Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Farringdon Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 4:58pm on 19/7/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Farringdon Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's 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.

Farringdon is a small village 6 miles east of Exeter.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall in July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major, then Colonel) J W Stuart Edmundson, an officer in the Royal Engineers. He liaised with the regular army and received supplies and equipment and formed all the Patrols. He was assisted by Lieutenant (later Captain) John “Jack” Dingley who became IO for Cornwall in 1943 though he may have assumed the roll before that.

In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and Edmundson was succeeded in Cornwall by Captain John Dingley and in Devon by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain in command until near stand down. At the end of Harston's command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of the South West Peninsular and Wales. The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some patrols within a demographic area would train together under more local command.

At Stand Down, Devon is recorded as area16 and Farringdon is part of group 6 along with nine other patrols, including Sidbury, Branscombe, Beer, Newton Poppleford and Seaton.

The East Devon Area Commander was Captain Leonard Howes of Colyford. The Group 6 Commanders were Captain S B “Woody” Wood of Seaton and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur W Pope of Newton Poppleford.

 Currently unknown.

Sergeant George Rowsell of Sidmouth Road, Aylesbeare
Corporal Norman C Skinner of Crealy Barton, Farringdon
Frederick J R Ford of Crealy Cottage, Farringdon
John Ford of Crealy Cottage, Farringdon
William “Bill” T Richards of Little Houndbeare, Aylesbeare
Frank Sellick of Crossways, Aylesbeare
William J Grabham of Senior Barton Farm, Aylesbeare
Alfred E Edwards was transferred to 2nd Battalion Home Guard September 1943

Clifford Sanger was transferred to 2nd Battalion Home Guard September 1943

The patrol utilized the existing structure of Farringdon House Ice House.

The Ice House is on PRIVATE LAND and the area was accessed by kind permission of the owners. It no longer has any connection with Farringdon House.

The Ice House is being well cared for by the owners to prevent any further deterioration. The presence of bats means the structure is inaccessible so all internal photographs are historical and measurements are approximate.

The mound covering the dome of the Ice House.

The Ice House is circular and approximately 15ft across and 20ft from the chamber roof to the floor.

The main chamber of the Ice House.

The roof or dome of the Ice House.

The original Ice House entrance passageway leads 4ft from the side of the structure to the main chamber.

Entrance passageway.

It is unclear if the patrol made any alterations to the main chamber to make it more comfortable as the Auxiliers in Kent and Yorkshire did.

The only remaining war time additions made to the Ice House is block work around the “entrance” and “escape” tunnel below. The tunnel was made up of 29” diameter pipe and ran for around 4ft.

It is possible that the “entrance” has been created post war as the blocks appear damaged at the sides. If the block wall was complete, thus sealing off the original entrance passageway to the Ice House leaving only the tunnel, this would make escape more viable.

The Auxiliers could then have used the tunnel as an entrance or drop down from the centre hole in the dome.

Looking up the mound of the Ice House. Escape tunnel below and “entrance” above.

Escape tunnel in original Ice House entrance passageway. Entrance above which COULD be post war damage.

If the entrance and the escape were so close together it would appear that the emergency escape tunnel would be of little use if the entrance was discovered. This looks unlikely to be the original layout.

One side of the block “entrance” is starting to fall away from the original brick wall.

There was another structure built within a few meters of the Ice House which is assumed was used as a bomb store.

A rectangular depression in the ground approximately 6ft from the Ice House is around 12ft long and in the past corrugated iron from the area was utilized elsewhere in the wood.

Depression in ground of second store.

A narrower escape tunnel runs west away from this towards the edge of the wood.

Escape tunnel from store.

The second structure is certainly big enough to have been intended as a standard OB and there is an escape tunnel present however it is known the Auxiliers only used the Ice House as a base.

Presently unknown but assumed targets would include Exeter aerodrome (now Exeter International Airport)

Exeter Aerodrome showing bomb damage (IWM ref MH26562)

Exeter Aerodrome (IWM ref HU91898)

The Auxiliers would have known about the ammunition stores concealed in woodlands in the area for use by Exeter aerodrome. Post war many of these munitions were meant to have been removed and dumped at sea. This one, with the OB in the woods just beyond the field behind, may well have lain undisturbed post war as it was in a remote location and still on MOD land. The munitions were buried in 1956 causing a nearby road to be closed. The area is now a small sunken pond.

Ammunition Dump for Exeter airport.

Wartime main roads such as the A35 (present A3052) and the A30 (present day B3174) would have caused logistics problems if blocked or damaged.

Farringdon Patrol was within easy travelling distance of the Devon Scout Section based at Thorverton and their Operational Base at Upton Pyne.

Part of the Dulditch Camp rifle range.

It has been suggested that the Patrol made use of some of the training areas of Dulditch Camp on Woodbury Common. The Royal Marine Infantry Training Centre known as Dulditch Camp was used to train Royal Marine Commandos along with Royal Navy Commandos and Woodbury Common is still used today by modern recruits at Lympstone.

Unknown but it is assumed they had access to the standard equipment and arms.

This was quite a young patrol with most of the Auxiliers being in their early to mid 20s. None were old enough to be WW1 veterans.

Sgt. George Rowsell was a garage mechanic in Exeter and later Exmouth. Post war he moved to Bridport to run the Robin Hood Inn. William Grabham also moved away from the area. Bill Richards died in Aylesbeare and was a churchwarden for many years.

Norman Skinner recalled the poor air flow in the ice house. The stagnant and stale air would often overcome the men sometimes leading to faints. Norman farmed Crealy Barton.

Clifford Sanger was killed in a road traffic accident only a few weeks after leaving the patrol in September 1943. Aged only 22, he lost control of his motorcycle on the way to work and collided with a bus.

The coffin was carried to the grave side by “the deceased comrades of the Home Guard” which could have been the Auxiliers. Certainly a floral tribute was sent with the message “ With deepest sympathy from the officers and men of 203” Clifford worked as a tractor driver.

Farringdon House was owned by Mr James Putnam and when he bought it in 1918 the estate consisted of 1,000 acres and 8 farms. After the Great Depression of the 1930s many of the farms were sold. Even after this Mr Putnam was still a very wealthy and very well connected man. He was the largest share holder in Rolls Royce and ran “Gunters Tea Rooms” in Curzon Street, London. Curzon Street contained the war time home of MI5.

The Putman's moved out in the summer of 1941 to Bloxworth in Dorset. The estate was subject to a compulsory purchase order by The Ministry of Home Security for £20,000. The RAF and Polish Air force took over Farringdon House as officers mess for the nearby Exeter airfield and a Squadron was billeted under canvas in the grounds.

Farringdon House

TNA ref WO199/3391 Hancock data held at B.R.A
Fiona and Eddie Carroll
Alan Pearce
Phil Wright
Dawn Cowler

If you can help with any info please contact Nina by emailing