Jan 172014

hereford_worcesterThis morning we spoke to Howard & Toni on the breakfast show of BBC Hereford & Worcester about our research in those counties.

You can see more info on the patrols in Herefordshire here and more on the Worcestershire patrols here.

The radio interview can be listened to here.

Thanks for the coverage guys.

Jan 152014

We have recently discovered an excellent rare DVD made by Reader’s Digest called ‘The Secrets of Underground Britain – WARTIME SECRETS’.

Part of this DVD features information on the British Resistance and an interview with Auxilier Ivan Potter and Aux expert and author John Warwicker.

We have been able to upload the main Aux element to YouTube and it can be seen below or directly here.

The DVD was produced in 2008 and as far as we can tell is no longer available to buy new. We found a copy on Amazon and it appears they sometimes come up on eBay. We do not believe it has been broadcast terrestrially.

Dec 172013

Research has uncovered that the Western Morning News, a local paper in the Devon area, exposed and outed the Auxiliary Units just 17 months after they had been stood down!

Western Morning News 1945

Just one month later the same paper published an interview by an un-named Auxilier (see below). This is fairly shocking as nearly all Auxiliers signed the Official Secrets Act which prevented them from speaking to anyone about their role, needless to say some took this more seriously than others.

The general secrecy of Aux Units during the war varied around the country with some counties being far more relaxed than others.

Western Morning News Aux Interview

But this was not the first public exposure.

In April 1945 The Times on Saturday published an article called ‘A Britain’s Secret “Underground” Invasion Spy Force Stood Down’.


If you know of any other press from this time that talks about the British Resistance please do let us know.

Oct 192013

[Published by Adrian Lee in the Daily Express on 19/10/2013. Online version can be seen here a PDF of the main article can be seen here

IN BRITAIN’S darkest hours during the Second World War it seemed only a matter of time before German forces swept across the Channel.

Our army was in disarray following the retreat from Dunkirk and Winston Churchill tried to rally the nation with stirring speeches.

But behind the bravado the Prime Minister was a worried man. Secretly he began planning for the day when the Nazis invaded and Britain suffered the same fate as other occupied European nations.

Churchill ordered the foundation of a guerrilla movement which would attack conquering German forces from behind their own lines. In the summer of 1940 the recruitment began of some 3,500 men to spearhead this resistance.

The volunteers, who used the cover of the Home Guard for their activities, were trained in the use of explosives, taught to become silent assassins and heavily armed. In the event of invasion they would melt away from their homes and try to cause havoc as Hitler’s troops marched through Britain.

Officially the British Resistance did not exist and they were given the nondescript title of Auxiliary Units. It was not until the Sixties that details began to leak out but even now the Government does not acknowledge the bravery of these men. However, next month veterans from the 640 patrols that were scattered around the country will for the first time take part in the Remembrance Sunday parade past the Cenotaph.

The movement was founded in July 1940 when Germany was battling for the air superiority that would be the trigger for Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain, to begin. Hitler’s army chiefs were so confident they predicted Britain would be occupied within a month.

Churchill began to formulate his resistance plan and because of its isolation Coleshill House, a stately home near Swindon, was chosen as the headquarters for the guerrillas.

They were led by Colonel Colin McVean Gubbins, who had served with distinction in the First World War. He was also an explosives expert and had written a handbook on guerrilla warfare.

“Churchill felt that Britain had been rendered almost defenceless after Dunkirk and wanted to be prepared for the worst,” says Tom Sykes, founder of the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team, which has traced the history of the resistance movement. “These men would not come out and fight the Germans face-to-face but as soon as the church bells rang to signal invasion they would go underground. They would then be involved in guerrilla warfare such as destroying rail and supply lines and setting booby traps.”

Express Article

Each patrol consisted of about six men with a single leader and the recruits all knew the local area like the back of their hand.

“They were the sons of the soil, such as farmers and poachers, who knew how to live off the land,” adds Sykes. “The focus was mainly on coastal areas, which would have been the first points of invasion, and the network stretched from Scotland to Cornwall.”

Although the men wore the uniform of the Home Guard during training to protect their true identity they would have operated in civilian clothes after invasion. Each patrol had a purpose-built bunker with an escape tunnel but the volunteers knew that they faced almost certain death if the Germans invaded. They were under strict orders not to be captured. Each patrol, or cell, was expected to operate independently with no contact with colleagues in adjoining areas.

