Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Bathampton Auxiliary Unit Patrol

See patrol member Bob Millard's story here and learn more about training.

This page was last updated at 9:32am on 26/3/14

The following are known members of the patrol :-

A. Bentley Hunt

Tony  

Beckford Gardens, Bathwick - Joined 1940 

W. J. Denning

Donk  

 

J. Giles

John  

Sgt. after J. Hill - Joined 1941

A. C. Hanna

Buster

Widcombe Hill - Joined 1941

G. James  

Jimmy

First Avenue, Oldfield Park - Joined 1942

J. M. Jones

Mike

Hayesfield Place, Bear Flat

R. W. Millard

Moon

Rockcliffe Avenue, Bathford - Joined 1940

J. G. Wyld

Jack  

Bathwick Street - Original patrol sergeant

Bob Millard aged 19

      bob_millard_2012

1940

2012

The OB, or Operational Base which we were going to use as a hideout. This had been located by the sergeant, Jack Wilde, and was where the old stone mines were, on Hampton Rocks. These mines dated back certainly to the beginning of the nineteenth century, I think, and were in a state of collapse and disrepair.

Bathampton Patrol OB The one we used was located with the Ordnance Survey grid reference 778651. It consisted of a rough hollow in the ground where the mines had collapsed which were overgrown with trees, and by going down in between some of the old stone outcrops there was an entrance to quite a large cavern with side shoots off it. The entrance was just big enough to squeeze through and went through a tunnel some six feet long, and then it opened out into the cavern on to a stone scree.
 
Photo:This shows an adjacent quarry chamber similar to that used as the OB. A collapse has recently exposed this chamber. Photo by Bob Millard  

We disguised the entrance by cutting a stone slab which blended in with the rock and rubble that was around, and this stone slab could be moved to one side from the inside of the tunnel and replaced when you were outside to disguise the entrance. Once we had got the entrance sorted we built up a living area inside by making a wall out of the stones that had fallen so that there was an area with a level floor and it was screened off, so that if you look in through the entrance with a torch or something like that it just looked like the natural stone fall from the rest of the quarry.

Bathampton-OB-in-2012

Photo:This shows an adjacent quarry chamber similar to that used as the OB taken in 2012 by CART CIO Nina Hannaford.

Once this had been organised we didn't visit the OB too frequently because we didn't want to wear tracks to and from the OB. In those days there were quite a lot of rabbits about and rabbit droppings were fairly plentiful and we would collect a tin of rabbit droppings and then scatter it across the path that we had used coming in, to try and make it look as though it had not been disturbed.
 
We made some bunks out of wood and slats supported on stone piles, and we put in the OB some of the heavy gear, some of the Mills bombs and the food rations that we had been supplied with - tin food rations wrapped up in tarpaulin and burying them under the loose stone scree. Obviously with the Mills bombs we didn't leave the detonators there, we took those away with us. We had a number of dummy runs in the OB, spending the weekend there, tidying it up and trying to make it reasonably habitable, and our main aim was to make sure that we were able to fetch water from a small stream that ran nearby, and also if we did any cooking or heating or lit a fire, whether there was any trace of smoke or anything coming out, into the nearby area that would give the hideout away.
 
Bathampton-OB-Entrance

Photo:This shows how the entrance into the OB may have looked. Photo taken in 2012 by CART CIO Nina Hannaford.

Bathampton-OB-Looking-out

Photo: Looking back out to the area around the OB. Photo taken in 2012 by CART CIO Nina Hannaford.

We anticipated that if there were an emergency it wouldn't be immediate, that we should get probably twelve or twenty-four hours warning, so some of the kit we kept at home. We all had ready use packs made up of essential bits and pieces that we would have to take with us, and we also had access to a van which was used very infrequently and we had a couple of gallons of petrol kept on one side. The plan was in the case of a sudden call out, the van would collect from our houses some of the equipment that was needed that was stored there, and then we would proceed up Widcombe Hill to the top of Bathwick Hill to the bomb store, pick up one or two bits and pieces from the bomb store, and then proceed across the top of Bathwick Hill where there was a bridle path that led up to a copse near an underground reservoir on the golf course at Hampton Rocks, which was about ten minutes walk from the OB. Two of the patrol would proceed up ahead of that and go to the OB to make sure that everything was clear and there was nobody about and then we would all rendezvous in the copse at the end of the bridle path and take the extra bits and pieces that we needed along to the OB. We had two or three dry runs and found that within three or four hours we could get everything sorted as we wanted.
 
