Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Perranporth Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base

This page as last updated on 5/4/16

Thank you for selecting information on the Perranporth Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Cornwall. The info below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford with help from Trevor Miners and his family. If you can provide any more info please email cartdevon@gmail.com

Perranporth is a small seaside town on the north coast of Cornwall and 7 miles north west of Truro. Cornwall is registered as area 17. Perranporth is part of Group 3 along with Redruth, Mabe, Perranwell, Constantine, Philliegh, Truro, Newlyn East, Grampound, St Colomb Major, Newquay area, Probus and St Dennis (approx locations at present).

The Group Commander is Captain H W Abbiss from Truro assisted by Lieutenant F J Yeo from Truro and 2nd Lieutenant E K F Harte. Abbiss was also Area Commander for Western Cornwall covering two thirds of the county.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall on 13th 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The IO's were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.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. Auxilier Trevor Miners of Perranporth does not remember training with any other Patrols and was not aware of even the most local Patrols until stand down. Their only link was through Captain Abbiss.

Autumn 1940

Sargent George Tamblyn a County Council Surveyor. A much respected man. A stairway up the cliff at Droskyn Beach was named after him.
Laurie Griffiths a Clerk of the County Court
Frank Broadbent a building worker
Len Connett a golfing professional
Sam Goodman retired
Edgar Mitchell worked as a farmer.
John Greet who left early to join the RAF
Eric Miners was called up to REME in 1942 and replaced by his brother Trevor Miners a motor mechanic apprentice and a Sargent in the Cadet Force when enlisted.

Cornish Auxiliers

Idless Woods 1944
Auxilier Trevor Miners is in the back row 13th from the left. Sargent George Tamblyn is seated,front row far left.

Others identified are second row 6th from left is Captain Abbiss, followed by Major W W Harston, Walter Eva, ?, Leslie Bowden, Frank Strike and in the row below him is John Gilbert. James T Caddy from Constantine Patrol is in the second row from the bottom, second in from the right.

Trevor Miners with his family

Trevor Miners as a young Sargent in the Cadet Force with his parents.

First Operational Base at Cligga Head

Located at Cligga Head which is North of Perranporth (locally known as Trevellas) Aerodrome.

The OB is located on part of The South West Coast Path which is a National Trail so there is open access. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Perranporth Operational Base at Cligga Head 3

Overall view of the site.

The Noble Company mined wolfram on the headland during the First World war to produce nitro-glycerine. In 1936, JR Hockin's guidebook describes the head as having “empty, turfed up dynnamite tanks, an abandoned lorry and one or two quarries”. The old Nobel's explosive tunnels used as an OB were on the cliff top edge looking out over the Atlantic to the West of Perranporth. The many earthworks left over from the mining process in the area could have provided good cover for entering the OB and escape.

The patrol made use of one of these explosive storage tanks or tunnels to create their first OB. The tunnel would have been much more covered than it is today though when the nearby Aerodrome opened it was decided that it was too exposed and the OB moved to a new location.

Perranporth Operational Base at Cligga Head 1 Perranporth Operational Base at Cligga Head 2

(Left) The now exposed explosives tunnel used as an OB. (Right) Inside a more intact tunnel.

Trevor with Grenade

Trevor Miners stood by his OB holding a grenade.

 Perranporth Operational Base at Cligga Head 4

In an attempt to keep this OB viable the Patrol actually put up signs warning that the area was mined.

A young courting couple from the Aerodrome had a shock one day when, ignoring the sign, managed to set off a thunderflash.

The Patrol moved to Reen Manor Farm after this.

The tunnel is approximately 10ft high and 20ft long with an entrance / exit at either end. The patrol made beds out of wood and wire netting. The OB is oriented North to South.

Observation Post: None found.

(Left) The late Eric Miners and his brother Trevor Miners outside the remains of their first OB.



Second Operational Base at Reen Manor Farm

Perranporth Operational Base at Reen Manor Farm  The second OB was concealed within the decaying remains of an old tin and lead mine on high ground looking over the village of Perranporth and the Atlantic beyond.

Located at Budnick Mine, Reen Manor Farm was a Nissan Hut approximately 30ft by 20ft placed in a dug out prepared at night by the Royal Engineers. It was close to the old mine stack which was used as one escape chamber, the other coming out in the old mine shaft.

To reach the entrance the patrol had to go through bushes and draw back a long bar, which was attached to a trap door covered in grass turf. Metal rungs lead 10ft down to the single chamber where wooden bunks were made and all the explosives and ammunition stored along with general provisions.

The mine shaft and OB have both been destroyed and filled in after the farmers tractor wheel fell into it during the 60's. Only the lower part of the engine stack of the original mine works remain that would have been an escape route.

The location of the mine stack indicates to could have been East to West. Observation Post: None found.

Trerew Radar Station 1

 

Trerew Radar Station out buildings.

 

Trerew Radar Station on the A3075, the main road to Newquay. Arriving at night, the patrol cut through the barbed wire and made it through to the main compound which was built into a big earth mound. Almost free to roam, they were well away before the thunderflashes went off in a mock “blowing up” of the station.  

Though on PRIVATE LAND a public footpath runs close by the remains of some of the radar station.

 

Trerew Radar Station 2

 

The main underground complex at Trerew Radar Station.

