Historical Review

13th December 2025

In this article we investigate two items released this year under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ 20-year rule applying to top secret military communications.  The items appear to relate to the activities of the ESBS, a special services group operating in the UK and Europe in the first decade of this century.

The first item is incomplete; it was dredged from the River Thames near Richmond Bridge in July 2005 in the saddlebag of an old Dawes Galaxy touring bicycle.

Mission:     Operation Bakewell

Team:               F (Leader), JR, KS, KA, DI, MS, GM, RC

Objective:         To secure xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Time

Location

Activity

Day1 0701

Gloxinia

Convoy of three vehicles to form before arrival

Load supplies

0713

Gloxinia

Depart to start mission

0817

Watford Gap

Rations: full English

1023

Dexxx

Seaxxx

(unfortunately this middle section of the report was either destroyed or illegible)

1959

Gloxinia

Arrive and redistribute equipment

2001

Gloxinia

End of mission; debrief and depart

Historians are divided over the significance of this ‘Mission Briefing’; there are three possibilities:

a)      This is a classic special forces decoy mission, similar to the dummy plans found on a dead submariner leading to the Germans deploying troops from Normandy prior to Operation Overlord.  The purpose of this decoy would be to send hostile forces to the Peak District in anticipation of an imminent allied action.

b)      This was a genuine mission planned for Autumn 2005, that was aborted for reasons unknown – perhaps inadequate barracks.

c)      This was a genuine mission to reservoirs in the Peak District area, actually carried out in Autumn 2006 or 2007.  The likely purpose of the mission was to ‘secure Sheffield’s water supply against unspecified threats by unknown hostile forces’.

Debate continues over this first mission brief; further research is required to discover if the missing section of the paper never existed (a classic special forces double-bluff) or did in fact exist, but was consumed by Thames eels.  If the mission did take place it is not known if its outcome was successful.

Item 2 is largely complete, except for a section classified as ‘extra top secret’, due for publication in 2055.  This second item was released from UK Govt. military archives.

Mission:     Operation Alls Wells

Team:               F (Leader), JR, KS, KA, DI, MS, GM, RC

Objective:         To secure xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Time

Location

Activity

Day1 0701

Gloxinia

Convoy of three vehicles to form before arrival

Load supplies

0713

Gloxinia

Depart, start of mission

0901

Severn Bridge

toll

Pay toll to enter alien territory

Use automatic toll for speed and to avoid recognition

0909

Severn Bridge

toll

Successfully pay toll

1007

A.

Rations: full Welsh at Luigi’s – one team car to take a separate route to A. – all telephone conversations to be ‘scrambled’ for security.

1107

A.

Depart for L. Wells

1149

L. Wells

Arrive barracks ‘Commodore’

Room allocation and (very brief) briefing from Col. F.

1207

L. Wells

Platoon to depart for main mission

1345

Llangurig

22 miles: Rations - 2 pints ‘Cloud Nine’ and panini, one game arrows to confuse enemy spies

1445

Llangurig

Depart

1515

SN845776

Avoid hazardous closed gate in road

1518

SN842773

Leader to decide:

a)      Abort mission – return to base

b)      Ford Afon Diliw, continue track 3 miles

c)      2 mile peat bog mountain yomp, ford Gors Lwyd

The key decision of the mission – leader not to delegate authority under any circumstances

1618

Road

Progress rapidly SE – platoon to maintain peloton formation at all time – no glory seekers

1715

xxxxxxx

xxxxxxxxx

1815

xxxxxxx

xxxxxxxxx

1901

Barracks

55 Miles: return to ‘Commodore’ under cover of darkness

2002

Barracks

Seven man team to assemble for town recce

2024

Barracks

Seven man team to reassemble with eighth man for second town recce

2042

L Inn

Locate NAAFI

Rations: Pints of ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Marston’s Pedigree’.

Choice of solids

2142

L Inn

Evict enemy sympathisers and commence arrows

2245

L Inn

Continue oral rehydration – no halves or shorts permitted

2350

Barracks

Lights out

Day2

0724

Barracks

Reveille

0831

Barracks

Rations: Full Welsh, 7 slices toast, 1 pint tea/coffee

0945

Barracks

Prepare equipment, extremely brief briefing - Col. F.

1001

Barracks

Depart

1002

Shop

Stop for rations: purchase Mars Bars (25 mins.)

1027

Shop

Depart

1145

SN883543

Danger: the whole mission will be jeopardised if the platoon is tempted into the coffee room near Nant yr Hwch.  This will interfere with the official lunchtime refuelling and incur an unnecessary delay of 33 minutes

1251

Neuadd Arms

25 miles: rations: soup or sausages, 2 pints ‘Double Dragon’.

