Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Plympton Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base 

This page was last updated at 2:13pm on 5/4/13

VIEW THE PERSONAL WARTIME DIARY OF CPT. CYRIL HENRY WELLINGTON HERE

Thank you for selecting information on the Plympton Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford. cartdevon@gmail.com

At stand down Devon is registered as area 16. Plympton is part of Group 2 along with Plymstock, Holbeton, Tamerton Foliot and Yelverton. The Group Commander is Captain Cyril Wellington originally of Plympton Patrol. Plympton was a extensive Parish around 3-5 miles North East of the City of Plymouth. Over the years it has grown substantially and as of 1967 it officially became a suburb of the City.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall on 13th July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon was Captain  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.

In 1943  Edmundson was replaced by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain in command until stand down. At the end of his command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of the South West and South Wales.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where various  patrols within a demographic area would regularly train together under a more local Captain.

Captain William Falcon of  Cornwood  trained this and other local Patrols in the grounds of his home  called “Slade” along with help from Lt Cyril Wellington  (Plympton) and  Lt Alwyn Robertson  (Harford). Both became Captains at stand down, Wellington being named as the Area Commander for South Devon and Group Commander of Group 2.

September 1940.

Wellington's first diary entry of anything possibly Auxiliary Unit related is on 28th July 1940 where it states “on LDV - special duty ” and “new patrol duties” on 26th September.

An entry on 16th October states “last parade “ and “no more guard ” so for a couple of months I suspect he continued his Home Guard duties along side his Auxiliary Unit work.

Plympton Auxiliary Unit Patrol, Devon

Picture taken at "Slade", Captain Flacon's house at Cornwood 

Front row left to right : Sgt Herbert Wellington,  Capt Cyril Wellington and possiby Cpl James Dingle
Back row left to right : George Jones,  Unknown,  Unknown,  Unknown,  possibly Ralph Hickman.

Names on the Nominal Roll are:

Capt. Cyril Henry Wellington, Trelawney Road, Plympton. Secondary and later Head Teacher.
In theory Cyril would have left this Patrol when he become a Group Commander.

Sargent Herbert James Wellington (brother of Cyril ) Oakfield  Road, Plympton. A primary school teacher. On Cyril's promotion  to Group and Area Commander, Herbert became Patrol Leader.

Corporal (as of 15/3/1943) James Dingle, a farmer from Plympton.   
         
Ralph George Hickman, Trelawney Road, Plympton.  A Grammar school teacher

George “Sydney” Jones, Lucas Lane, Plympton.

William John Sargent, Marsh Mills  near Plympton.

Cyril Woolley,  joined 17/11/1942, transferred to HG 25/5/1943.

Geoffery Johnson. Born 1925, joined 20/1/1943 left to join Royal Navy 22/3/1944.

Roger Keith Midgley. , left to join HM forces 18/2/1943.

“Bill”  W E Bell, Radford Park Road. Discharged 30/9/1944.
See other information.

PLEASE NOTE THESE OB'S ARE ON PRIVATE LAND

First Operational Base at Bottle Hill

Location of the first Operational Base was north east of Plympton. It was an area with a thin covering of native trees within an area of fairly open farmland on the edge of moorland. The exact location was given to Peter Stabb by Geof Johnson in 1988.

The base was built by the patrol but quickly abandoned as unsuitable. It was placed around the raised earthworks which are remains of copper, tin and arsenic extraction in the area.

Making  clandestine visits to the  Base would have proved almost impossible due to the lack of cover.
Cyril Wellington's diary mentions a “ OB recon with Major B, Herb and Hickman” end of December 1940 so I suspect this was when this OB went out of use.

Bottle Hill Operational Base

View from Bottle Hill looking SW to Plymouth

View from Bottle Hill looking SW to Plymouth

View from Bottle Hill looking SW to Plymouth

Photographs taken in 2011 by Nina Hannaford and copies of maps and letters written to Peter Stabb by Geoff Johnson.