With reference to our bomb store, there was an incident in April 1942 which could have turned out to be nasty. In April Forty-two, the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth, Bath was subjected to three raids, Baedeker raids, by the Germans, and during the last of these raids a bomb fell fairly close to where our bomb store was situated. We didn't know anything about it at the time but the next day we were informed that we should report to the bomb store. So three of us in the patrol went up to the bomb store where we were met by two people that we didn't know and a van and found that the bomb store, due to the blast, was now insecure. So we loaded the sticky bombs, explosives and other materials that we had there into the van and drove it across Bath to the village of Swainswick which is slightly to the north-west of Bath near the A46. Now at the village of Swainswick we put the explosives in a barn in Manor Farm.
 
As we were unloading it we noticed one of the cases containing the sticky bombs had something in it that looked like oily liquid coming out from the side of it. We realised that one of the sticky bombs must be broken and that this was nitro-glycerine. Well nitro-glycerine is not the sort of stuff that you mess about with so we thought "we can't leave it here, we must do something with it". So very gingerly we moved this case right across the fields so that we were a long way from any habitation and then put a charge on it and blew it up - a very loud bang. People who had been subjected to an air raid the night before must have wondered what on earth was happening, but nobody contacted us and we didn't hear anything about it. I suppose it was one of those bangs that happened during the war that people paid no attention to.
 
It wasn't until after the war that I got in contact with somebody, John Shackle, who had been in an Auxilliary Unit patrol at this base in Swainswick, and one of the people who came across to shift the stuff with us was a Captain John Shackle, this chap's uncle, who was the Intelligence Officer for the Auxiliary Units in the Bath area and was responsible for us and several other patrols, that since the war I discovered operated around Bath.
 
As far as I can recall in mid 1941 we lost Jack Wyld as a sergeant. He just disappeared. Where he went, what happened to him we had no idea and I've no idea to this day. But Sergeant John Giles took over, and I found out, again after the war, some time after the war, that John Giles came from the village of Tadwick, which is quite near Swainswick, so he must have been an acquaintance of Captain Shackle and knew Captain Shackle. And it was with Sergeant Giles that we carried out our first major night exercise.

The targets for this patrol were the railway junction at Bathampton and Claverton Manor, if occupied by the Germans. Secondary areas for possible sabotage were the engine sheds at Green Park station and Colerne airfield.

Besides its hideout, the patrol had an arms/explosives dump in what had been the explosives store of a disused quarry on the edge of Claverton Down, near the top of Widcombe Hill (OS Ref: ST769639). This store was damaged in the raid of 26 April 1942 and its contents were then transferred to Manor Farm, Swainswick.

The original Patrol Sergeant, Jack Wyld, formed the patrol and located the hideout; he was a former quarryman and was familiar with the underground quarry workings in Bathampton Wood.

The patrol would meet two evenings a week and at weekends for training and construction work on the operational base (OB). Initially meetings were more frequent to get the OB into a habitable condition. Training took two forms, familiarisation with the area and practice with explosives and sabotage devices.

Familiarisation involved walking the area time and time again until each gap in the hedge, barn, and possible hiding places became familiar. It also involved the urban area to find where each alley lead or where a short cut might be taken. During these excursions we were delighted to discover the OB's of two Admiralty patrols, one in the wood above the Warminster Road and the other in Prior Park.

We also familiarised ourselves with the old stone mines under Combe Down. Other exercises were to lie up in the grounds of Claverton Manor to observe the movements of the military and to thoroughly explore the local railway to determine where demolition charges might be placed. Explosives training took place in the remoter areas of the woods lining the Limpley Stoke Valley. This was limited because of the noise and to conserve stocks. Jack Wyld was, I believe, a quarryman; in any case he was very knowledgeable in the use of explosive and the construction of basic charges. We were supplied with plastic explosive and gelignite together with delay fuses (time pencils) and pull and pressure switches to construct booby traps. We also received training from the army at Coleshill House near Swindon, the AUs’ H.Q., where we were instructed in field craft, explosives and booby traps; I went there twice. Instructions would be received to report to the postmistress at Highworth and on arrival she would examine your orders and then telephone Coleshill who sent transport for you, thus keeping the exact location of the base secret.