 

Perranporth (Trevellas) Airfield was a Spitfire station during WW2 and English Heritage considers it to be one of the most important remaining airfields from WW2. In its early days at Cligga Head the Patrol used this area for rifle practice. RAF Perranporth became operational in 1941 and decommissioned in 1946.
Told that they had to test the defences of the Airfield the patrol mounted a night time raid on the Spitfires parked in the landing bay. Their mission was to leave stickers on the tail of each plane to show they could have set explosives there if inclined. They easily managed this without being challenged by any security as they had entered the Airfield via the cliff edge rather than the heavily defended land side.

 

One night saw the Patrol crossing the sand dunes of Reen, Gear and Penhale Sands. The whole area was used for tank training making the area of Gear Sands a prohibited area crawling with soldiers. The Patrol crossed this area and cut their way through the coils of barbed wire surrounding Penhale Army Camp. Making their way through the camp, past the barracks they came out at Holywell Bay.


Sargent George Tamblyn knew a Mrs Dust who ran the local cafe. She would be called upon to cook the Patrol bacon and eggs, a real treat in the days of rationing, before making the 5 mile return journey back through the Army camp and across the dunes home.

 

Trevor Miners: “I suppose our antics got some people in trouble for being so lax, but I bet they sharpened up after”

 

One evening the Patrol were destined for Church Hill between Perranwell and Perran Church. Taking with them a new explosive fuse the object of the exercise was to learn how to block roads by blowing up nearby trees. Trevor Miners often wonders what the people living nearby thought of all the noise.

Perranporth Patrol did not train with any of the other local Patrols in the area. They trained themselves around the woods, dunes, beaches and cliff tops of Perranportth.

Perranporth Auxiliary Unit

Edgar Mitchel, George Tamblyn and Len Connett with Laurie Griffiths standing. Thought to be 1942.Taken around Perranporth (Trevellas) airfield. The “lady” was a wooden cut out taken from a shop and used as target practice !

Trevor Miners remembers himself and Edgar Mitchell being sent on courses to Coleshill, Wiltshire arriving by train at Swindon.

“We were told to report to the Post Office and ask for Mabel” he recalls.“She checked our credentials and when satisfied arranged transport to take us to H.Q. We were trained in the use of all types of explosives: phosphorus bombs that you could not put out, 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”.

He remembers the rough and tumble of learning unarmed combat and having to “hit the ground” many times when practising with sticky bombs. One time when they had to take evasive action was while they were throwing phosphorus grenades in training. Trevor recalls Edgar Mitchell's arm gave out as he threw one resulting in the grenade falling well short and too close for comfort. Night exercises were made more interesting by some of the guards dressing in German Uniform.

Armed with detonators, the Auxiliers were given an object to destroy within a certain time, a sharp whistle blast would signal their time was up. Trevor admits that he may have only succeeded in his mission after the whistle had blown.

Trevor Miners Swindon Railway Station

This image of Trevor (right) and Edgar Mitchell was taken at or near Swindon Railway Station as they returned from training at Coleshill.

Perranporth Auxiliary Unit Weapons

 

Trevor Miners recalls being given a 38 Smith and Wesson along with a Commando knife, both of which he carried around with him at all times, carefully concealed.

He also remembers many different explosives, 2 Sten Guns, .22 snipers rifle with silencer and telescopic sights. Different colour time pencils, each colour depending on how long the acid took to burn through the wire, along with garrotting wire were all kept at the OB.

Water purifying tablets, three weeks supply of food and rum rations were all handed back at stand down.

At some stage a large number of phosphorous bombs had become dangerously unstable so the patrol took them to a remote part of the cliff top where they stood the bombs on end. “ We fired at them” said Trevor, “ with our .22 rifles, made a fantastic firework display. Some fell into the sea but we had no other way of getting rid of them as they were so unstable”

 (Above) Some of the “toys” of the Perranporth Patrol.  

All Auxiliers still active in the Patrols in Devon an Cornwall at stand down were presented with their lapel badges and letters of thanks in a ceremony held in Exeter. Trevor remembers travelling up to Exeter and being surprised at how many men were there. He didn't know who was hosting the event.

In July 2005 it was a close call as to who had travelled the furthest to The BRO Museum in Parham for their Open Day between Roy Coleman of Port Talbot and Trevor Miners from Perranporth.

Trevor Miners has been hugely influential in informing people of the Auxiliary Units existence and keeping the memory alive both within the South West and Nationwide.

He has told his story on TV on BBC Spotlight, Tales from the Snug, and WW2 Experience. See the videos below.

After Stand Down Trevor went for his medical to enlist in the regular army. At the time there was a severe shortage of mine workers so a ballot was held of those enlisting. All those with a certain digit in their Service numbers were conscripted as “Bevan Boys”.

Trevor spent the next 41/2 years at the coal face in Hirwaun near Aberdare, South Wales before being allowed to return home.

In 2013 Trevor Miners marched at the Cenotaph on Whitehall for the first time. See below.

2014 saw Trevor Miners return to the Cenotaph.

In 2015 Trevor was asked to open the new Observation Post at GHQ Coleshill.

The highlights of this amazing day can be seen below.

Sadly on 4th April 2015 Trevor Miners died peacefully at home. Read his obituary here.

The kindness and patience of Trevor and Muriel Miners and their son Andrew. WO199/3391 at TNA.
Captain Hancok's data held by the British Resistance Archive.
South West Coast Path Association.

If you can help with any info please contact us.