Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Fingringhoe Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated on 15/11/16

Thank you for selecting information on the Fingringhoe Auxiliary Unit Patrol located in Essex. The info below has been compiled by Dr Will Ward CART CIO for Dorset & Essex researcher Hugh Frostick.

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.

Birch Patrol was part of Group 2, also formally known as Colchester South Group. The Group Commander was Lt H G Denniss.

It is not known exactly when the patrol was formed.

Name

Date of Birth

Occupation


Died

Sgt. Geoffrey Abbott “Buller” Green

16/3/1898

farmer


1983

Cpl Croyden Burlace Green

8/9/1896

mechanic


1963

Pte. Thomas M Cook

1922

Coal merchant



Pte. Harry Harrington

1893


Died while with Aux Units

1942

Pte. R J Allen



Possibly Robert


Pte. William Louis “Lou” Potter

11/03/1901

farmer


1987

Pte James McNair

1906

farmer


1969

Pte. Albert Victor Wagstaff

?/12/1910



1989

Pte Peter L Potter

1925


Joined RAF


Geoffrey Abbott Green was born in Fingringhoe Hall, where his father, Daniel Abbott Green, was the tenant farmer. The family farmed a large area in and around Fingringhoe including the Wick and Jaggers. As a young child Geoffrey had a picture of General Sir Redvers Buller in his bedroom and he insisted that he should be called Buller and he was known by that name for the rest of his life. As Buller grew up he became an excellent horseman, a fine shot and a keen wild fowler and would have spent many hours on the land around the Wick. Buller was still at school in 1914 but was in the OTC and as soon as he was old enough he was also commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers on 26/4/1917. His older brother Daniel Abbott had been killed near Beaumont Hamel on 13/11/1916 having been commissioned as an officer in the same regiment. After the First World War he returned home, got married, and started farming in Fingringhoe with his father.

Buller Green as a photographed while attending a Gas training school during World War One. (Picture courtesy Simon Gallup)

Buller Green photographed shortly before the Second World War. (Picture courtesy Simon Gallup)

When asked to set up the Auxiliary Unit in Fingringhoe, he called on his cousin Croyden who had served in the First World War as a Bombardier in the Royal Horse Artillery to be his second in command. Tom Cook, who was the local coal merchant, drove the patrol around. Harry Harrington, who worked for Buller, had also served in the First World War, as a stretcher bearer with the Royal Field Artillery. He was gassed while serving in France. He is understood to have served as a first aider for the unit. He developed leukaemia and died in 1942. Bizarrely, it was discovered that mustard gas had the potential to treat leukaemia, though the first trials were during World War II and thus to late to help Harry. Shortly after his death, his son Bernard was tragically killed when the boat transporting him and many other Prisoners of War was torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

James McNair was one of several McNair’s to serve in the Essex Aux Units (see also Mistley and Manningtree patrols). The presence of this Scottish name is the result of Scottish farmers moving to Essex to take over farms which were sold off during the depression in the 1920s. It was reckoned that the Scots were prepared to work much harder than the previous “gentlemen farmers” and thus make the farms profitable. James and Walter Potter were both farmers and neighbours. Walter recalled they were approached by a man from the War Office to join. Peter was Walter’s son. When one of the patrol broke his arm badly, Peter was coopted to join the patrol as a replacement, but was called up just a couple of months later. He served as a rear gunner on Lancaster bombers.

Harry Harrington pictured during the First World War.

Peter Potter in London in November 2015. Waiting to march for the first time with Aux Units. Picture by Hugh Frostick. More here.

It is thought that the patrol may have had as many as three Operational Bases. They certainly had one at Ballast Quay. Buller showed this to his nephew in 1980, who recalls a shaft with a typical corrugated iron chamber, though he did not go inside. The OB is thought to have been colonised by badgers before being destroyed by an extension to the gravel extraction works in the area. The land at Fingringhoe Wick had originally been part of the family farm, but had been sold in 1930s due to financial problems. Gravel from this site was used to construct the 2012 Olympic Park at Stratford, as it could be shipped directly by boat.

Peter Potter also visited the OB. It was said to have been about 4-500 yards from any habitation, in an old quarry and hidden by undergrowth. Three rooms were built, comprised of a kitchen/living room/workshop, a sleeping quarters with 4 bunks and a storeroom for weapons, explosives, ammunition, fuses, food, water etc. The kitchen and dormitory had connections to one another and each had a 100ft.emergency exit which was never used. The armoury had only a connection to the kitchen/workshop.

The area around Ballast Quay has been the subject of extensive gravel extraction which destroyed the OB.

The small copse opposite the Whalebone Inn – possible OB location

There is also thought to have been a dugout formed in the old WW1 rifle butts at Jaggers Farm, Fingringhoe. The area remains an important firing rage for the military today. As the range was heavily used as the war progressed, it is possible that this site was abandoned. There is also reported to have been an OB in the west side of the copse opposite The Whalebone Inn, on Plane Tree Farm.

Jaggers farm, now a private residence and art gallery.

There was apparently an OB on this farm. The old WW1 rifle butts have now gone.

The targets may included the ports at Rowhedge, Wivenhoe and Colchester, which would likely have been heavily used in the event of an invasion. Also the railway just across the River Colne and the roads inland from the coast. The large Army camp at Colchester would likely have been taken over by German invaders and been the subject of sabotage.

Walter Potter was an expert at unarmed combat and had taught Jim McNair. When an instructor came to teach the group, he was surprised to have the tables turned and find himself the victim. Not surprisingly Walter and Jim were given the task of teaching unarmed combat.

Peter Potter described explosives as a different matter. Instruction was mainly about how not to blow yourself up and how to operate and handle the armaments.

Once, when using explosives to blow up a tree and have it fall into a pond, the tree decided to be contrary and fell across the road instead, causing a great deal of hard work.

On another occasion a charge was placed under a rail (an abandoned railway). The charge appeared to be excessive as a 5ft. piece of rail ended up 500yds away, neatly placed near the apex of the nearby farmhouse with one end sticking out on either side. Had it been an enemy, they would probably have had a quick return to Germany. One very puzzled farmer for a while! This farmer would later join the patrol after Peter Potter was called up.

The patrol would have trained at River House Earls Colne, headquarters for the Essex Units.

His nephew recalls Buller explaining how the patrol had better and more modern equipment that the regular army. It would have been part of the standard equipment issued.



Buller’s wife did not like him talking about the war, so he said very little about what he did until she had died.

National Archives file WO199/3329
Personal communications from Simon Gallup, nephew of Buller Green
Personal Communication from Peter Potter. Extracts from this included above are copyright Peter Potter and may not be produced elsewhere without permission..
www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30060/supplements/4474/page.pdf
www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30993/supplements/13096/page.pdf
www.essexinfo.net/fingringhoe-parish-council/assets/documents/harry-harrington