Following the fall of France in May 1940, Winston Churchill ordered Colonel Colin Gubbins (later to “set Europe ablaze” in SOE) to create a force of civilian volunteers, recruited primarily from the most competent Home Guard personnel, to operate from secret underground bases located behind the enemy lines of occupation. Initially, Gubbins was aided in this by a few “Intelligence Officers” responsible for setting up fighting patrols of six to eight men, led by a Sergeant and co-ordinated by a local commander, usually a Lieutenant or Captain, in their designated regions. Ideal recruits were countrymen, farmers, foresters and gamekeepers although eventually all occupations, factory and office workers and students were represented. The main requirements were fitness, knowledge of their own areas and an ability to be trained in the necessary skills for guerrilla warfare. They were tasked with emerging at night from their camouflaged underground bunkers (little more than buried Nissan Huts) to carry out sabotage attacks against enemy targets, such as supply & fuel dumps, railways, convoys and airfields. They were issued with an array of high explosive, seeing the first military issue of plastic explosives, timing devices and detonators. They were not expected to attack enemy strongholds, the weapons there were provided with were for their defence only, their main aim was the disruption of any advancing force. They were however, expected to attack sentries, killing them stealthily with a Fairbairn-Sykes knife. They were also issued with a silenced .22 rifle for the assassination of suitable targets.
The training of these men was undertaken at Coleshill House in Oxfordshire (at the time Berkshire) which had been used as GHQ after the GHQ buildings in Whitehall were bombed. It was ideally suited for training a secret, resistance force, as the estate was private, secluded and large with lots of woodland and open space for the men to utilise. They were trained in all forms of guerilla warfare and were also instructed in the construction and camouflage of a secret hide. This original ‘model’ hide is still in existance and can be visited. The whole estate is now owned by The National Trust who organise Auxiliers themed walks were you can view many of the key buildings and training grounds. TheTimeChamber was lucky enough to be involved in some of the archaelogical work undertaken on the estate, we excavated and recorded the ‘generator plinth’ – see if you can find it if you visit!
More information about the National Trust Coleshill Estate here
We are attempting to trace and photograph all the Sussex Auxiliary Hideouts, however it is not as straight forward as it seems. you are often searching miles of forest with inaccurate grid references for a trapdoor at ground level, that is camouflaged, that has not been opened in sixty years on a structure that may not even exist anymore. Slightly challenging and a lot of walking.
Information referenced from:
‘The Secret Sussex Resistance’ Stuart Angell, ISBN 1-87379-382-0 Published By Middleton Press
‘The Last Ditch, Britain’s Secret Resistance and the Nazi Invasion Plan, David Lampe, ISBN 978-1-85367-730-4 Published by Greenhill Books.
Abbot’s Wood Patrol – An East Sussex Unit Hideout
Shipley Station Zero – An East Sussex Special Duties Radio Outpost
Staplefield Patrol – A West Sussex Unit Hideout
Small Dole Patrol – A West Sussex Unit Hideout – Inconclusive location
Firle Patrol – An East Sussex Unit Hideout
Hurstpierpoint Patrol – A West Sussex Unit Hideout
Coleshill House Patrol – An Oxfordshire Unit Training Hideout