AN EXCITING DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE EIGHT GENEROUSLY SIZED SELF-CONTAINED APARTMENTS AT AN ELEGANT COUNTRY MANSION OF MAJOR HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE.
During the second world war The Firs was the HQ of a highly secret weapons research, development and manufacturing establishment which played a crucial role in the allied victory. Built in 1897 in the Arts & Crafts style as ‘a grand residence befitting a wealthy country gentleman’ The Firs remained just that until 1940 when it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and handed over to MD1. This was an unorthodox organisation set up by an eccentric engineering genius Major (later Major General Sir) Millis Jefferis to design, develop and build ‘special weapons for irregular warfare’. The maverick MD1 fired the imagination of newly-appointed prime minister Winston Churchill, a regular visitor to The Firs, who ordered Jefferis to report directly to him to circumvent Ministry of Defence bureaucracy, much to the disgust of the Whitehall pen-pushers who scathingly referred to The Firs as 'Winston Churchill’s Toyshop'.
At its peak, The Firs housed some 250 soldiers, scientists, engineers and dreamers whose creations, including the limpet mine and sticky bomb, made possible some of the most daring exploits of the war. These included the 'Cockleshell Heroes' and 'Telemark' raids as well as countless sabotage activities which effectively crippled the Nazi war machine, shortening the war and saving thousands of lives.
Cloaked in a veil of secrecy until publication of the of the best-selling book 'Winston Churchill’s Toyshop' in the 1970s, MD1’s operation at The Firs finally received the recognition it deserved and is said to be the inspiration behind the ‘Q Branch’ of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
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