Thank you for selecting information on the Hetton Le Hole Auxiliary Unit Patrol
and their Operational Base in County Durham. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's
Northumberland CIO Stephen Lewins.
The Commanding officer was Captain A.C. Burningham with 2 i/c Lieut. J.West of Hetton-le-Hole. They were
in control of Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire Group No.3 which consited of 5 patrols.
John Maneer also recalls the Sgt in the patrol was Sgt Johnny West.
All the patrol members lived to the south of the O.B. all around the village of
Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham.
John Manner was recruited out of the Home Guard in late 1941 or early 1942? One
of the existing auxiliary members (?) recruited him as they were looking for young single men, the basic role
was explained when he was accepted, ie wouldn’t be able to return home when the invasion started, made aware
couldn’t get any help or medical, otherwise would have risked family and community, couldn’t go home as this would
risk German reprisal. Told that anyone wounded would be expected to shoot themselves or be shot or take cyanide
capsule which was kept in the OB.
6/2/11 Area/Location: County
Durham Map: OS Tyneside National Grid Ref:NZ35511
The O.B. was built by the 184th Tunnelling Co. R.E.
The ground surrounding the OB is soft, wet and muddy. The O.B. has suffered from land slip. The east
side is on a steep bank side that is slowly creeping into and over the site.
Remaining end walls. Entrance foreground, bolt hole distant.
Bolt hole end showing the higher ground on either side. When complete the two hills would have
joined hiding the O.B.
Both end walls of the OB remain along with two of the clay ventilation pipes. The bolt hole tunnel
route to the stream is visible at the south end of the O.B. To the north end, that would be the entrance shaft, a
tunnel outline can be made out.
The O.B. is a standard “Elephant“ type shelter. Possibly modified slightly for the site. See drawing
Part of clay drainage pipe used as ventilation shafts into the
Other physical remains are two clay ventilation pipes are still visible on the main entrance end
wall. See above.
The best way the find the O.B. is from the south side of Houghton-le-Spring in county Durham. You need to
find Gillas Lane East which is the B1260. At the crossroads of Hetton Road and Gillas Lane take the left turn as
you are heading south from Houghton-le-Spring. Pass the Lingfield turn and turn right into Meadow Close. From here
it is all on foot. Follow the footpath passed the houses to the style and low gate. Continue along the path heading
for the footbridge over the stream. At this point turn left and follow the track into the woods. Keep the stream to
your right. The O.B. site is on raised ground which is looped by the stream.
The site is below an ancient burial cairn which is on top of the nearby hill. There is a public house
called The Copt Hill on the B1260. The O.B. could be found from this side also. From the pub cross the road
and head up the Hill towards the cairn. Once reaching the cairn look to the east. There are two wind turbines
visible. Head for the corner of the field. There is a well worn track into the woods, follow this down the steep
bank and it will lead you to the O.B. site.
Auxilier John Maneer says he was never in the OB described above. He has not previously
been aware of this OBs existence.
John Maneer says his OB was in Cocken Wood near Finchale, access pathway adjacent to cottage on west side
of Lumley road. He only went there once during his service.
Wooden Hut about 12 x 8 foot, (only used for clothes and sleeping bags, stayed over on Saturday nights
only, before back to work) this was in wood near the gamekeepers cottage adjacent to path, land belonged to the
Nicholson family who owned the Vaux brewery, OB based in the middle of the wood, constructed of excavated
underground chamber dug out by unit before I joined, escape route 20 yards down towards river. Entrance hatch
covered by turf with bush growing on top, not a spring loaded hatch. Entrance led down a ladderway, internal layout
was similar to the drawings on web site, benches etc, damp but not waterlogged. Everything lifted off the floor, I
believe all the explosives and arms etc were kept here.
Not currently known.
All explosive training, fire pots, time pencils, cordite, ordinary fuses, knew how to fell trees, blow railway
lines, military targets – planes, lorries, petrol dumps etc. Training weekends organised at Castleton in N
Yorkshire led by the Green Howards regiment.
The unit was equipped with .38 Smith & Wesson revolvers, rubber truncheons, knobkerries, sten guns, Enfield
.303 rifles, commando knife and one sniper rifle. The Sniper rifle was used for killing rabbits.
BG explosive (blasting gelignite – trees, railway lines etc), fire pots with time pencils ( planes and similar),
cordite wasp fuse cord ( eg wrapping around fuel cans used with time pencils for instantaneous inflammable
explosive), grenades, sticky bombs (attach to tanks etc) – all stored in OB (Operating Base). Sten and .38 revolver
ammunition was interchangeable.
All team issued with cyanide capsule, instructed to use it if wounded or captured to avoid compromising local
inhabitants as no help could be expected.
John Maneer has sten ammunition in the house for a few years.
Do you/they know of other Patrols?
John was aware of something in Haswell, Wheatley Hill and Birtley – loose talk from the commanding officer – ie
I’ve come from x and I’m off to y over a period of 3 years, not sure when he knew this. He never knew any
information about who was in any other unit.
John Mennear was sometimes quizzed by others as to why he was not in the local Home Guard unit, did wear
home guard tunic over his 202 tunic.
When detailed for guard duty at the large Finchale ammunition store it was sometimes noted that he was wearing a
revolver, whilst members of the Home Guard were often without a rifle each never mind a revolver.
After the war John Mennear continued working at Elemore Colliery as a miner until 1948 – then joined Carl Rosa
Opera Company in London, following a successful audition. Singing is a life long passion from a young age,
including dance bands, concerts, ‘help the war effort’ etc, latterly with Male Voice Choirs.
Thanks to Auxillier John Osborne Mennear who recorded his memories for us via his son John Mennear on 28th