Permanent Operational Base at Fernhill Plantation

 

Originally possibly part of the Newnham Park Estate the Plantation is now managed by the Forestry Commission. It is now a worked plantation so there is no public access.

 

The plantation almost backs onto The Elfordsleigh Hotel which was taken over by Dr Barnardo and used as children's home for London evacuees.

 

In Cyril Wellington's diary he refers to the area as Elfordsleigh

 

From the area they would have had a good view over the City of Plymouth and out over the Breakwater beyond.  

 

Location given to Peter Stabb by Auxilier Geof Johnson in 1988. Exact grid reference withheld (given to CART on Fiedwork report dated 7/3/20111), general area SX 55 59.

Entrance in 1992

Entrance to the OB in 1992

Plympton OB entrance 2012

The entrance to the OB in 2012.

Inside the Plymton OB in 1992 Plympton escape tunnel 1992

Inside the OB (left) and the escape tunnel (right)

Plympton Escape Tunnel

Entrance to escape tunnel in 1992

Photographs above taken in 1992 by Peter Stabb.

Plympton OB exit 2012

The same escape tunnel in 2012.

Plympton_bunker-copyright to cyberheritage.co.uk

Picture taken inside the OB. The OB has now been destroyed. Image provided by www.cyber-heritage.co.uk

Plympton OB 2012

The same view in 2012. Florescent sticks mark the rough area.

Fernhill woods, standing in OB looking SW

Fernhill Woods, Standing in the OB looking SW.

The ground around the OB undulates as the area was used for tin mining in the past. Some mine shafts are present.

The main body of the Base from the entrance shaft would have run North East to South West. The escape tunnel exits from the far end at a “dog-leg” running North West to South East.

Plympton remains of entrance 2

 Plympton Escape Tunnel excavation

The escape tunnel.

Photographs above taken in 2012 by Nina Hannaford .

Photos of entrance, escape tunnel depression and main body depression, view from OB entrance showing lay of land.

Observation Post/s: Not known but both locations are surrounded by high, open moorland over looking Plymouth.

Other physical remains nearby: Some structures that are the remains of the workings could have been made use of  especially the chimneys.

 

Emerging from the escape tunnel they would have a a large deep mine shaft to the right but a long running groove to the left would have given the cover to maybe escape down hill into the waters Tory Brook in the valley below.

 



Railway lines at Plymbridge and Plympton. With the Patrols proximity to the City of Plymouth it is assumed that Devonport Docks could also have been a target along with the many military establishments around the City. Plymouth would have been a prominent target and an important supply route for the invading forces.

 

 

Trained with Yelverton, Plymstock, Tamerton Foliot  ( now all suburbs of Plymouth)  and Holbeton Patrols. All under the  Area Command of Captain William Falcon (of Cornwood  Patrol)  who was based at “Slade” in Cornwood.  When Cyril Wellington became Group Commander these local Patrols would have trained with him.

 

These patrols also trained at the rifle range at Cleeve, just below Ivybridge. On their own the Plympton Patrol trained at Elfordsleigh near the OB.


Cyril Wellington's diary records a very successful nights training with the Scout  Section on Dartmoor in January 1941.  The Scout Section for Devon was based near Thoverton near Exeter and the patrol spent a day there in May 1942

 

On 4th January 1942 the Patrol went to Oakhampton (North Devon) for the County Finals of the Patrol Championship Competition. They lost.


In October 1942 Cyril was off to Thorverton again as he was in a Semi final of a competition.

 

On 7th Feb 1942 the Patrol along with Yelverton Patrol launched a large scale night attack in Yelverton which could have been on the airfield. The Patrol “blacked up” at Cyril's house which his wife found very funny. They returned at 2am.

 

On 21st Feb 1942 the Patrol took part in a large scale exercise named Operation Drake. This was a mock invasion of Plymouth, an exercise that lasted two days.

