May 202018
 
France 1944 – Operation Bulbasket was largely an ex-Aux Units Operation, with some ex-desert SAS, and a few other new recruits. Dorset, Norfolk and Scotland Aux Units provided the bulk of the men.
A small group from the local Royal British Legion  Poitou-Charentes branch in France are recreating the cycle ride undertaken by Lt Tomos Stephens as part of Op Bulbasket in 1944. Disguised as a Frenchman and riding a pre-war pushbike, he rode from Sazas near Montromillion to the railway marshalling yard at Chatellerault to gather information about fuel tankers stored there. It was a 120km (75 mile) round trip in a single day, an incredible feat. The intelligence was supplied to the RAF who bombed the fuel stored at the railway yard, significantly slowing the 2nd SS Das Reich Panzer Division who lacked enough fuel for their move north towards Normandy. Sadly Lt Stephens was shot after capture, having given himself up so a young maquisard could escape, hoping that his uniform would mean he would become a prisoner, whereas the Maquis were always executed. That young man witnessed Lt Stephens death from his hiding place (and recorded this a few years ago – the story differing from that given by the Bulbasket survivors who were told third hand he had been beaten to death). Lt Stephens was buried in a family vault in nearby Verriéres.
The ride is on Sunday June 10th this year. You can help by sponsoring them through their JustGiving page. This branch funded the erection of memorials at the St Sauvant and Verriéres sites in recent years. They also provide the standard bearers for ceremonies at Rom and Verriéres each year.
There is more information here:
Their JustGiving online donation page is here:
(It also covers other events he is doing).
Money raised goes to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
Do support them if you can. Or even just send a message of support and tell your friends. This RBL branch are doing what they can to keep alive the memory of the men lost on Operation Bulbasket.

May 212016
 
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Inside the WWII secret wireless station, or IN-Station in Norwich, which has just been protected as a scheduled monument. The entrance to the third chamber, which is where the escape tunnel begins from © Norfolk Historic Environment Service.A secret Second World War bunker built on the orders of Winston Churchill lay hidden under a Thorpe St Andrew estate for almost 70 years.

A secret Second World War bunker built on the orders of Winston Churchill lay hidden under a Thorpe St Andrew estate for almost 70 years.

Its entrance is behind a bookcase, its aerial was disguised in a tree with the feeder cable under the bark, and there was an escape tunnel in case its operatives were discovered.

Now the underground wireless station, on private land at Pinebanks, off Yarmouth Road, has been protected as a scheduled monument by the government on the advice of Historic England.

The rare IN-Station, also known as a Zero Station, was part of a mysterious secret wireless network operated mostly by civilian agents.

Wireless stations were set up in 1940 by Winston Churchill in response to the increasing threat of German invasion.

Pinebanks in Norwich picture by Adrian Judd for EN

Pinebanks in Norwich picture by Adrian Judd for EN

It is thought that just 32 of the bunkers were built in England during the Second World War, with just a dozen discovered so far and the Pinebanks bunker is one of the most intact examples.

The station, which received messages from OUT-Stations in enemy-occupied areas, was found by a retired groundsman in the gardens of Pinebanks in 2012.

It has now been awarded special protected status to preserve it and to celebrate its history.

Heritage minister David Evennett said: “This underground wireless station is a rare and unusual example of our Second World War heritage and deserves to be protected.

“It is a reminder too of the often forgotten role so many civilians played in the war effort often acting in secret and undercover.”

The recruits in Churchill’s Secret Army, also known as the British Resistance Organisation, had to verbally swear to secrecy, with one hand on a Bible. In some cases even their families knew nothing of the role that required them to leave their homes regularly at night.

Historic England’s Tony Calladine said: “This amazing place that has survived intact played a highly secret but vitally important role in preparing us for a feared invasion during the Second World War. Because so much information about the stations was either hidden or destroyed, this small but significant dugout has great potential to teach us about a relatively little-known area of our 20th century military history.”

A spokesman for Ocubis Ltd, development manager for site owner Berliet Ltd, said: “We have been liaising with BDC and Historic England and, as we have always stated, will ensure the setting of this historically important former Norwich WW2 IN-station in Thorpe St Andrew is preserved.”

It is thought that the bunker was built under the Jarrold family’s tennis court at Pinebanks in the 1940s.

Details only emerged after the family’s former gardener, who had to sign the Official Secrets Act, told a young groundsman about the construction work he had witnessed.

The gardener did not disclose this until after his retirement, and he did not reveal the location, with this emerging later.

Winston Churchill had set up a secret army unit called GHQ Auxillary Units with a particular branch known as Special Duties, and wireless stations were built as part of this.

Civilian volunteers living in the most threatened coastal areas of the country were trained to spy and report on German military activities from within occupied areas, with their messages received by IN-Stations like the one at Pinebanks.

Details about their locations and construction were kept secret and very little documentation of the stations exists.

