Plas Llysyn is the name of a large imposing country mansion house just outside of Carno in Mid-Wales. Accessible only via a long drive. The house itself is set in substantial grounds with a high wall. A stream coursed through the grounds. Nothing overlooked it. Whichever direction one looked there were fields, cattle and the sky above. Then a caravan arrived. A battered old caravan parked close to the entrance to the drive and next to the main road.
The phoney war days of Devizes were now over. Now for the first taste of real action. Lee had tasked a small group of detectives to conduct a surveillance operation. I was included in that group. Our task - to watch Plas Llysyn and its occupants. Lee believed the mansion to be the most likely bet as the location for the manufacturing of more than ninety per cent of the world’s LSD. He thought of it as “The LSD Factory.” It felt an honour and a privilege to be part of the small group chosen for this clandestine operation. Terry Stokes, Dai Rees and one or two others joined me. We were privy to the briefing by Lee when he spelt out the task ahead and filled us in on the details.
Excitement! I couldn’t wait to drive to Carno and start the surveillance. Before setting up our OP (observation post) in the caravan, our group stayed the night in a pleasant B & B about 30 miles from Carno. We thought it necessary to stay that far away to not to attract too much attention from nosy locals. It was a comfortable place. The best part about it was the restaurant and the superb food it served. It was so good we decided to make this place our home from home. At least during the time we watched Plas Llysyn. Or, that was the plan.
Dick Lee joined us for one night and one superb dinner. He was as impressed as the rest of us with the quality of the food and the locally sourced ingredients. But his mood switched and he forgot about his food as he studied the bill following the meal. After all, Dick was a Yorkshireman and folks from that county do have a reputation for meanness.
He barked, “If you bloody lot think you are going to stop here for the duration and put these meals on your expenses, then you’d better think again!”
That was the end of that, and a search began the next day for cheaper options.
The towing caravan was a nondescript greying trailer measuring about 18’ x 6’. It had been someone’s pride and joy when new but now typical of those found on construction sites the world over. It contained a drop-down table and some old office chairs. We had a gas stove and kettle to brew our cuppa. Lee had managed to source some old draughtsman style plans and we laid those out on the table.
One of our crew had managed to scrounge a theodolite, level and some extending tripods. We seemed to be land surveyors. That was the idea. Our prepared cover story now built upon the idea of surveying the area in preparation for coalfield exploration. Our cover story further enhanced when the local postman delivered a letter to the caravan. Addressed to a fictitious surveying company care of the caravan, followed by the actual location as the rest of the address. Terry Stokes had addressed it and mailed it from Llanelli.
This was in the days when the Royal Mail was a functioning outfit and not the mess it is in now. The postman had no reason to know we had posted the letter to ourselves. The ruse no doubt served its purpose. Rural Wales is full of gossiping locals. The postman is a focus and one of the key figures in such a community. Unwittingly, he would have reinforced our cover as surveyors. Inquisitive locals may have interrogated him about us and the caravan. He would tell them about the letter.
The bulk of surveillance work is utterly boring. This watch was no different. For hours, sometimes days on end, there was nothing to see. Nothing happened. We saw no cars, no people. We had our binoculars and cameras with long lenses at the ready. They stayed redundant most of the time. No one passed by the caravan on the way to the drive to the house. All we saw for days on end were the cattle in the fields. Oh, and birds in the sky and the excitement of a flurry of traffic on the main A470 Carno to Machynlleth road. Occasionally, we heard the scream of an overhead RAF fighter jet as it flew over the area. We later learned that the ever-innovative Dick Lee had arranged for the RAF to fly over the area to take reconnaissance photographs. The hope existed they may reveal some secrets of Plas Llysyn.
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