Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Bower Hinton Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 5:15pm on 12/6/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Bower Hinton Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Somerset. The info and images below have been supplied by Aux researcher Chris Perry & our 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.

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The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 onwards leaving the Area and Group Commanders.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.

Bower Hinton was part of group 4 along with 3 other patrols around the Yeovil and Crewkerne areas under the Area Command of Captain Albert Harry Hunt of Bruton and the Group Command of Lt Eric George Loder of Podimore.
Other officers were Lt William Bamwell Martin of Merriott near Crewkerne joined HM forces August 1944 and Lt Henry Martin Daniel resigned due to ill health February 1943.

Currently unknown.

Sergeant Nigel Leonard Palmer of Bower Hinton
John “Jack” Hebditch Vaux of South Petherton
Aubrey Read (or Reid) of Bower Hinton
Eric Kensington of Tintinhull
Walter J Richards of Long Load
Donald J White of Bower Hinton joined HM forces April 1943
Other patrol members could have been discharged before stand down.

 

 

Group 4 taken outside Yeovil Police Station.  Original photo from Gerry Masters


Rear:- Unknown, Thomas David Oxenbury, John Robert Hillyer, Unknown, George Hutchins


Middle:- John Dening, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Glyde Scammell, Unknown, Henry Martin Daniel, Fredrick George Hughes.


Front:- Arthur Frank Whetham, Denis George Ford, John Jones, Nigel Leonard Palmer, Lt. Eric George Loader, William Branwell Martin, William Henry Austin Whetham, Unknown, Unknown.

The OB was in Drayton Covert near South Petherton. This is PRIVATE LAND and nothing remains on the site today.

The wood has changed since the war as it was originally a square shaped wood in the centre of a field. In 1985 part of the original wood was destroyed but the remaining part was incorporated into a new wood which is now a long strip in shape. The OB was sited in the area of the old wood, which is now incorporated into the new wood.
A small ridge runs across the width of the wood and this is the remains of the dividing bank that surrounded the original wood site. You can also tell that you are in the old wood because there is older, mature trees in this part which are not in the rest of the wood.

Today Drayton Covert is a mixture of trees with average ground cover of young trees, plants and brambles with a narrow private path running along it.

Drayton Covert with Flax Drayton Farm on the right. The original wood being mostly where the yellow crop is in front of the modern day strip of woodland.

The OB was destroyed around 1999 because of the risk of children being injured while playing in it and the danger to livestock as several sheep were lost in it.

They had a difficult job destroying the structure, even with a bulldozer, because of the thick steel corrugated sheeting.

Today there are no remains or signs of the OB but there is a wide, shallow, slight depression that seems to go the width of the wood in this area which could be the outline of where the structure was.

The OB was originally dug out by hand and with wheelbarrows and the structure buried underground.

Various people's memories describe the OB as possibly having steps leading down into a corrugated steel half round structure. The OB consisted of two “Nissen hut” rooms that were around 10 feet apart but joined together with an 18” (or 24”) pipe which the Auxiliers would have crawled through to get into the second chamber.

Another tunnel is remembered as coming away from the chamber at right angles so this is assumed to be the escape tunnel. During the war Chris Willy found the entrance and went into the OB as a child.

He found the wooden trap door under leaves and woodland debris. Investigating further he noticed that it was hollow underneath and he climbed down into the chamber. He was stunned to find it contained Sten guns, ammunition and grenades but as far as he can remember there were no rifles present.

He got out quickly and covered the trap door back up as it was and he never spoke about his discovery during the war to anyone.

Observation Post: You can see the road from Crewkerne (today the A356) from the site. So the patrol could have watched this road and what was travelling along it from the wood.

Other physical remains nearby: Shore's Wood near Bower Hinton which is less than a mile away contained a bomb store for the patrol.

Bomb Store

The store was on the north east edge of Shore's Wood near Bower Hinton.

Looking at Shore's Wood.

The land owner and brother of Nigel Palmer called it a ‘store’ This structure was possibly built by the Royal Engineers. Constructed of corrugated steel sheeting, it was well built and a well supported structure.
It was full of ammunition when it was in use.

Looking down into the store
This structure was built or dug into the top of the slope and just inside the edge of Shore’s Wood which is on a slope were the ground level changes between two fields. It could go possible slightly into the field outside the wood but this is unknown for sure.

The door was on the south west side on the downward slope side of the structure. I have been told that this was not hidden or disguised apart from it being in the wood.

The bomb store

Just a hollow remains in the slope of the ground as it has now collapsed (you cannot see any remains in situ.) All you can see is a depression in the slope with bits of corrugated sheeting lying around amongst the overgrowth.

Assumed, but most likely targets include the nearby A303, a main road leading out of the south west peninsular.
Damage or blocking of Petherton Bridge (A303) and Carey's Mill Bridge (¾ of a mile to the west of Bower Hinton) would hinder supply routes. Hurst Bow Bridge on the B3165 at Martock is built on a right angle bend in the road so it would be difficult to bridge over if destroyed.

Important road junctions on the A303 such as the A356 coming up from the south & Crewkerne. The B3165 that goes north though Bower Hinton and Martock to Somerton.

The railway line and station at Martock that went from Yeovil on to Langport could also have been a target.

Currently unknown but some may have visited Coleshill House to train. They may also have trained with the
South Somerset Scout section thought to be based around Bishops Lydeard.

Currently unknown but it is assumed they had access to the standard arms and explosives.

Sergeant Nigel Palmer was a farmer at Bower Hinton Farm and after the war worked for David Brown tractors. At some time he lost two fingers and injured his hand whilst practising grenade throwing.

“Jack” Vaux's family rented Drayton Covert during the war and Jack himself was a farmer. A World War 1 veteran having joined up aged 16 he served in the Machine Gun Corps in France.

Aubrey Read worked at Yandle & Sons Ltd, a timber saw mills at Martock as did Donald White.

Sgt. Nigel Palmer & Lt. William B Martin cleared out the store after the war and put the contents in a nearby pond.

They then blew the lot up with the contents of the pond going everywhere. They damaged a nearby tree which later died because of this damage.

Aubrey Read

 

The kindness of the landowners in allowing access.
TNA ref WO199/3391 and WO199/ 3390
Hancock data held at B.R.A
Donald Brown and his research for Defence of Britain Project
The Somerset Home Guard, a Pictorial Roll call, by Jeffrey Wilson.
Mr Rob Vaux, Mr John Blake, Mr Chris Willey and Mr T Monaghan.
Martock Memories by Roy Maber

If you can help with any info please contact us.