Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Langton Matravers Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated on 27/10/12 at 8:36pm

Thank you for selecting information on the Langton Matravers Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base. This patrol report was provided by CART CIO for Dorset Dr. Will Ward.

The patrol formed part of the “Purbecks” group of patrols. Church Knowle/Creech Barrow patrol part of the same group.

Group Commander was Captain Fortnum from Bloxworth, with help from Lt Quick from Wareham. Sgt Bridges, Grenadier Guards delivered equipment early on (prob Jan-June 1941)

Formed late 1940 or early 1941.

Name Date of Birth Occupation   Died

Sgt Frederick Pettifer White (Patrol leader)

4/2/1904

Baker

Joined Army 20/1/1944

1972

Corporal Charles Smith Coleman

9/9/1908

Quarryman

Not known  

1980

Private Douglas Norman

16/10/1909

Quarryman

Not known 

1967

Private Nelson Henry Burt

10/10/1914

Quarryman

Possibly left mid 1943

1990

Private Hedley Victor Lander

9/1/1898

Farmer & Dairyman

Not known 

1951

Private Charlie Edward Haysom

20/9/1909

Baker

Joined Army 16/11/1942

1980

Private Maurice Benjamin Dallenger

8/10/1914

Shopkeeper

Joined unit in 8/5/1943

2003

Fred White - Langton Matravers Patrol

 

(LEFT: Fred White in Auxiliary Units Uniform, with “DOR” Dorset flash, but no battalion number. Peter White remembers that for a while he wore “AUX” flashes, though later on they would have had “203” flashes. © P White)

Fred White (left) formed the patrol, apparently being approached by Colonel Russell, who was the commander of the Purbeck Home Guard Company. Charlie Haysom was his assistant in the bakery. Later in the war, both men were called up. Fred White joined a field bakery unit in Jan 1944, working just behind the front lines. Charlie Haysom went to the Highland Light Infantry in November 1942, before joining the Royal Engineers. Once his Aux Units experience was known, he was transferred to the Assault Engineers, landing early on D-Day to clear the beaches of obstacles. He also saw action at the Rhine Crossing and in the fierce fighting at Walcheran.

 

 

 

Douglas Norman - Langton Matravers Patrol

(LEFT: Douglas Norman seen after the war in his quarry © A Norman)

Douglas Norman was a quarryman who worked his own quarry and may also have worked part of the time at the nearby Holton Heath munitions factory. His twin brother Ernie, unusually was not involved in the unit, but instead served as a fireman in London during the Blitz. It is thought that Nelson Burt may have been a relation, since the Norman’s mother’s maiden name was Burt.

Maurice Dallenger was an electrician who had gone to work at Hawker’s Kingston-upon-Thames plant building Hurricanes. He suffered severe headaches from the doping chemicals and once the demand for fighters slowed, he was released to stay with Aunt and Uncle on a farm in Langton Matravers to recover. He seems to have fitted in very well, being chosen after only a year or so in the area to be a member of the patrol. He also subsequently married the woman who became postmistress and they opened a shop in the village with her sister.

Nelson Burt doesn’t appear in the final nominal roll, compiled around the middle of 1943, so it is possible he had left by this time, though he does appear in earlier records. Hedley Lander was much older and a military veteran. Unusually he is recorded as having been conscripted to the Home Guard in December 1942. It is not known if this was when he joined the unit, or if he had been a member all along and was conscripted to tidy up the paperwork.

Langton Matravers OB

Image © CART

The Operational Base is located in woodland between Harman’s Cross and Langton Matravers on private land with no public access. The owner granted CART kind permission to take pictures etc. 

It consists of a standard buried Elephant shelter, though one end is walled off to create a separate chamber. Through this there is access to a smaller chamber, apparently constructed from an Anderson shelter, that leads from the main chamber to a vertical shaft. Another vertical shaft gives direct access to the main chamber.

The OB has been completely flooded for a number of years as the photos show. At times in the 1990s the OB dried out enough to enter and the owner has provided photographs taken at that time. He was also visited by the late Peter Weaver, then Lieutenant with the Dorset Regiment Scout Section who said that he thought there had been an escape tunnel which was cut into the ground and revetted and covered over. No trace of this remains.

Currently only one shaft is accessible, the other covered with material to prevent people accidently falling into it.

