Jul 192015

Farringdon is a small village 6 miles east of Exeter. This patrol report has been produced by our Devon CIO Nina Hannaford.

The patrol utilised the existing structure of Farringdon House Ice House for their Operational Base.

Farringdon Auxiliary Unit 6It is possible that the “entrance” has been created post war as the blocks appear damaged at the sides. If the block wall was complete, thus sealing off the original entrance passageway to the Ice House leaving only the tunnel, this would make escape more viable.

Read Nina’s full and fascinating patrol report here.


Jan 232014


In November 2013 88 year old Dillwyn Thomas marched at the Cenotaph for the first time as an Auxilier.

Dillwyn was a member of the Margam Patrol near Port Talbot.

He had kept his time in the Aux Units a very closely guarded secret and even his family did not know. He has now spoken to us about his time in Aux units but this is only a tiny part of an amazing life.

He has now recorded his life in a fascinating new book called ‘A View From The Main Ring’ which is available to buy here


His time in Aux Units was still secret when the book was written and only a few paragraphs discuss his time as an Auxilier.

The blurb on the book reads.

‘Eighty eight year old farmer and horse breeder, Dillwyn Thomas, has broken his 70-year silence to reveal his orders to destroy his home town if the Germans had invaded during the Second World War. He was part of a top secret Army unit that was ready to blow Port Talbot and the surrounding area “to smithereens” to stop the Nazis getting their hands on key sites.

Dillwyn went on to become a prominent figure in UK farming and horse breeding circles and has recorded his life history in A View From The Main Ring. It involves his role centre stage at the UK’s premier farming show, the Royal Welsh, conversations with royalty, an infamous shipwreck, acting with Richard Burton and the dramas of World War 11.

His life and experience has spanned the extraordinary changes of the twentieth century, from the days when manual labour and horse power drove the production of food to today’s computer chips and satellite systems. But it’s his innate understanding of people and livestock that have underpinned his work with the Royal Welsh and proved useful in conversations with Royalty.’

May 172013

By Martin Neville (Full Article here

Remains of the auxillary unit hide-out (since collapsed) at Kemp Hill Farm on the outskirts of Ryde in 1989. Picture copyright Ben Houfton/Adrian Searle.

Remains of the Auxillary unit hide-out (since collapsed) at Kemp Hill Farm on the outskirts of Ryde in 1989. Picture copyright Ben Houfton/Adrian Searle.

THEY were sworn to absolute secrecy about their existence when ‘stood down’ at the end of 1944.However, in remote areas of the countryside, it is possible to find the relics of the most secret of all the military forces which operated on the Island during the dark days of the Second World War.

The IW was a strategic zone for the defence of Britain. Consequently, in addition to many military units and Home Guard, there was a well-organised band of ordinary people involved in what would have been the British resistance.

Little was known about the shadowy ‘secret army’ — a well-trained corps of men specially selected to undertake ‘terrorist’ activities in the event of a German invasion.

John Riddell, whose late father, L/Cpl Jack Riddell, was one such man, said: “These were the men who, at the time of invasion, would have simply ‘disappeared’ from their homes and workplaces to purpose-built and fully supplied covert underground operational bases.

“The patrols were issued with high-quality equipment, explosives and weaponry to fulfil the role of a British resistance.”

Selection was undertaken by recommendation followed by personal contact without the actual task being disclosed or recruitment formalities.

Normal civilian work was retained with secret training and operations taking place during evenings and weekends.

Those recruited into what were known as Auxiliary Units were given Home Guard uniforms and told they had secretly been assigned to one of three special battalions of the Home Guard — the 201st in Scotland, the 202nd in the north of England and 203rd in the south.

Mr Riddell explained: “As not formally enrolled in anything military, these men could never claim protection by the Geneva Convention as afforded to all other uniformed fighting men.

“The German authorities would have regarded them as terrorists and treated them accordingly if captured. They would have faced torture and execution when detected, if not killed in combat.

