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.
Auxillier’s name: John Osborne Mennear
Date: 28th February 2011
Recorder’s name: John Mennear (son)
1/ What were you/they doing before you/they were recruited?
Worked at Elemore Colliery 1935 – 1948 as trap door operator then miner, worked as a pony putter, driller, had
deputy’s tickets, stayed as a miner due to earning greater money. Actually working as a pony putter when joined the
Home Guard and Auxllary.
2/ How and When were you/they recruited?
Recruited out of the Home Guard in late 1941 or early 1942? One of the existing auxiliary members (?) recruited
me as they were looking for young single men, the basic role was explained when I 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.
3/ Which Patrol did you/they join, and who else was in it?
I was a member of the unit that is described as the Hetton Unit – however I can categorically say that I was never
in the OB described on the web site at Roughdene near Copt Hill south of Houghton le Spring. I have not previously
been aware of this OB existence.
I had originally remembered the following names - Sgt Johnny West, (Hetton le Hole), Spud Murphy
(Easington Lane), Jimmy ? (Moorsley), a n other ( Easington Lane), John Mennear ( Easington Lane), A n other,
(Peat Carr Estate)
Once I was prompted by the list published on the web site I immediately recalled additional names and can
correct certain spellings and address errors as follows;-
Sgt. Norman.Hopper of 29 Lyons Colliery, Hetton. – knew him well as Sgt in Hetton Home Guard. Sgt in
Auxiliary Unit was Sgt Johnny West. Cpl.( ? ) Jimmy.Jarvis, Hetton
Pte. J. McCall ( known as Spud Murphy) Hetton
Pte. George Woodland,Hetton
Pte. J.H. Gulliver, Hetton
Pte J Mennear, Hetton
Pte. R. Fisher, Hetton – not known by me, I do not recognise name
4/ Tell me about your/their OB?
This was in Cocken Wood near Finchale, access pathway adjacent to cottage on west side of Lumley road.
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 floorm, I believe all the explosives and arms etc were kept
5/ Who was your/their I.O. and where was his HQ?
Did not know who the Intelligence Officer was, knew when the Commanding Officer was coming but only spoke to Sgt
West. All information was given via Sgt West. CO was from Low Fell. We were never told anything else, simply Low
Fell, Newcastle way.
6/ What training did you/they get?
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.
7/ What equipment did you/they have?
The unit was equipped with .38 Smith & Wesson revolvers, rubber truncheons, knobkerries, sten guns, Enfield
.303 rifles, commando knife and one sniper rifle
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.
8/ Do you/they know of other Patrols?
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 I knew this. I never knew any information about who
was in any other unit.
9/ What did you/they do after the war?
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.
10/ What do you think of a seeking a medal for the Auxilliers?
Nothing but right, often wondered why there was never a representation or mention at the Remembrance Ceremony at
the Cenotaph. I did get a 202 badge and two letters, one from Churchill and one from the King, regrettably these
were lost in the early 1950’s when family moved from the Brickgarth and I was away singing.
I am sure that I have never been issued with a Defence Medal for the period of one year spent in the Home
11/ Other info
Before I was in the Home Guard, I was a firewatcher along with most of my friends at the Lyons Boys Club.
As far as I was aware all the unit were former NCO’s in the home guard prior to joining the Auxiliary unit where
rank was lost except the Sgt, cannot recall a corporal rank. I was a former L/corporal in the Home Guard, Easington
• Only in the OB once whilst in service.
• Sniper rifle used for killing rabbits.
• Sometimes quizzed by others as to why I was not in the local Home Guard unit, did wear home guard tunic over
my 202 tunic.
• When detailed for guard duty at the large Finchale ammunition store it was sometimes noted that I was
wearing a revolver, whilst members of the Home Guard were often without a rifle each never mind a revolver.
• Once service completed I was offered the Smith & Wesson revolver for £5, offer not taken up!
• I did have sten ammunition in the house for a few years, handed in the late 1960’s during an amnesty for
arms & ammo.
Our thanks to John Mannear for obtaining this report.