“Life expectancy would have been about two weeks and these men were under no illusion that this would be a suicide mission if an invasion happened,” says Sykes. “But they were allowed to tell no one, including their families, of the role ahead.”

As a result some members of this clandestine unit suffered abuse from neighbours who felt they should be away fighting and it was not uncommon for the men to be handed white feathers. But on Thursday evenings they would slip away from their homes and day jobs and travel to Coleshill House for weekends of intense training.

Trevor Minors, now 89, was part of a resistance patrol based in Perranporth, Cornwall where the long sandy beaches were considered especially vulnerable.

He recalls: “I was only 16 and I took the place in the patrol of my brother Eric, who was sent away to fight. For a young man it was quite a thing. You couldn’t even tell your parents. It was very exciting to have our own secret bunker.

“If the Germans did invade we would have been expected to stay there for three or four weeks, then come out and attack from the rear and do as much damage as we could.”

He was issued with a Smith & Wesson revolver and a commando knife which were carried at all times. Other weapons included Sten guns and a sniper’s rifle with telescopic sights. His kit included water purifying tablets and food rations for three weeks.

Trevor, who became a miner after the war, adds: “We were trained in the use of all types of explosives, including phosphorus bombs, Molotov cocktails and booby trap devices. We were shown how to use magnetic clamps fitted with gelignite and attach them to tanks or a railway line just to cause as much disruption as possible.” In fact the men of the resistance were usually better armed and trained than most regular soldiers.

Another task for the guerrillas would have been to assassinate collaborators and possibly key figures such as police chiefs whose knowledge would have been crucial to the Germans.

Quite how effective the fighters would have been against 200,000 invading Germans was mercifully never put to the test and the organisation was wound down later in the war when the threat of invasion receded. Some of the men went on to join the SAS, putting their expertise to good use.

It’s estimated there are about 100 surviving veterans and some remain bitter that their role in the conflict has been overlooked. After the war the only recognition for Churchill’s secret army was a small badge presented to each veteran bearing the numbers of their three battalions: 201, 202 and 203.

Tom Sykes says: “To see the veterans and family members march past the Cenotaph will be an emotional day for all of us. Although the members of the British Resistance have never themselves asked or pushed for recognition it is fantastic that the country finally gets the chance to appreciate the ultimate sacrifice they were willing to make to ensure our freedom.”


Oct 172013

daily expressRepresentatives of the British Resistance will be marching this November at the Cenotaph for the first time. More on that here.

News of this has reached the Daily Express thanks to our very talented Press Officer, Andy Chatterton.

They will be reporting on the proposed march and our research work this Saturday. Please do support the cause and buy a copy.

Oct 092013

We have plotted all the known Auxiliary Unit patrols and their bases and added them to our site. 

MapFor the first time a map showing the regional breakdown of all known patrols, operational bases and observation posts of the secret British resistance is available to the public.

We have gathered our comprehensive records and patrol reports to plot all the known groups across the UK.

We felt that the clearest way for the public to identify patrols of interest to them was to plot them onto an interactive map.

The highly secret nature of the units means that it is highly unlikely that a map with this much detail has ever existed – so it really is a very special resource indeed.

The map shows all those patrols we currently know about, but we are getting in new information all of the time.

If anyone has further information about the identified patrols, or believes that there are some locations missing, then we would urge them to come forward!

We plan to update all the county pages with a smaller regional map in the near future.

Aug 302013

Swindon Heritage Magazine

This month Graham Carter from Swindon Heritage Magazine has written a great article about Coleshill and the Swindon connection to Auxiliary Units.

The two page spread features images of the new replica Operational Base at Coleshill and Graham was guided around by dedicated National Trust researcher Roger Green.

A hard copy of the article can be seen here.

Aug 202013

Today a panel detailing the history of the Aux Units and postmistress Mabel Stranks was unveiled at the old Post Office in Highworth.

