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Wartime sea of fire mystery solved

PUBLISHED: 12:25 05 July 2010 | UPDATED: 12:26 05 July 2010

Sue Brotherwood and her mother Margaret Ambrose in Sudbury.

Sue Brotherwood and her mother Margaret Ambrose in Sudbury.

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Mother and daughter shed light on Shingle Street mystery

TWO women have spoken out to put the record straight over a mysterious war-time event on the Suffolk coastline.

Speculation and controversy surround what actually happened at Shingle Street, near Woodbridge, in August 1940.

Legend has it that British forces prevented a German invasion by “setting the sea alight” using pipelines in the sea filled with a flammable liquid.

But a mother and her daughter, from Sudbury, have now decided to make public some information they have known for many years.

Sue Brotherwood, clerk of Sudbury Town Council, confirmed the Shingle Street event did actually happen.

She said although it was “top secret”, her late uncle Ernest Ambrose, known as Sonny, had confided in his brother John, known as Dennis – her late father.

The 57-year-old, of Highview Close, Sudbury, said: “He said that the awful sounds, smells and noises of that day would haunt him to his grave.

“As there was no such thing as trauma counselling in those days, I am sure that is exactly what he did.”

Her mother Margaret – Dennis’s wife – recalled when her husband told her what Sonny had been involved in, he asked her not to repeat it.

The 80-year-old said: “He said they set light to the sea to stop the Germans getting through and that Sonny was there. Of course, I shoved it out of my mind.”

Mrs Brotherwood said she and her mother had mentioned it over the years, and thought other people knew what had happened.

She said: “We are not trying to stir anything up. We thought it was about time the record was put straight.”

She said it seemed “pretty pointless” keeping it secret now, adding how most of the people involved were dead.

Their news follows a story in the East Anglian Daily Times about mysterious pieces of what look like molten metal found on the beach at Bawdsey, raising questions they could be evidence of the failed invasion at Shingle Street.

Many of the boats near to the shore are said to have been caught in the blaze, resulting in German casualties.

In the aftermath of the attack, there were unconfirmed reports of many burned bodies littering the shoreline from Shingle Street to Harwich.

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