Information was protected in case they should be needed again in the future.

Historic England is asking the public to come forward with information about family members who were trained to be civilian spies, or any clues as to where the remaining 20 IN-stations lay hidden.

Email communications@HistoricEngland.org.uk

Report by Sam Russell (Eastern Daily Press)

SEE THE FULL REPORT ON THIS LOCATION HERE. 

Jun 222015
 
Copyright Katie Hart - Just Regional

Copyright Katie Hart – Just Regional

Jill Monk from Aylsham in Norfolk has passed away at the age of 89.

During the war Jill worked for the Special Duties Branch (part of the Aux Units) as a message courier for her father’s secret radio station. This was cleverly hidden in the coal hole of the family house at Aylsham where he was a doctor.

Jill would be sent out at night, commonly on horseback, to deliver any messages they had received. The messages were hidden inside split tennis balls and deposited via a disguised pipe. Jill had two horses, one chestnut, for riding during the day, and one black, for night exercises when she would ride cross-country.

See more about her work below.


Towards the end of the war Jill became a radar operator at the Chain Home Radar Station in Stoke Holy Cross. In 1946, she competed at the Aylsham Show on her then favourite mount, Merry Monarch, a horse she had also favoured, because of its dark coat colour, when out at night delivering secret messages. She remained a regular competitor at the Aylsham Show for many years, first as a horse rider and later as a judge and sponsor of the Highland Pony in-hand classes.

Her remarkable story is catalogued both in ‘With Britain in Mortal Danger’ and ‘Churchill’s Underground Army‘ by John Warwicker or you can read our interview with her here.

Aug 182012
 

We have added information to the site on the Middleton Auxiliary Unit from Norfolk.

Their Operational Base was built by the patrol members themselves. All building materials were ‘borrowed’ from local sources. The roof was constructed from railway sleepers and corrugated sheeting covered with roofing felt.  Roadside kerbstones were used for building the walls.

See the full report here

Jun 072012
 

Norwich Zero Station – Many 0f our researchers believe this to be the most significant ‘find’ in terms of research into the Special Duties Section in the last decade.

In the spring of 2012, we were contacted by a retired grounds man who informed us about the existence of a secret WWII ‘bunker’ and a meeting was arranged within the same week.

Armed with spades, shovels, a crow bar, and a metal detector we met the owners’ development manager at the site. What we found left us quite breathless (in more than one way)

The property owners acted swiftly and with great responsibility in that the in-house surveyors as well as Norfolk County archaeologists were informed within hours. Furthermore, thanks to the owners’ generosity and trust we were the first to carry out a detailed survey before anyone else came on site, and for this we are immensely grateful. Bound by our promise not to talk about what we had seen, we quietly continued our research and we produced a report to be used for guidance by all concerned – knowing that nobody would be familiar with what they would be seeing, and that for this reason not only would many small details go unnoticed but, more importantly, the importance of this find might not be fully understood. Nowhere in the UK was there another Zero-station in a similar state of preservation and with so many original features still in place. Consequently, we suggested that the structure is of national importance and that it should for this reason be preserved in its entirety.

In due course, the Norfolk County archaeologists requested our presence when conducting their own assessment – needless to say that we were very pleased to be invited to meet them. To our great delight, they unanimously decided on the spot to involve National Heritage, resulting in the Zero station being declared a Scheduled Monument of national importance. Our report now forms part of the archaeological survey of the site.

Our thanks go to the landowner and the hard work Evelyn and Adrian have put in to producing this report.

See the full exclusive report here

 

 

Apr 052012
 

By Evelyn Simak & Adrian Pye.

John Everett came from an old Norfolk farming family.  His grandfather had owned Old Hall Farm in Cley and his father farmed at Thwaite Hall Farm (near Aylsham), where John grew up.  After the war, he was manager of Lodge Farm in Southrepps, a farm which he later bought in partnership and subsequently became the owner of that farm and the adjacent Froghall Farm in Northrepps.  After his retirement, John and his wife Shirley moved to Blakeney, where he dedicated much of his time to gardening. He also was a fine shot, a keen cyclist and a tireless walker.  He also read extensively, especially biographies.

John had the ability to make friends wherever he went and there can be few who knew, or had some connection with, so many people in North Norfolk.  Most of his friends, however, would not have known that during the war John had been a member of Auxiliary Units.  After war had been declared John, under-age and unknown to his parents, joined the Alby and Thwaite company Local Defence Volunteers which later became the Home Guard. The members were initially armed only with pick axe handles and personally owned shotguns.  At the age of just 17 John was promoted to Lance Corporal.

