Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Ashbrittle Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 1:08pm on 18/4/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Ashbrittle “Patrol Number 1” Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Somerset. The info and images below have been supplied by Aux researcher Chris Perry & Devon CIO Nina Hannaford.

Research into this patrol and its training is ongoing. The information below is published from various sources and is by no means conclusive. If information is not listed below it does not necessarily mean the information is not out there but normally means CART researchers have not found it yet.

If you have any information on this patrol or can help with research in this area please do contact us.

The village of Ashbrittle is 6 miles west of Wellington in south west Somerset.

Alan Crick was one of the original Intelligence officers that were sent out on reconnaissance. He surveyed Somerset and Dorset.

Captain Ian Fenwick (KRRC) was the first Intelligence Officer covering the county of Somerset along with the City of Bath.

During his command he was billeted near Taunton with a HQ in Bridgewater. He went on to join the SAS and was killed in action in France in August 1944.

By August 1942 Captain L Strangman (RAOC) was Somerset's IO based at Sherwood House, Goathurst near Bridgewater. A move of HQ to The Lodge at Bishops Lydeard preceded a change of IO to Captain J W Holberton who was, in turn, succeeded by Captain J M Martin in February 1944.

At a meeting held in July 1944 it was decided to group all the counties into 4 regions. The Somerset Patrols became part of “Region 4” under the command of Major W W Harston based in Ashburton, Devon. As the final Intelligence Officer, Harston's command would cover the whole of the South West and South Wales.

The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 onwards leaving the Area and Group Commanders.
After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where various patrols within a demographic area would regularly train together under more local command.

Ashbrittle was part of group 5 along with 4 other patrols in the Taunton area under the Group Command of Captain Thomas A Baird who was also the Area Commander of Groups 5 and 6 and assisted in this group by Lt James S Bent and his brother 2nd Lt Charles R Bent.

Currently unknown.

The Patrol members all lived in the surrounding parishes.


Sergeant Hugh Ravensford Dixon of Hill Farm, Ashbrittle
Nigel Sweet of Winkleigh, Stawley
Arthur M “Mike” Sweet of Stawley,
Frederick Tar of Tracebridge near Ashbrittle
William George Godding. Discharged to join HM Forces January 1944
James Hugh N Merson of Holcombe Rogus. Discharged to join HM Forces April 1943.


This left only four patrol members at stand down.

Sgt. Dixon was a Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Light Infantry during WW1. It appears that he later served in the Royal Engineers where he earned the Croix de Guerre with Palm for his part in bridging the River Lys in October 1918.

Nigel and Mike Sweet were brothers and James Merson was their older cousin, all were farmers.

The OB is on PRIVATE LAND and was accessed with the kind permission of the landowners.

Located in Kittisford Wood between the hamlets of Kittisford and Appley, the OB is in a fairly isolated location in a well maintained wood surrounded by farmland.

The main chamber of the Operational base has collapsed and it appears some of the building materials have
been robbed out. The end brick built wall which we think was the entrance “shaft” and the chimney is all that remains in situ with small sections of corrugated iron attached that is all that remains of the elephant shelter used for the main chamber.

The small chamber, an explosives store, has also collapsed and it appears the escape tunnel could have been removed and reused. The ground has been made up where the escape tunnel crosses under a path.

Looking down into the main chamber with the entrance to the left of the chimney.

Size of OB and entrance/exit etc: Mike Sweet remembered: The Army dug a big deep hole and put a “Nissen hut” in it. A brick chimney was built and the whole thing covered with soil.

There were two entrances or exits. A trap door, disguised as a tree stump which dropped straight down into the main chamber with iron rungs [no evidence remains of the rungs]. The escape tunnel would have been used to collect water from the stream if they could not leave OB for a few days.

 

The nearby stream, escape tunnel exits on the right.

He remembered bunk beds, a toilet and a stove. The smaller chamber he recalled was an explosive store and the chimney was disguised to merge with the woodland.

Chimney emerging at ground level.

Looking down from the chimney into the main chamber.

The roughened concrete slab to the right would have been used to disguise the entrance.

The outline of the main chamber is 25ft X 10ft (all sizes are approximate). A small (3ft) corridor which may have been a tunnel leads through to a 15ft X 6ft small chamber most likely used as a explosives store. The escape tunnel runs away slightly downhill from here exiting in the banks of the small stream and is 65 ft long.

Diagram of OB layout.

Looking into the smaller chamber with the escape tunnel leading off the the right and possible tunnel leading to the main chamber on the left.

Looking down the length of the escape tunnel.