“In the event of invasion and occupation, the men of the patrols were aware their operational life would be short-lived.

“Their understanding of the situation when recruited was that their activities would probably last no longer than two or three weeks, at best, before detection by the German authorities using tracker dogs.”

So who were the members of the IW Auxiliary Unit?

Historical author Adrian Searle said the man selected to make the initial contacts was Sammy Watson, a well-known estate agent and valuer, who also had a useful part-time role as secretary to the local branch of the National Farmers’ Union.

In his book, The IW at War 1939-45, Mr Searle includes an account by Eileen Foss, who lived during the war at Godshill Park Farm, home of her father-in-law, another auxiliary unit member, who described the progress of Mr Watson’s secret army.

She revealed those approached were mostly drawn from the farming community and known by Sammy to be trustworthy, discreet men.

The two men in overall command of the Island groups were Capt H. C. A. Blishen, of Arreton, and Lt J. T. W. Fisk, of Brighstone.

An inaugural meeting was held at the White Lion, Arreton, when guerilla tactics and the making and laying of booby traps were discussed.

She said: “The hideouts were dug with much patience and determination using enamel wash basins to take out the earth after it had been dug with trowels. Hollow tree trunks and natural contours of the land were used to conceal entrances, and a system was set up to warn of approaching friends or foes.”

Other accounts researched by Mr Searle add further detail to the story.

In the book, Charles Holbrook, an auxiliary member, recalled: “Inside the hideout, or observation base as it was known, we had four bunks and the means for cooking, with about 100lb of high-explosive time delays, detonators, both cortex and ordinary fuse — besides the Smith and Wesson revolvers and knives.

“We attended a meeting of all groups at the Drill Hall in Newport, when we were instructed in the art of assassination by Russian guerilla fighters, who had been through the thick of the German invasion in their own country.”

Other men known to have served as group leaders include S. G. Taylor, of Arreton, and C. W. Burt, of Shalfleet.

Mr Searle said there were plans to wholly evacuate the IW in the event of invasion, leaving only the auxiliary units in place to do their bit.

Research by volunteers of the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) suggested auxiliary unit patrols existed in Arreton, Shanklin, Godshill, Whitwell, Sandown, Brighstone, Calbourne, Chillerton, Cowes, Newtown and Ningwood.

Mr Riddell said: “From other records, it is evident at least two patrols were operational in the East Cowes, Osborne and Whippingham areas. Information would suggest at least one operational base was hidden on the Osborne Estate.

“Targets for the patrols certainly included Osborne House, which military sources indicate would have been an officers’ mess and a probable control centre for the occupying Wehrmacht and Gestapo.

“Kingston Power Station on the Medina and the Somerton Airfield were the subject of patrol night exercises and therefore probable reconnoitred targets.

“The shipbuilding and aircraft works of East and West Cowes could well have been on their list for attention. Likewise the Whippingham Heights anti-aircraft gun site, which would inevitably have been commandeered by an occupying military force, would have been the subject of ‘investigation’ patrols.”

In May 1944, during the final build-up to D-Day, members of auxiliary unit patrols in Northumberland were issued with railway warrants and told to report, in Home Guard uniform, to a local station.

Following secret movement orders, and travelling in reserved compartments, they began a long trek to the south coast. Similarly, uniformed men joined the train at many stops en route.

Transferring at Portsmouth to a Southern Railway ferry, the resistance men crossed the crowded Solent to Ryde.

It was only then they were told the reason for their journey.

Mr Searle said: “A German counter-invasion of the IW after D-Day was regarded as a very real possibility by the planners of Operation Overlord.

“If this transpired, the auxiliary units were under orders to destroy the invasion force from behind its own lines. In total secrecy, the men scoured the Island for possible landing sites and for the best positioning of their own defences. The exercise completed, they dug in and waited.”

When the counter-strike failed to materialise, the men left the Island and headed for home.

Mr Riddell said the men of the auxiliary units should be remembered for what they did as well as what they might have done.