Still only 17 in the autumn of 1941, John was approached by local farmer Alex Scott about joining Auxiliary Units and soon became a member of Alby Patrol in Norfolk Group 3.  He was issued with a standard set of AU clothing, consisting of battle dress, great coat, army regulation boots, ankle-length rubber boots for walking quietly, webbing, camouflage scarf, gas mask and a tin helmet. The weapons initially issued were a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver for each patrol member, rubber truncheons and commando daggers, and some members also had a knuckle-duster.  In addition they had a Thompson submachine gun (carried by George Wolsternholm), a P14 .303 rifle and a .22 single-shot rifle fitted with telescopic sight and silencer.  As the best shot in the patrol, the .22 rifle was assigned to John to be used as a close-range sniper rifle.

In his memoirs, which according to his request could be made public only after his passing, John recalls with his characteristic humour: “For joining something so covert, the “signing-on ceremony” consisted only of signing the Official Secrets Act by the side of Topshill Road – a woodland track about 50 metres from the patrol’s OB – witnessed by Captain Duncan, the Norfolk Group 3 CO, and patrol leader Alex Scott.”

Until then John had had no idea that such a thing existed nor that Alex Scott was a member of such a unit.  Within 30 minutes of signing the Official Secrets Act the other members of Alby Patrol had turned up for one of their twice-weekly meetings at the OB.  John knew all four of them personally but had had no idea that they were part of a “secret army” prior to this.  At the time the patrol consisted of Sgt Alex Scott, George Wosternholm, David McKay, Alec Cargill and a Mr Parish (transferred out – replaced by John Everett) They were shortly afterwards joined by Leonard Daniels who was transferred from Matlaske Patrol.

We have enjoyed John and Shirley’s hospitality in their Blakeney home on several occasions and John very generously and patiently shared with us his memories. The information John kindly shared with us was always given after careful consideration and it has always been reliable.  When John was not sure of something he would say so.  Nevertheless, some of the information contained in his memoirs, made available to us by John’s widow Shirley after his passing, came as a huge surprise to us and has resulted in filling a number of existing gaps in the history – not only of Alby Patrol but concerning Norfolk Auxiliary Units in general – that we had so far been able to gather, and for this we are immensely grateful.

John was amongst the patrol members selected for advanced training and he recalls attending six 1-week courses at Coleshill. The training generally consisted of observation skills, map and compass reading, navigation by the starts, new developments in underground warfare and sabotage.  All of John’s training at Coleshill had been completed by the end of 1943.

About four days before D-Day (Operation Overlord) John and several other local Auxiliers received orders to be at Eagle Corner, Erpingham, to be picked up by army transport. They were taken to Norwich railway station, and once aboard a train their sealed orders were read out to them.  They learnt that they were being sent to the Isle of Wight, with no further explanation being provided.  On their arrival the men from Norfolk Group 3 soon discovered that Auxiliers from all over the country had been sent to the Isle of Wight and they were informed that they were to join regular army units, and with them form anti-invasion patrols in case of a German counter attack.  John was allocated to accompany a unit of Welsh Borderers to be stationed at the village of Freshwater where they were soon joined by members of the Durham Miners Auxiliary Units.

On D-Day, John could clearly see part of the invasion fleet leave the Solent and later he heard the bombing and shelling on the Normandy beaches.  He could see the pawls of smoke on the horizon and aircraft and ships gong and coming from France to England.  After having spent three weeks on the Isle of Wight the Auxiliers were relieved of their duties and replaced by others.

After stand-down all equipment and explosives had to be returned and the army took all the items from the OB.  Like all the other patrol members, John was visited by Captain Duncan (Norfolk Group 3 CO) and Alfred Barrett (their Quartermaster), who collected personal equipment including side arms and uniforms.  About three months later he received a small enamel lapel badge which he has kept in a safe place ever since.  After a party held at Stuart Hall/Suckling Place for the Norfolk Auxiliers the men were finally able to resume their everyday lives.

John Everett passed away on 3rd March 2012 after a short illness.  He was laid to rest at Stiffkey, in the churchyard he had tended together with his wife Shirley for the past 14 years.  The photograph at the top of the page shows him in 1943 in the garden of Thwaite Hall Farm.

Mar 162012
 

Today we have added a report on the Easton Park / Glevering Auxiliary Unit Patrol in Suffolk.

The patrol was sometimes also referred to as Glevering Patrol, presumably because the patrol leader and several members came from Glevering, a hamlet located a couple of miles south-east of Easton.  The patrol formed part of Framlingham Group (8th Bn/Framlingham GHQ 202 Bn Home Guard Reserve) The image shows an old map of  the park area.

You can read the full report here

Mar 162012
 

Last week we added a report on the Aylsham Special Duties Out-Station in Norfolk.

The Out-Station used to be located in a large town house called ‘The Beeches’, in the historic market town of Aylsham (North Norfolk). The property was owned by Dr Alec George Holman and his wife Grace Kathleen. Their daughter, Jill (now Jill Monk, seen left), recalls that her father was one of the first civilians to be recruited by SDS to gather information because of his local knowledge. Jill was only 14 years old when she was enrolled.

You can see the full report here