Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Mabe Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base

This page as last updated at 6:23pm on 12/8/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Mabe Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Cornwall. The info & images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford. If you can provide any more info please email cartdevon@gmail.com

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.

Mabe is a parish to the South West of Penryn above the port of Falmouth.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall in July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major) J W Stuart Edmundson an officer in the Royal Engineers. He liaised with the regular army and received supplies and equipment and formed all the Patrols. He was assisted by Lieutenant (later Captain) John “Jack” Dingley who became IO for Cornwall in 1943 though he may have assumed the roll before that.

In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and Edmundson was succeeded in Cornwall by Captain John Dingley and in Devon by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain in command until near stand down. At the end of Harston's command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of the South West Peninsular and Wales.
The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some patrols within a demographic area would train together under more local command. Mabe was part of group 3 along with Redruth, Perranwell , Constantine, Philleigh, Truro, Perranporth, Newlyn East, Grampound, St Colomb, St Mawgan, Probus and St Dennis. At stand down they were under the group command of Captain H W Abbiss from Truro along with Lieutenant F J Yeo and 2nd Lieutenant E K F Harte.

Captain H W Abbiss from Truro was also the area Commander for this and groups 1 to 4, covering two thirds of the county.

In 1945 Captain Abbiss was awarded the MBE (Military Division).

Locally, Mabe, Perranwell and Constantine were under the command of Lieutenant Alec McLeod. Though official records show McLeod was called up to HM Forces in July 1943 he is present in many stand down photographs. He may well have been called up but returned to Auxiliary Units when his roll was realised.

Summer 1940

Sergeant Donald Welch
Corporal Clarence Thomas
Gerald W Midlen
Rex Rapson
William Dunbar
Ken Welch (son of Sgt. Welch)
W Pascoe joined HM Forces April 1943
R Grenville Berryman posted to 7th Cornwall Home Guard.

Constantine Auxiliary Unit Patrol 6

Constantine, Mabe and Perranwell Patrols. Not all Patrol members present. Original photos all courtesy of Ken Walsh

Back L-R : ? S Goodman, William Dunbar (Mabe), Gerald Medlin (Mabe), Unknown, Clarence Thomas (Mabe), James Caddy (Constantine), Herbert Snell.

Middle L-R: Unkown, Sgt. Pascoe (Constantine), Lt Alec McLeod, Sgt. Donald Welch (Mabe), Unknown

Front L-R: Percy Terrill ( Perranwell), Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Rex Rapson (Mabe), G Berryman (Mabe), Unknown.

Constantine Auxiliary Unit Patrol 7

Constantine, Mabe and Perranwell Patrols. Not all Patrol members present.

Cornish Auxiliers

Known to be a stand down picture of at least group 3 and the officers from group 2.  Major Harston is in the middle of the second row with Captain Abbiss to his right. Taken at Idess Wood 1944
The young Ken Welch is third row back second from right. James T Caddy from Constantine Patrol is in the second row from the bottom, second in from the right.

The Mabe Operational Base was situated at Palestine quarry about one and a half miles SW of Mabe village. The bunker was built into the side of the quarry spoil heap.

Though assumed to be on private land, a public right of way runs around the OB location and the spoil heap can be seen from the road.

No trace has yet to be found of the OB due to difficulty in gaining access to the site and investigating the spoil heap.

Mabe Auxiliary Unit Patrol

Searching the heap for the OB entrance

Mabe Auxiliary Unit Patrol

A void inside the spoil heap.

Now overgrown pathway leading to the OB location

A void in the granite heap was expanded by the patrol, the excess stone used as added camouflage. Excavated and built by the patrol, it was constructed of timber side walls with a compacted earth floor. At around 16 feet and having only just enough head height to stand up straight in, the OB could have been very claustrophobic but it was dry and the air was clear.

The entrance was concealed by a hatch that was covered by any material lying around the heap. They preferred not to use any vegetation in case it died and looked suspicious. The hatch lead through to a small climb down into the single room. No ladders were required as they were just able to scramble down into the space.

An escape tunnel lead out from the far wall to a small opening at the back of the spoil heap where the land drops away. A small stream in the bottom of the valley could have provided fresh water and a possible escape route but the patrol were under no illusions as to their life expectancy if caught.