“More than providing a force to combat German occupation, to defend parts of the country and to additionally test the security of the established forces, it gave opportunity to test theories about modern guerilla warfare for many years to follow,” he said.

Dinner brought unit members together
ON JANUARY 20, 1945, a significantly historical dinner was held at the Masonic Hall, Ryde.
Gathered together for the first time in five years were the majority of the members of the Island’s secret guerilla organisation, which was formed and trained in readiness for the invasion of German forces.
A copy of the post stand-down dinner menu for that Saturday evening offers evidence of the men involved.
Headed ‘203rd (GHQ Res) Bn. Home Guard. Auxiliary Units’, it shows the area group commander was Capt H. C. Blishen MBE.
Patrol leaders:
Lt T. A. Cowley, Lt E. G. Rapkins, 2/Lt S. Taylor, Sgt H. Foss, Sgt J. Blackman, Sgt A. Newman, Sgt F. Buckett, Sgt C. S. Good, Sgt W. Buckell.
Cpl A. F. Le Maitre (admin), Pte C. E. Herbert (shown as musical director for the event).
Other persons named:
Col R. E. Pickering (guest), Lt Col F. H. Fernie (guest), Maj N.V. Oxenden (guest, HQ Auxiliary Units), Lt Col F. Nevill Jennings.
The following names appear as autographed signatures on the back of the menu:
L/Cpl Jack Riddell, A. F. Maitre, C. L…., R. C. Ward, H. R. Watt, Stan Williams, J. Kennedy, W. Buckell, T. H. Farnie, E. S. Barton, N. V. Oxenden, Edwardson, H. Blishen, A. Shearwood, R. Pickering, S. Thompson, C. W. Brannon, J. Blackman, A. M. Long, A. W. Bowden, B. Keegan, R. Casson, J. W. R…., Edward Raphine, C. F. Rayner.

Reporter: martinn@iwcpmail.co.uk

Oct 212012

Bachelor’s Hall in Hundon, Suffolk was the first headquarters of the Special Duties Section or SDS. The top secret communication network set up to allow SDS members to report on German troop movement if we had been invaded.

The report is based primarily on information supplied by Capt Ken Ward (Royal Corps of Signals), the leader of the original TRD design team (interview 10 August 1999) and it can be read here.

Sep 262012

Tonight at 6:30pm on BBC2 is a programme called ‘How We Won The War’ presented by Jules Hudson.

‘In this episode local historian John Sadler meets Jules to reveal the story of the Home Guard’s Auxiliary units.’

Well they have already got it wrong by mentioning the Home Guard!!! Will the BBC ever read the research on our site and others before reporting!!!

This is an extract of what is in the episode,

“The units were highly trained in a radical defence strategy – the idea being that they would hold up Germans on the beaches should the Nazis invade Britain.

Men were selected from those prevented to going to war because their occupations were reserved. They’d then be organised into small, cover units which it’s believed, were issued with kill lists – identifying known German sympathisers. They were trained in how to sabotage and create mayhem behind enemy lines.

John explains how secreting the men deep in Britain’s countryside, and if necessary killing British citizens was revolutionary – and ‘dark stuff’.

The men had to keep their role secret from their families and girlfriends, and were told that their life expectancy should Germans invade would be no more than 14 days. Amongst the recruits was renowned actor Anthony Quayle.

By 1941, there were some 5,000 auxiliaries poised to tackle any German invasion – brave young men determined to help us win the war – whatever the cost.”

More info here

Sep 122012

Another brave group of men have been added to our website. This time East Yorkshire’s Cottingham NORTH Patrol.

The Operational Bunker was hidden inside a Boiler House.

Our researcher Andy Gwynne has prepared a report on the men here

Sep 082012

On Thursday we saw the start of a new series on BBC2 called Wartime Farm.

Steve Mason, our CIO for Hampshire was featured in the show and went to pains to advise the production company on the accurate history of both the Auxiliary Units and SDS.

Sadly, like many TV companies, they got it wrong so we have produced a the correct version below.