Langton Matravers OB -1

Current day view of entrance shaft showing flooding to within a foot of the top of the shaft. © CART

Langton Matravers OB -2

The main chamber of the OB (with root in the foreground) © The owner

Langton Matravers OB -3

Where the small chamber joins the middle chamber © The owner

Langton Matravers OB -4

Looking though the small chamber to the entrance © The owner

Langton Matravers OB -5

Looking from entrance towards the middle chamber © The owner

The site was owned during the war by a man who was well known for not tolerating people on his property. He lived in the house with his two maiden sisters and he was an officer in the Home Guard. The OB was apparently built by Pioneers who came from Scotland. They entered the site through a neighbour’s garden and didn’t come up the drive, perhaps to conceal what was happening. They seem to have been successful as a local resident living just 50 yards away was unaware of the bunker until long after the war.

They launched practice attacks on Warmwell airfield, breaking through the perimeter wire and also the TRE at Worth Matravers. They prised apart the railings with a car jack and got in, closing the gap with a Spanish windlass after they escaped, so nobody would know how they got in. They also broke into the Cordite Factory at Holton Heath, laying a message on a desk to show they had been there. The troops guarding these installations were all carrying live ammunition in their guns.

It is thought that these would have included the bridges on the road and railway in and out of Swanage. This railway is now the Swanage Valley Railway.

The patrol were all issued with .32 Smith and Wesson revolvers. It is thought that these were ex-New York Police issue.

They also had Tommy Guns, though these were later replaced with Sten guns. Peter White, son of the patrol leader, recalls that these were not the early type with a foregrip and drum magazine, but a later version with a stick magazine and no foregrip.

The patrol also had a .22 Winchester sniper rifle, fitted with a silencer and telescopic sights. This was used for rabbit shooting more than anything else! Peter White once picked it up at home and accidently fired it, just missing his brother’s head with the bullet which lodged in the stairs
The patrol did not have ordinary rifles at all.

The men all had Fairbairn Sykes commando daggers.

They were issued with the usual selection of explosives equipment. They had plastic explosive before the regulars had it and also ammonal. The explosives were delivered to Fred White’s house by lorry in the middle of the night. There were so many Army lorries in the area that this was not unusual. Peter White remembers that a Sgt Bridges fro the Grenadier Guards visited several times to deliver equipment and also returned in 1944 when his regiment returned from North Africa. The patrol used to practice in an old quarry, Crack Lane Quarry, which had shut down just before the war having gone bankrupt. They practiced cutting RSJs with explosive charges and blowing open the storage tanks with chains of charges. The area was subsequently used as an assault course by military, though not before some trouble resulted from having damaged the equipment. Though the number of quarrymen might suggest that they were familiar with explosives, the type of stone quarrying practised in the Purbecks made no use of these and was almost entirely manual.

What remained of the demolition equipment was disposed of by Peter White in the 1980s during a Police amnesty. All that survived was a single capsule of the corrosive acid from a time pencil, found in the floodwater at the bottom of the OB, the rest of the time pencil having corroded away.

 Time Pencil Acid Capsule

The acid vial from a time pencil. After discovery, it was sent by the Police to Porton Down to try and find out what it was.

About 6 months after his father died, Martyn Dallenger had a knock at the door from Fred Simpson, Sergeant of the Creech Barrow patrol. He wanted to speak to Maurice, and told Martyn of his involvement in Auxiliary Units. He had never heard anything of this from his father who had kept the secret to his grave. In retrospect he remembers that he wore an Aux Units stand down badge (see below) on the back side of his jacket lapel, such that it could only be seen by turning the lapel forwards.

Peter White still has his father’s stand down badge

Fred Whites well worn Stand Down badge

Fred White’s well worn Stand Down badge.

After the war, Douglas Norman worked in London helping with reconstruction work. He was selected to help repair the House of Parliament, due to his stone working skills.

A memorial stone was being erected in Langton Matravers to remember these men and all who served during the war. CART helped with a display about Auxiliary Units in the village hall on the day. More here.

WO files 199/3390, 199/3391
Langton Matravers during the Second World war by Reg Saville (local history society publication)
Personal information from Mr Peter White, son of Fred White, Mr Martyn Dallenger, son of Maurice Dallenger, Mr Andrew Norman, grandnephew of Mr Douglas Norman, Mrs Sue Wilson, great-granddaughter of Hedley Lander.