The end wall of the main chamber is constructed from brick and well built. The chimney appears to be built at the same time though the pointing is quite poor compared to the main wall so may have been finished by someone else.

The chimney is built off centre of the main wall allowing room for an entrance on the left. That side of the chimney is also stepped. Though the pointing is poor, the construction of an arch to form a “fireplace” shows some skill.

Stepped chimney breast with entrance on the left.

At the time of visiting this was waterlogged but had been dry in the past.

A built slot in the chimney breast could have been used to house a mantle piece, which is 42” wide. A ventilation pipe is in the back wall behind the slot.

Slot in chimney breast.

Ventilation pipe in chimney.

Orientation of OB: The main chamber was constructed in a north west direction allowing for the escape tunnel to run slightly downhill and angling away from the chamber, exiting very close to the stream.

Escape tunnel exit (indentation) in the middle of the picture just above the stream.

Other physical remains nearby: It appears that some of the materials used to build the OB have been removed and reused to channel the nearby stream and create a bridge.

Bridge created from the materials of the OB. The escape tunnel channeling the stream.

At first glance the Patrol is based in a very isolated area that would hold little interest for an invading force.
However, studying a contemporary map shows the OB is placed almost mid distance between two major transport links out of the South West.

The A38 road and Great Western Railway at Wellington were main routes from Exeter and the South Coast. The A361 road (now B3227) and railway at Wiveliscombe were the main connections from North Coast.

Locating the OB between the two routes meant, with long return treks, both routes could be disrupted by one patrol. Nigel Sweet was to target the Waterrow railway viaduct with explosives.

OS New Popular Edition 1945-7

The map shows the (marked) area of the OB which shows it to be midway between the two main roads and rail tracks.

Mike Sweet remembered training mainly in Taunton. Sometimes seeing people he knew from other patrols he
would never acknowledge them.

It is assumed they had access to the standard arms and explosives.

Returned at stand down were a .22 rifle with a telescopic sight and sound moderator, a Sten gun with 500 rounds of ammunition and Nigel Sweet's favourite two Thompson machine guns.

Mike Sweet recalled having garrotte wires to stretch between trees on either side of a road to stop dispatch riders. He trained with time pencils and using magnets to attach explosives to vehicles.

Personal equipment returned amounted to six of everything. The list included revolvers, fighting knives,denims, ground sheets, gloves, haversacks, lanyards, mess tins, table knife, fork, spoon, steel helmets, holsters, field dressings, face camouflage and 216 small arms ammunition.

It appears that two sets of denims were not returned and even though it is known that some explosives were not returned there was a question asked as to whether Sgt. Dixon should be personally charged for the missing denims.

At stand down the Patrol returned a tea bucket, heating stove, Primus stove, a Tilley lamp and a first aid kit along with 12 blankets.

The ash bin, water tank and Elson “closet” (toilet) box on the return form, filled out at stand down, is left unchecked so it is assumed they did not have these “facilities” in the OB. Mike Sweet however recalled that they did have a toilet so it may have been they were unable to return it for some reason.

Some took a few items for their own use after stand down. Mike Sweet took some magnets and some fuses. Nigel took an amount of explosives and took them home to store in an unused inglenook fireplace. He used them to great effect getting rid of tree stumps and wasps nests.

Eventually he was persuaded to call the bomb disposal squad as the hoard was weeping and dangerous. They were moved to the bottom of the garden and destroyed with a controlled explosion. The locals were not warned of their intentions so were very alarmed when houses shook and some windows were blown in.

Nigel Sweet was fined £2 in September 1940 when he was stopped by the Home Guard at 11.50pm for “driving a car without the necessary nights” as he returned home from Kittisford. He could have been returning from the OB site at the time.

This was not his first run in with the law. A “fracas” with a policeman, various traffic offences and an incident when a group of visiting Gypsies were thrown in a pond all lead to newspaper reports, one of which describes him as having “authority issues”.

His friends and neighbours remember him with affection and respect and as a real character.

He is remembered as a large, strong man who could pick a man up in each hand. He was very well travelled having spent time as a lumberjack in Canada, time in the Caribbean and even climbing Australia's largest tree in old age.

Donald Brown and his research for “Somerset vs Hitler”
TNA references WO199/3390 and WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B. R. A.
“Ashbrittle at the Millennium” by the people of Ashbrittle
The private papers of Capt. T Baird (SHC ref DD\SLI/12/2/26)
Various local newspapers
Somerset Historic Environment Record Ref 31467

If you can help with any info please contact us.