 

On 28th March 1942 Cyril records that the Patrol (along with other un-named Patrols) took part in a practice raid a bit further afield into Cornwall. The target was the home of Cornwall's Intelligence Officer Captain Dingley.  Its not known if he knew this was going to happen or if it was Devon's IO having a joke with Cornwall's IO !

 

Wellington's personal diary of 24th Jan 1941 states “ Cyril and Herbert off  to Swindon for HG course. Left about 11am . Arrived Coleshill 5.20pm.


25th HG course at Coleshill Wilts. Awful day / heavy rain / bitter wind / full day, tierd but not much sleep.
26th End of Course, left for home after 2. Arrived home 7.20pm. “


Another visit to Coleshill 8th-10th April 1942  showed that the patrol arrived by truck and shaped up “quite well but too light for night exercises.” 

 

 

Unknown, but it is assumed that they would have access to the “standard” Auxiliary weapons of a Browning Automatic Rifle, a Thompson Machine Gun and two Enfields.


Explosives included No 36 grenades, “Sticky Bombs” and Phosphorous grenades and each would have had a rifle and fighting knife.

 

Most of the explosives were stored in the inspection pit of Capt. Cyril Wellington's garage after he had turned it into an air raid shelter. They also used his attic as a store.

 

 

It is known that the Patrol had to “Stand to” during the first general alarm that was raised over the weekend of 7th September 1940  when Operation Sealion was thought to be imminent. This was after many days and nights of heavy bombing raids of Plymouth  so they all must have been exhausted.

 

Cyril Henry Wellington first joined the Local Defence Volunteers 17th June 1940. He was 2nd Lieutenant  9/11/1942,  Lieutenant  on  28/5/1943, and finally Captain  1/8/1944. He was sent a certificate of Good Service in Dec 1944 by the General  Commander–in-chief of the Home Forces. A congratulating letter from  Auxiliary Units, GPO Highworth  followed in Jan 1945.

 

In Feb 1941 its known that Cyril and Herbert Wellington tossed a coin over who was going to train to be a Group Commander.

 

Cyril was called up to serve in Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Lincoln in January 1942. He served for three days before he was given indefinite  leave to remain.  Later he was called up again but a telegram arrived cancelling this before he even cashed his travel coupons.

He and his wife kept a diary over the war years and along with extensive recounts of bombing raids on Plymouth it does mention some Auxiliary Unit exercises and events.
Many Auxiliary Unit meetings were held in his house along with training and weapons inspections.
 
Sargent Herbert James Wellington ( brother of Cyril )  was seen once by his daughter, who could not sleep, drying explosives, that had gotten wet, by the fire.   

               

Cyril Wellington's diary mentions a “meeting with Major B” in connection with the location of the second OB. This could be the Officer charged with citing and building it, so he could be from the Royal Engineers.


In March 1941 a Lt Palliser called to see the OB “ re the bunks etc” again he could have been Royal Engineers to fit out the OB.

 

Harry Masson ( a local photographer) is mentioned quite frequently in connection with the Patrol but is not on the Nominal Roll.


At the end of February 941 he records that a Mr Bates resigns. Again there is no record of him on the nominal Roll.

 

He met with the IO Captain Edmundson in Feb 1941 to show him the finished OB and they met again at the OB in April 1942 when they all walked home together.

 

Geoffery Johnson became an accountant in Plymouth. He drew maps in 1988 to locate the two Operational Bases built for Plympton Patrol. He recalled taking it very seriously and training very hard but also having a “tremendous amount of fun “.
     
Roger Keith Midgley  won a bronze medal in Field Hockey in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.

 

The cloth insignia of Captain Cyril Wellington

 

The cloth insignia of Captain Cyril Wellington

Peter Stabb, Margaret Gardner ( Nee Wellington), Evelyn Simak  CART CIO for Norfolk , Steve Johnson  of  Plymouth Cyber-Heritage 

Can you help with this patrol or OB? Please email cartdevon@gmail.com