Training venue for the Underwater Division of the ESBS

1312

Neuadd Arms

Biology briefing – poultry reproduction and Chinese chick sexing (MS)

1354

Neuadd Arms

Depart West for L.Wells

1423

SN920470

Follow ‘Closed Road’ – ford Afon Dulas at destroyed bridge (enemy action)

1532

B. Wells

Depart in peloton formation for L. Wells; at this crucial part of the mission there must be no split in the platoon

1559

Barracks

45 miles: arrive ‘Commodore’ – change into civvies, dismantle equipment, debrief from Col. F.

1613

Barracks

Depart for blighty.

1724

Usk

Detour to minor roads to ‘lose’ any pursuing hostile forces

1753

Usk

Return to direct route

2001

Gloxinia

End of mission; debrief and depart

There is convincing evidence that this was a genuine mission carried out in a weather window on the weekend of 22/23 October 2005.  Historical Review has tracked down members of the public who remember a suspicious group of eight trained men operating in the Mid-Wales region around this time.

Mr Luigi Jones, now 83, manager of Luigi’s Café, Abergavenny recalls, “I remember these eight guys, obviously fit but oldish – they came into my café in ones and twos.  One pair pretended they did not know the location.  They were impatient and talked loudly in code while forcing down their full Welsh”.

Miss Erin Jones, now 37 and manager of the ‘Commodore Rest Home for the Terminally Knackered’ remembers, “I was a young receptionist and I remember these boyos pretty well because nobody much came to Llandindrod Wells back in 2005.  They stayed in the annex, but never seemed to relax; they were always checking there watches.  The boys in room 106 organised an overnight snoring competition and Room 105 needed fumigation in the morning.  They had a full Welsh and a mountain of toast; they toasted all the bread in the hotel and left most of it untouched on the table.  I thought at the time they were a very hungry secret military group”.

Mr Dylan Jones, 42, states, “I was out on my motorbike and came across a group of six men on bikes – they were debating which way to go and appeared rather leaderless.  They had just enjoyed an incident with a closed gate.  Further up the road I spotted two more men, one of whom, with brand new equipment, evidently had run off the road”.

Mr Dai Jones, 77, remembers, “I was parked by the river enjoying the tranquility when a strangely attired gentlemen carrying a bicycle appeared over the mountain – he was quickly joined by a further seven men in similar attire.  They forded the stream; in some cases they even risked the plank bridge – obviously highly trained men.  One or two of these men looked agitated and angry – I didn’t wait for them to bump me off and hijack my motor.  I was out of there, boyo”.

Mr Genghis Jones, 81, retired newsagent recalls, “I have had thousands of people in my shop over the years, but I remember these guys because they took 25 minutes to buy a handful of Mars Bars – highly trained but leaderless in my opinion”.

And finally Mrs Charlotte Jones remembers, “I was in the forest café enjoying a morning coffee and reading the paper – there was a commotion outside, sounding like some kind of mutiny.  Soon a group of eight guys burst in and talked loudly in code while rushing down pints of coffee”.

This evidence is conclusive in demonstrating a clandestine operation took place in the region late in 2005.  The objective of the mission is less clear, but some experts consider that they were securing ‘Birmingham’s water supply against unspecified threats by unknown hostile forces’ and that this took place in the censored time of Day 1.  Autumn 2005 was a time of paranoia; an avian flu scare, threats of the coldest winter since the ice age, fuel shortages and general worries about everything.  In this climate of fear there is every possibility that the Birmingham water supply was under threat.  Of course, we know that the great bird flu pandemic actually killed one parrot in Essex, a duck in Cornwall and possibily two chickens in deepest Surrey, although these unfortunate birds were consumed in a Tikka Jalfrezi before Government scientists could confirm the actual cause of death.  The bird flu never did transfer to humans, with the exception of some suspicious symptoms on Saturday mornings.

As for the ESBS, they certainly existed and seemed to focus their efforts on reservoirs both in the UK and in continental Europe.  It is thought likely that they maintained a website devoted to failed athletes and that there are as yet un-decoded messages contained within the references to darts and particularly golf, a sport that none of them seemed to actually play.  It is thought that Col. F., the only man with any real information on the route and mission, was drafted in as leader to instill some ‘Northern Grit’.  Circumstantial evidence suggests that he failed to assert authority, and there no further reports of him leading subsequent missions.

Finally, it must be added that Historical Review is a serious journal and, mindful of the Hitler Diaries fiasco, is vigilant in checking for outrageous conspiracy theories.  However, there is a sizeable minority of eminent historians who consider the ESBs and this article in particular ‘a complete load of tosh and garbage’.

 

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