The Auxiliary Units

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

Possible location of hideout, size of impression is roughly the same size as an AU hideout and could be evidence of a chamber collapse

Possible remains of hideout trapdoor

Shipley Station Zero – An East Sussex Special Duties Radio Outpost

Entrance down into AU hideout

Collapsed Hideout

Emergency Exit from Shipley Station Zero, this exited about 100 yards down from the main bunker

The groove cut into the tree trunk was used to hide the radio mast





Staplefield Patrol – A West Sussex Unit Hideout

Looking towards the emergency exit

Looking towards the entrance

Looking down the emergency exit of Staplefield Patrol Unit

Looking at the main entrance into Staplefield Patrol Unit

Small Dole Patrol – A West Sussex Unit Hideout – Inconclusive location

Uncertain feature, possible entrance location to Dole Patrol Unit

Firle Patrol – An East Sussex Unit Hideout

Firle Patrol Unit ammo store

Collapse of the main hideout chamber

Inside an Anderson shelter extension of the patrol unit

Emergency Exit Shaft









Hurstpierpoint Patrol – A West Sussex Unit Hideout

Hurstpierpoint Patrol Observation Hide

Hurstpierpoint Observation hide





Hurstpierpoint Main hide

Hurstpierpoint Main Hide inner room






Coleshill House Patrol – An Oxfordshire Unit Training Hideout

Modern day entrance

Blast walls in the hide





Coleshill hide main room

A bunk in the Coleshill Hide

Comments are closed.

Modified: 8th Sep 2012