A story of 'Treacle P.I.E.'

(Political Intelligence Executive)


Secret Agent

Head of 'P.I.E.'

7OOt 7IJdV



(Political Intelligence Executive)


Here is the untold story of the legend of the Treacle Mines of England and of a secret army created by the Political Intelligence Executive, nick named "Treacle P.I.E." - which was active at the turn of the century in the preparation of defence of this country. The P.I.E. agents, known as the Treacle Miners, used the legend of the ancient treacle miners to establish a net work of defences that would act offensively following an invasion of England. As the enemy occupied an area the Treacle Miners would emerge from their underground 'mines' and carry out as much sabotage as they could to hamper the enemy's movements.


The Treacle Miners of England were recruited by Tom Holland the newly appointed head of P.I.E. who formed this underground army before the First World War. Treacle P.I.E. was established on the 17th October 1903, six years before the M.I.5.


In line with the 'open government initiative', papers held at the Public Record Office in Kew, West London, were to have been released, but for reasons unknown these yellowing papers remain stuck to the shelves! However, other papers have come to light; on a discarded chip wrapper picked up in Blackpool, this old newspaper reported that Tom Holland was charged with the task of creating an underground resistance movement in case of invasion from an enemy.


On further investigation it would seem that Tom Holland took up his appointment early in 1899. "Bluff was the only game to play", he was told by the P.M.


So, Tom arrived in London wearing a false beard and a monocle. Inside his bowler hat was a small revolver. He went to the reception desk at the Beckers Hotel in Finsbury Park, where the young lady behind the desk asked "Have you got a reservation?" To this he promptly replied - "Do you think I'm a Red Indian!" That was Tom Holland.


He had a great sense of humour, but he recognised the seriousness of his new appointment. The threat of invasion was always there, even the newspapers were urging caution and advised people to refuse being served by German waiters. "If a waiter says he is a Swiss, you should ask to see his passport" - was the advice given.


In the early 1900's, England was a patriotic nation; it had a great Empire and its values were different from today's. Everyone, not just the Boy Scouts, were doing their best and duty for God, King and Country.


When Tom Holland reported to the Prime Minister, he was given the code name 'H'. After his initial training with Section 5 of the Civil Intelligence Section (C.I.5) - 'H' recruited his team.


His family knew very little of what he was doing. Working on his own, he devised systems and networks based on the Treacle Mining communities throughout England. In the villages he selected, his 'Treacle Miners' would operate underground and prepare for any possible invasion.


In his headquarters at Sabden Hall, on the side of Pendle Hill near Burnley, Lancashire; there was a wall map marked with tiny flags showing all the 'active' treacle mines. He worked eighteen hours a day. He suffered deafness, but was adept at lip reading. He had a mischievous streak which was an asset when he tested out his agents! He would write instructions in invisible ink; he invented a language that could be understood only by his recruited team of treacle miners. His private secretary - Maud Challener and the other women in his team, played a vital role in the Treacle Mines. Maud made the invisible ink, that 'H' used, so well, that often 'H' could not find it!


Maud used boiled starch or strong bleach to make the ink. The 'starch' ink messages had to be ironed to reveal the writing, whilst bleach writing had to be soaked in water. Boxes of matches were used to pass on messages. These were written on the back of a match box label, which was then stuck back in its original place on the box.


The treacle miners had their own method of passing messages to each other; by tradition they wore bowler hats and when rendezvousing with other agents, in restaurants or public houses, would pass on notes by exchanging hats left on the pegs, all communications having been placed in the inside band of the hat.


All the agents recruited by Tom Holland was done by him alone, he would place his hand on the shoulder of a potential recruit and say "Follow me".


And so it was that in the years between 1900 and 1920, that the treacle mine stories began to circulate throughout the country. It was all part of the "great bluff". Many thought it was all a gentle hoax or even a joke, or at least something not to be taken seriously. In this way the treacle miners were able to carry out their tasks until the war, that was to end all wars, reached an armistice at 11 o'clock on the 11th November 1918.


On that day, with no invasion of our shores, each treacle miner received an uncoded message, simply saying - "Congratulations".


One group of Treacle miners, sadly never received the message of congratulations, they died on active service. Little is known of the cause of the disaster, but a song sung by a local folk-singer, tells us of :-


'Twas on the third day of July

And twelve strong men were about to die

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

They were working fast without a care

When a tunnel collapsed and trapped them there

At the Tadley treacle mines

No noise was heard above the ground

When evening came they couldn't be found

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

They searched it here, they searched it there

But could not find them anywhere

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

Then one man came from underground

And told them everything he found

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

I saw a tunnel blocked with clay

But it was open yesterday

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

Then all the men went down the pit

And tried to clear the earth a bit

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

They dug all night, they dug all day

And finally cleared the earth away

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

They found twelve men a-lying there

Upon the ground so cold and bare

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

They carried them to the light

So all could see the ghastly sight

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

They buried them there that very day

And to this day their bodies lay

At the Tadley Treacle Mines

So gentlemen take heed I pray

And do not go to work today

At the Tadley Treacle Mines



Bluff had been the only game to play and the task was completed, but the stories of treacle mines, inland submarine bases and other tales created by P.I.E. are now part of our folk-lore.


 7oot 7IJdV 


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