former RAF base at Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire.

Until recently, the base was derelict, yet it had been the departure point for Winston Churchill when he set off for the pivotal Casablanca Conference in 1943.

Today, air-raid shelters, a guard house and a water tower have been restored. Now re-named Hayfield Green, prices range from £450,000 to £725,000.

‘It’s a good place to live because we are part of the nearby village,’ says Helen. ‘And that link with history makes it a bit special.’

On the Market… Historic Homes 

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This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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