The patrol often stayed the night in the OB though they only had few bunks,a kettle and an Elsan toilet. Most of the patrol travelled around by bicycle.

Later on the Patrol considered the OB to be a “hiding hole” and explosive store rather than a place to “operate” or live out of. Their plan, in the event of invasion, was to work from and hide out in the OB and return home under the cover of darkness after they had executed their orders.
 
Orientation of OB: Thought to be East / West

Observation Post: The patrol did not have a “official” observation post but look outs could be sent to the top of the spoil heap and hidden in the crevices of the granite spoil.

 

The back of the quarry spoil heap looking towards the road.

In the event of invasion, desperate times would have forced the patrol into some desperate measures. A run down cottage just opposite the path leading to the OB location was home to an elderly couple. Having seen the activity in the area and no doubt the comings and goings of the Auxiliers this couple would have been targeted. The Auxilier charged with this would not have relished his roll.

The cottage is now virtually demolished though a few walls remain.

Gerald Midlen recalled Penryn rail viaduct on the Falmouth to Truro line being a target.
Falmouth harbour and routes away from the harbour would also have been a suspected target.

It is known Mabe Patrol had regular training exercises with Constantine and Perranwell patrols under the direction of Lt Alec McLeod.

Exercises run between the three patrols included trying to find each others OBs. It is not thought that Mabe's was ever found.

Mabe Patrol trained in the nearby Higher Spargo quarry were explosives would have aroused little attention. This was also owned by Lt McLeod at one time.

Travelling by rail, Ken Welch and his father Donald both went to Coleshill to train. Ken has memories of training alongside Colonel Douglas and being treated as an equal.

Sgt. D Welch, Unknown, maybe Sgt. H Pascoe (Constantine), Ken Welch and maybe Cecil Sims (Perranwell) seen here inspecting Ken Welch's Webley pistol.

Mabe patrols training manuals, stand down letters, lapel badges, magnets and truncheon.

It is assumed they had access to the standard arms and explosives.

Explosives were stored in the OB along with Tommy guns that were later changed for Sten Guns. Fairbairn Sykes knives were carried as were pistols. Ken Welch found himself in possession of a Webley Pistol and a large wooden truncheon loaded with lead at the head.

Horseshoe shaped magnets were also give to attach explosives to railway lines etc.

Lieutenant Alec McLeod was a local quarry owner as part of Freeman & McLeod Ltd. He is remembered as a big but fair man, treating everyone with great respect. It is known he owned Palestine Quarry where Mabe patrol were based and he may have had ownership or knowledge of the quarries used by Perranwell and Constantine Patrols.

Sgt. Donald Welch worked for Alec McLeod as a granite polisher in Palestine quarry where the OB was located. As with some Auxiliers, maybe even Lt McLeod,  Donald was called up by the Army at some stage only to be returned home once his roll was realised.

Sgt. Welch was provided with various training manuals including “The Countryman's Diary”, “A Guide to the Identification of German Units” and “More Pictures of the German Army”

Donald's son Ken Welch was later recruited to the patrol by his father. At 16 he was under age so they lied about his date of birth. He worked in a factory during this time. Ken remembers the patrol referring to themselves as “Churchill's Favourites” but also remembers rumours of them being called the “Suicide Squad”.

Post stand down Ken went on to join the Royal Marines, training at Lympstone and Chatham. Post war he felt that the authorities did not know what to do with them. He did however form part of a guard of honour for the funeral of Christian X, the King of Denmark in 1947.

The wife of Sgt. Welch and mother of Ken was unaware of their intended rolls assuming they were in the regular Home Guard.

Corporal Clarence Thomas was a farmer.

Gerald Midlen was also a farmer and later a milkman.

Many years after the war an inquisitive local, Ian Butland, quizzed Gerald about the lapel badge he always wore.

Gerald directed Ian to the (at the time) newly published book “The Last Ditch” by David Lampe.

Rex Rapson was a grocer in the town.

William Dunbar was a fitter or carpenter in Falmouth Docks

Grenville Berryman was an engineer.

Ken Welch in 2014

The kindness and patience of Auxilier Ken Welch
Ian Butland for information gathering.
Alwyn Harvey and his work on The Defence of Britain Database
TNA reference WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B.R.A

If you can help with any info please contact us.