Shipton Gorge Auxiliary Unit Patrol
Thank you for
selecting information on the Shipton Gorge Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info below have been
supplied by our Dorset CIO Dr Will Ward.
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
The patrol was part of Group 6 under Capt LO Brown and Lt J Woodward.
Not currently known.
||Date of Birth
|Sgt. Stanley Robert Wordley Axford
|Pte. Albert Edwin Thomas Hansford
|Pte. William Frank Battershell
|Pte. Harold Norman Axford
||Joined HM Forces May 1943
|Pte. Harold H Hansford
|Pte. Arthur George Thorner
|Pte. Thomas James Roper
||left change of employment July 1943
|Pte. W J Northover
|Pte. Joseph Henry Cheney
||left change of employment May 1943
|Pte. Leslie Robert Alner
|Pte. Geoffrey G Randall
||discharged June 1943 services no longer required
Stanley Axford, the patrol leader, was known as 'Pop' to his family, was a veteran of the British expeditionary
Force in France. He served with the Royal Engineers between 1914 and 1918, reaching the rank of Lance Corporal.
Albert Hansford was known as Albie and farmed, despite living at the Mason's Arms, the local pub in Shipton
Gorge, which his family had occupied since the 1920s. He was the last surviving patrol member and it was only in
the last couple of years before his death that the story became more widely known.
William Battershell is listed under the Dorset in the Auxiliary Units nominal roll, despite an address in Thames
Ditton in Surrey. Apparently he moved to Shipton Gorge in 1942 and set up Shipton Hill Farm. He didn’t mix much
with the villagers, which makes his membership of the patrol all the more surprising. Perhaps he was involved with
the early “stay behind” parties organised by MI6 and asked to stay involved on moving to Dorset? There are several
examples of Auxiliers moving county but remaining involved within Aux Units.
Leslie Alner, who came from nearby Puncknowle was listed as joining in March 1942 shortly after Harold Axford,
who left the patrol for the services just over a year later. Another young man with a similarly short service with
the patrol was Geoffrey Randell, though he is simply listed as “Services No Longer Required” after June 1943.
W J Northover was listed on the earliest patrol members list, but doesn’t appear in the handwritten nominal roll
ledgers, apparently having died by 1943, though it is not clear if this was the result of confusion with George
Northover from Wrackleford Patrol who died in September 1943.
The operational base is reported to have been in Cathole Copse by several correspondents. Members of the Axford
family were aware that Stanley went regularly to Cathole Copse late at night for Home Guard duties. Huw Humphries
was taken there in the 1980s by a friend to visit a bunker. This had an entrance shaft and an intact chamber,
though it is thought this has subsequently collapsed. Reportedly there was another, larger, bunker nearby and
actually in Cathole Copse. However a careful search at the time could not locate it. His friend's father had fallen
into this second structure as a small boy. It is thought that this may have started out as a stone quarry.
Observation Post/s: Currently unknown.
This was one of a series of patrols based either side of the A35, then as now, one of the main roads out of the
southwest. Presumably the intention was to ambush and delay any German troops landing either on the Dorset coast or
There were relatively few military targets otherwise in the area. The closest airfields were some distance away.
Shipton Gorge is based on a narrow steep road leading from potential landing beaches at Burton Bradstock up to the
main road. It seems likely that demolitions to close this road would have been part of the patrol's tasks.
The patrol would have attended training sessions at the Dorset headquarters at Duntish Court. The Dorset Scout Section would
have provided training to the patrol as well.
Geoff Axford recalls that, according to various family members, his grandfather kept explosives at the bottom of
the garden. It is likely that the patrol were issued with the standard weapons.
After the war, Stanley Axford was a road foreman for Dorset County Council. He never spoke about his time in
Auxiliary Units to his family. He didn’t keep any of his papers or his stand down badge.
National Archives WO 199/3390, 199/3391
Correspondence with Huw Humphries and Geoff Axford, grandson of patrol leader Sgt Stanley Axford
Additional names and dates of death from Ancestry.co.uk
If you can help with any please contact us.