Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Horsley Cross/Mistley Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 9:09am on 26/9/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Horsley Cross/Mistley Auxiliary Unit Patrol located in Essex. The info below has been compiled by 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.

The patrol first formed part of the group that covered Colchester and the surrounding area. This was commanded by Lt G H Smith with 2/Lt H G Denniss as Assistant Group Commander. Later in the war, this group was split into two, with the Mistley unit joining the Colchester East Group, with the same Group Commander, but with Lt J Harper as his assistant now.

It is not known exactly when the patrol was formed.

Name

Date of Birth

Occupation


Died

Sgt William “Bill” Strang

1904

Farmer


1966

Sgt Ernest William Spencer


Poultry farmer

Reverted to private by 1944


Cpl Charles William Frostick

05/07/1912

Poultry farmer

Joined HM Forces Feb 1942

1998

Pte George Howard Kent

08/02/1898

Blacksmith


1965

Pte Donald McNair

25/05/1912

Farmer


1962

Pte George Henry Greenwood

17/11/1904

Poultry farmer


1985

Pte John Wotherspoon McNair

12/12/1914

Farmer


1982

Pte Alexander McKinnon McNair

31/10/1918

Farmer


1975

In the 1942 list of patrol members, this unit was known as Horsley Cross, although most of the members had Mistley and Little Bromley addresses

The first patrol leader was Ernest Spencer, who bred award winning chickens at Hiskeys Farm, with Charles Frostick as his assistant and later business partner. Spencer had served through the whole of the First World War, including with the Army of Occupation in Germany. Charles Frostick was called up in 1942, joined the Essex Regiment, then spent most of the next year with the General Service Corps, before returning to the Essex regiment just before D Day when he transferred to the Suffolk Regiment via a week in the Norfolk regiment. He was wounded during the fighting in Normandy. After the war he was demobbed via the Northants Regiment and RASC. He spoke very little about his wartime activities with Auxiliary Units to anyone in the family. When he left the patrol, it seems that Spencer stood down as patrol sergeant as he had lost his help on the farm and no longer had as much time. The nominal roll records that he reverted to the rank of private. After and indeed during the war, Charles Frostick returned to the farm, eventually taking it over in the post-war period. He was reportedly an excellent shot with a rifle. It is thought that Mr Spencer retired to the Matlock area of Derbyshire.

Charles Frostick’s pass provided direct from Aux Units HQ at Coleshill and signed by Major MT Henderson. This must have been provided by 1941 at the latest. (Courtesy Hugh Frostick)

Bill Strang from Stacey’s Farm took over as patrol sergeant.

George Kent was the local blacksmith. He mentioned his membership of Auxiliary Units to his son, but never spoke much about it, even after the war.

The McNairs were brothers from a Scottish farming family. Donald McNair (known as Dan) had moved down from Scotland in 1926 and he had seven children His eldest son Jim was in the Fingringhoe patrol, his second son Matthew commanded the Ramsey patrol. His three younger sons Donald. John and Alec were in the Horsley Cross patrol. One of John’s daughters married a relation by marriage of Bill Strang. John spoke very little about his time with the “specials” as the Auxiliary Units were known in the family, though the general impression conveyed was that it was an enjoyable time. He did mention that he had to keep the dogs in when he left, in order that they would not follow him to the OB.

Donald died young so his children don’t recall much about him or his tales. Jean McNair, son of Donald, does remember her father telling someone a tale, and laughing as he recalled how they were doing something with explosives or ammunition, and they suddenly realised that Alec had a fag on!

George Henry Greenwood, known as “Chips”, was also a poultry farmer at Lynwood Farm. He was born in Patagonia then his parents moved near Sudbury, Suffolk when he was 4. After attending agricultural college in the 1920s, with few jobs around, he headed back to Patagonia to work as a horseman tending sheep, and did national service with the Argentine army, staying 8 or 10 years. When he came back his parents had moved to Mistley Heath and built a house. George built Lynwood next door and took on tenancy of the land at Church Farm from the Norman estate. With only limited land he turned to poultry farming. Naturally he had much in common with Spencer and Frostick. George’s son John remembers Charles Frostick coming to visit at times, and Charles’ two older sons remember visiting there too. John also recalls detonators and other such items around the farm. He swapped a dud Mills bomb (hand grenade) with a friend at school, but can’t recall what he got in exchange! He still has a pair of large magnets which his father told him were from magnetic mines for blowing up railway lines.

One of the most remarkable things, is that in the late 1960s, David Lampe, author of the Last Ditch, was living and working in Brightlingsea and even spoke to Weeley Patrol leader Roger Weeley, but apparently didn’t hear anything about the involvement of all the other men across the Tendring peninsula, showing how well the secret was kept.

George Kent in the entrance to the Old Forge. (Courtesy George Kent, son of patrol member George Kent).

George Kent with his son, also George Kent (Courtesy George Kent Jnr)

Alec McNair (courtesy Jane Lennox) John Wotherspoon McNair (courtesy Jane Lennox)
Donald McNair (Portrait courtesy James McNair) Charles Frostick about 1945.

The Operational Base is thought to be between Dickley Hall and Nether Hall, though the exact location is unknown.

The patrols in this group appear to have been sited across the Tendring peninsula, presumably with the aim of disrupting the exit and supply of any troops landing at the coastal towns of Harwich, Clacton, Frinton and Walton, all of which had piers or port facilities. Brightlingsea itself was a significant port and the River Colne was navigable by coastal freighters as far a Colchester, with Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea having shipyards. Harwich was the main port on this part of the east coast and a major naval base with all round defences.

To this end the road bridges and railway lines between the coast and inland would have been prime targets. Great Bromley was also the site of the fifth radar station to be built in the UK in 1937. It would likely also be a target after invasion, if only to deny the equipment to the Germans whose own radar was less advanced early in the war.

The Essex patrols were trained at River House, Earls Colne. Patrol members would almost certainly have attended training courses at Coleshill House.

The patrol would have been issued with the standard equipment.

After the war, a couple of lads, one a London refugee who had stayed on to work, discovered a rifle and ammunition hidden on Mr Spencer’s farm and spent some time playing around with it. It is not known if this was part of the Aux Units equipment, but the .22 rifle issued to most patrols was something that was “lost” as it was a useful weapon on the farm. With the silencer fitted it was ideal for killing rabbits.

Martin Frostick recalls his father telling him, on a drive to Manningtree in the 60s, how he and some friends did secret war work - he said they used to meet at Stacey's Farm. A weapons and explosives store was mentioned - but Martin is not sure if that was at Staceys or not. He can only vaguely remember the conversation now.

National Archives file WO199/3329
Personal correspondence with Hugh Frostick, son of Charles, who also interviewed Don McNair’s son Jimmy, John McNair’s daughter Jane Lennox and George Greenwood’s son John.
Article in Poultry Industry 8th October 1943
Essex Newsman 28th January 1944.