Churchill's British Resistance - The Special Duties Branch

 

Chirnside 4 - Puckington OUT Station

This page was last updated at 1:59pm on 29/9/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Puckington Special Duties OUT Station in Somerset known as Chirnside 4. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford and Aux researcher Chris Perry.

Type: OUT Station.
Call sign: “Chirnside 4”
Date of construction: Currently unknown though wireless was set up after March 1942.
Area: 17

MILITARY LIAISON

The Intelligence Officer (IO) for the Special Duties Branch of Auxiliary Units covered the South West, including Somerset and Devon.

The initial Intelligence Officer for the whole area was Captain Coxwell-Rogers M.C (his name was Cecil Mein Probyn Dighton and he assumed the name Coxwell-Rogers during World War 1) and for a time was based at 13, Mount Street, Taunton. He was in the Gloucestershire Regiment and was given the honorary rank of Captain when he relinquished his commission in January 1944 due to ill health.

Coxwell-Rogers illness meant that in 1942 he was succeeded by Captain Edward (Ned) Fingland, who took over temporarily while his predecessor was hospitalised. By late 1943 the IO was Captain Arthur Douglas Ingrams from the Axminster area who was operating “Chirnside 1” and was replaced by Captain E C Grover in 1944 after Ingrams was sent to Norfolk then the Middle East.

Sergeant Alfred Ellis of the Royal Signals was the Sergeant covering the Cheddon Fitzpaine (“Golding”) networks along with Buckland St Mary (“Chirnside”) and Winchester.(“Omagh”) networks.

NETWORK/S

A 1944 map of the Special Duties wireless network shows the central “Zero” (IN) Station for the “Chirnside” network was at Castle Neroche, Buckland St Mary, Somerset.

This had links to the Out Stations of the network at: “Chirnside” 1, Bewley Down, (and through Bewley Down to its sub Out Station at 1A Axminster), 2 Widworthy, both in Devon and 3 Puriton (and through Puriton to its sub Out Stations at 3A Spaxton and 3B Brent Knowle), 4 Puckington and 5 Edgarley in Somerset.

There were also links to the “Golding” network at Cheddon Fitzpaine Zero Station in Somerset and the “Osterley” network at the Blandford Zero Station in Dorset.

Due to communication problems, messages from “Osterley 1” at Hawkchurch (and information received there from its sub Out Station“1A” at Lyme Regis) and “Osterley 2” at Bridport were sent to “Chirnside Zero” near Buckland St Mary which then relayed the messages to “Osterley Zero”in Blandford.

Original 1944 SD map with locations added.

This map was produced by Major R M A Jones (Officer Commanding Auxiliary Units Signals) in 1944. In an interview in August 1997, L/Cpl Arthur Gabbitas (Auxiliary Units Signals) states he believes it to have some inaccuracies.

The OUT Station at Puckington would have communicated directly with “Chirnside Zero” at Castle Neroche near Buckland St Mary.

The role of the Auxiliary Units Signals personnel based at “Chirnside Zero” was to man the IN station by receiving messages from the “Chirnside” network and relaying them from “Golding Zero” located near the Headquarters of 8th Corps (later the Headquarters of the South West District) at Pryland Hall near Taunton (the rear HQ being Hestercombe House). They also had to relay messages from “Osterley 1” and “2” to “Osterley Zero”.

The men maintained the “Chirnside” networks OUT Stations, having a scout car, a Morris 10hp, which they used to check aerials and change the batteries in “Chirnside's” OUT stations, aiming to visit two a day.

WIRELESS SITE'S

The wireless site is on PRIVATE LAND and was accessed with the kind permission of the owners.

The wireless site was recorded as a “hut / box” at a property called “Edencote” on the road between Puckington and Barrington. The original house was built in the 1930s by the “Key Man” for his family.

“Edencote” looking north.

The central and eastern part of the building is the original part of the house as there have been various extensions added since the war. The radio signal path to “Chirnside Zero” is around 7 miles to the approx west-south-west.

It is thought the wireless was situated firstly in a garden wooden shed or hut where an aerial may have been concealed around a nearby large tree. This has since been replaced with a “Summer house” and the tree has been felled so there are no remains to see now.

Garden “Summer house”

We have been told that later on, the wireless was moved to a cupboard under the stairs. The aerial possibly running up to the attic.

Under the stairs.

Downstairs hallway by stairs.

After a site visit, and looking at the stairs area, there could be some doubt as to whether this is accurate. The small built in area under the stairs could have housed the radio but it would have to of been moved to be operated, which is unlikely.

The under stairs area can be clearly seen from the front door thus compromising security and secrecy when in use if it was operated from here.

During the war, the front door and window would have been blacked out so there could have been a blackout curtain there. This would give the radio operator more time to hide the radio, but there had to be a second person on watch to pre warn the operator of visitors.

“Edencote” attic.

During the site visit the attic was inspected and (if it was ever sited there) there was no evidence found or any remains of the aerial or its fixings.

This site would have been ideal to watch the road outside (B3168) and what vehicles were travelling along it. It is also near a section of the ‘Taunton Stop line’ and ‘RAF Merryfield’ the airfield at Ilton (1942 – 1960). It is also near the town of Ilminster, which was fortified and turned in to an Anti Tank island during the war.

It could have also reported back on two large houses in the area (if they were taken over by enemy forces) Barrington House and Dillington House, which also had a small military camp in its grounds.

This site was on the friendly side of the “Taunton stop line”where as “Chirnside Zero” would have been on the enemy side if the Germans had invaded the South West as was thought possible.

OPERATOR/S

The “Key Man” for the OUT Station was Albert “Bert” J Dean who worked as a builder and undertaker and built “Edencote” for his family in the 1930s. He took over Vile & Son builders business and had a workshop in the village at Furdon Thatch. He was born in September 1905 and he died September 1965 aged 60.
It is thought he was a Special Police Constable during the war.

Arthur Gabbitas
The Dean Family
David Hunt
Will Ward CART CIO for Dorset
Donald Brown and his research for Defence of Britain Database and his book “Somerset v's Hitler
British Resistance Archive.
“Somerset at War” by Mac Hawkins

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