Me and Justin

The panel was unveiled by Justin Tomlinson, Swindon North MP and long time supporter of CART and now gives the public a real insight into the role that Mabel Stranks played and adds to the plaque that is already placed outside the former post office. You can see the full report including audio, video and images of the day here

Jul 312013


The team behind the British Resistance Archive will be unveiling a new panel detailing the history of postmistress Mabel Stranks and her remarkable war

Mabel StranksDuring the dark days of 1940 with the Nazi army poised across the Channel a secret resistance force was being set up across the country. Scores of volunteers who were in jobs considered too important for the war effort for them to be called up to the regular forces were being asked to undertake what amounted to a suicide mission in the event of an invasion. It is difficult to imagine what role the sleepy market town of Highworth and its postmistress, Mabel Stranks, could have played in this drama but over the last few years their considerable significance has been revealed, and now a new panel is being placed at the former post office in Highworth commemorating their part.

The aim for the resistance force, or Auxiliary Units as they were officially known, was to have small groups of highly trained, well armed men who in the event of an invasion would disappear to their operational bases hidden beneath the British countryside.  They would wait for the invasion to literally pass over them and then appear at night to disrupt the enemy supply chain, destroy transport and supplies, ‘deal’ with collaborators and generally make a nuisance of themselves to allow the regular army to counter-attack.

In order to get the level of skill needed a training camp was required and Coleshill House, less than three miles from Highworth was selected as the perfect location. All of those that volunteered signed the Official Secrets Act and had to be properly vetted before being allowed near Coleshill. To maintain this secrecy and to ensure that those who had not been selected and vetted did not get through to the camp, recruits were ordered to arrive at Highworth and report to Mabel Stranks.

Highworth Post Office in 2012.

The post office was the perfect ‘go-between’ with strangers visiting all the time and the postmistress known for her unassuming nature and discretion. When they arrived the recruits would ask for Mrs Mabel Stranks, give a password

and be told to wait. Mabel would then go into her office and make a series of phone calls. A car would then arrive and those ‘screened’ as official by Mrs Stranks were driven to Coleshill House by the most indirect route. Those suspected as being unofficial by Mabel were taken elsewhere. The Highworth post office proved to be such an effective tool that it was aptly given the name the ‘Auxiliary Gateway’.

After arriving at Coleshill volunteers would be trained to do everything from blowing up bridges to slitting throats. They were even taught how to booby trap toilets in the grand country houses that the German heirachy would no doubt have taken over had they invaded.

Now a panel has been created by the Coleshill Auxiliary Research team (CART) the team behind the British Resistance Archive, a group of researchers dedicated to finding out more about the Auxiliary Units. The panel provides information about the Auxiliary Units and the role that Highworth post office and its postmistress played.

Tom Sykes, founder of CART said. “This is a remarkable story of an incredible woman and the part she played in one of the most secretive organisations of WWII. The bravery of Mrs Stranks cannot be underestimated. The life expectancy of an Auxiliary Unit member was just 14 days, and she was all too aware of the reprisals that had been meted out by the Germans to anyone found to be resisting or helping those that were. She never accepted recognition for her part in this secret operation and like many of those she screened, never talked to anyone about her role until her very last days.

“The panel gives the public a real insight into the role the Mabel Stranks played and adds to the blue plaque that is already placed at the former post office. We are much indebted to current owner Matthew Walker who has not only given us permission to place the panel on his property but helped us with the cost and logistics as well. We hope that the panel will act as a permanent reminder to the bravery of many ‘ordinary’ members of public during the Second World War.”

The panel is due to be unveiled on 20th August at 2pm at the Old Highworth post office. Justin Tomlinson, Swindon North MP and long time supporter of CART will be unveiling the information panel, Matthew Walker, current owner of the property will be attending alongside CART county information officer for Coleshill, Bill Ashby. All will be available for interview.

*** ENDS ***

About CART & The British Resistance Archive.

The Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) publishes its findings on the British Resistance Archive (BRA) website.

CART also provides an internal network for serious and dedicated researchers who focus on the British Resistance and agree with CART’s core value of making the research public.

  • CART is made up of select volunteer historians and published writers known as County Information Officers (CIOS) and also public members.
  • CART is not a business or an academic body of professional researchers.
  • CART is non-profit making and has no financial support from any company or organisation. It is funded solely by donations and the revenue it makes from the sale of various items sold in the shop.
  • Since CART’s birth in June 2009 the website has seen over 110,000 unique visitors and has attracted TV, Radio and national press attention.

For further information about CART please go to this page http://www.coleshillhouse.com/about-us.php or call 0872 045 9940 or email hq@coleshillhouse.com