AN EXERCISE AGAINST COLERNE AIRFIELD
In the autumn of 1941 (as far as I can remember) we were instructed to undertake a sabotage exercise against aircraft parked near the perimeter of RAF Colerne. We were given no further briefing except that it was to take place in the early hours of Sunday morning. Four of the patrol took part and as we had previously reconnoitered this area in the vicinity of the Vineyards we thought we had a good idea of the lie of the land. Our plan was to approach the target area as a patrol and then work in pairs.

A signal was prearranged for identification, the Morse letter X (dah dit dit dah), as it could be whispered, tapped or flashed on the pencil torches we carried. We made our rendezvous at the Three Shire Stones on the Bannerdown Road and with John Giles in the lead we skirted Westwood Farm into a small valley and then followed a brook up the rising ground towards the road. On reaching the high hedgerow John signalled us to stop and crawled ahead. However, unknown to us a Lewis gun emplacement had been built below the road and John was spotted. There was a loud shout, “We’ve got one of them” and the sound of a noisy struggle from John. We lay doggo until the noise moved up to the road then crept cautiously forward and discovered a sandbagged gun pit which, to our surprise, was empty except for a Lewis gun and a couple of magazines.

As John was creating confusion on the road we were able to remove the gun and leave in its place a ten minute delay fuse and detonator. We then crawled along under the hedge to a cart track leading to the road from where we could see several people standing in the road and also a small truck. We set up the gun to cover the road and contemplated how best to cross to gain access to the airfield perimeter. In the event it was made easy for us, as there was a shout, ”The bloody gun’s gone,” which distracted the group on the road and briefly afterwards, the detonator went off. The ensuing confusion allowed us to roll across the road into the garden of the Vineyards but unfortunately we had to leave our trophy behind.

In the garden cover was provided by a runner bean fence and as we lay there we observed a person approach the door of the Vineyards, knock, pause, and then enter. Later two figures emerged, one of which was John, still protesting and the other who appeared to be an unarmed escort. They entered an outbuilding and as when the door was opened no light showed we assumed they were the only occupants. As there was no one in the garden area it was simple to move up to the door and knock the Morse letter 'X' on it to alert John. The escort opened the door and was bowled over by us onto a bunk bed. Under the bed we discovered two boxes of Mills grenades so we took a couple each. Leaving one to watch the escort three of us moved towards the door of the Vineyards, again quite easy, as there was no one in the vicinity.

Having previously observed someone knock, pause and enter we tried the same tactic and were greeted with a loud “Come” which we did in a mad rush. Inside were a captain, a flight sergeant and an officer with a white umpire’s armband on. We claimed to have overwhelmed the office and as we had coshes, fighting knives and the stolen Mills bombs; the umpire agreed. Almost at once there was a knock on the door. John signalled to us to stand either side of the door and then shouted, “Come” and flung the door open. In stepped a corporal who said,” Escort for the prisoners, sir” and then we jumped him. The umpire asked what we would do now. We showed him the Mills bombs and said we would lob these at the escort and onto the road, leave onto the airfield by the rear door after damaging the telephone and leaving a bomb to explode in the office. He agreed we had a chance of getting onto the airfield so we told them where the Lewis gun was and leaving the bombs on the desk, began our five-mile walk home.

Arms Dump

The arms and explosives dump for the Bathampton Patrol was in an old explosives store in a disused quarry. It was on the edge of Claverton Down near the top of Widcombe Hill.

The Quarry is now the site of a park of chalet type bungalows.
 
Bathampton Arms dump location 1 - Nina
 
Bathampton Arms dump location 2 - Nina
 
Bathampton Arms dump location 3 - Nina
 
Images above taken in 2012 by Nina Hannaford.
 
On the 25th to 26th April 1942 Bath was subjected to Baedeker Raids and during the last of these a bomb fell near to the explosives store. The patrol were unaware of this but were told to report to the explosives store the following day. Three of the patrol went and were met by two unknown men with a van.
 
Due to the blast the store was now insecure and the arms and explosives had to be moved. Sticky bombs, explosives, arms and other material were loaded into the van and driven through Bath to the village of Swainswick where they were to be stored in a barn at Manor Farm.
 
In command of a lot of the Bath City Patrols was Lieutenant John Shackle. He was present at Manor Farm to supervise the safe storage of the arms and explosives.

When unloading one of the cases that contained the sticky bombs it was noticed that nitro-glycerine was leaking out. The case was very carefully moved to the far side of the field as far away as possable from any habitation. A charge was put on the caes and it was blown up with a very large bang.
 
 
Bob Millard, CART Archives, Bath Bitz Memorial Project.

See Bob Millard's Story here