Churchill's British Resistance - The Special Duties Branch

 

Chirnside Zero - Special Duties Radio Zero IN Station at Buckland St.Mary

This page was last updated at 12:02pm on 21/12/14

Thank you for selecting information on the Special Duties sub out station known as Chirnside Zero located at Buckland St.Mary. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford.

Type: Zero (IN) Station and Meteorological Hut
Call sign: “Chirnside Zero”
Date of construction: Currently unknown, though unlikely to be before mid 1942.
Area: 17

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

 Sgt. Alf Ellis - Chirnside Zero

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 Buckland St Mary (“Chirnside”) networks along with Cheddon Fitzpaine (“Golding”) and Winchester.(“Omagh”) networks.

 Sgt. Alf Ellis

 

Networks:

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 other Out Stations of the network at: “Chirnside” 1, Bewley Down, (and sub Out Station at 1A Axminster), 2 Widworthy, both in Devon and 3 Puriton (and the 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 a communication problem, messages from “Osterley 1” at Hawkchurch (and sub Out Station “1A” at Lyme Regis) and “Osterley 2” at Bridport went through “Chirnside Zero” and were forwarded to “Osterley Zero”.

Original 1944 SD map with locations added.

This map was produced by Major RMA Jones (Officer Commanding Auxiliary Units Signals) in 1944. In an interview in August 1997, Arthur Gabbitas (AU Signals) states he believes it to be inaccurate in places.

Sergeant Alf Ellis' first mention of the site is 15th July 1942 where he takes “car to BSM [Buckland St Mary] for inspection”

Beatrice Temple (Auxiliary Territorial Service) records in her diary a visit to Buckland St Mary on 13th August 1942 with the IO Capt. Coxwell-Rogers.

Operator/s:

“Chirnside Zero” was known to have been operated by members of the Auxiliary Units Signals. At least three operators were stationed here at one time: two wireless operators and one technician.

Known operators were: Corporal J Mackie, Sig. H C Norris, Sig. Albert E Leaverland and L/Cpl Arthur Gabbitas (Auxiliary
Units Signals).

       

Corporal J Mackie

H C Norris

Albert Leaverland 

L/Cpl Arthur Gabbitas 

Gabbitas was known to have been stationed here around 1943 before moving on to Lincoln. They operated in “working” uniform and only used the underground station for exercises. He recalled they did not have any contact with the Regular Army.

Their roll was not only to man the IN station, receiving messages from the “Chirnside” network and forwarding on, but they also helped maintain the networks OUT Stations. The men had 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.

Gabbitas' travel pass

Although in Lincoln at the time, Gabbitas recalls the days before D-Day all stations were told to broadcast a constant stream of coded messages, 24 hours a day, with an aim to confuse any enemy who may have managed to listen in.

The billet at Castle Neroche Farm © Copyright Roger Cornfoot

The men were billeted at Castle Neroche Farm with the farmers Mr and Mrs Gent. Mr Gent, with his broad Somerset accent, introduced the men to the delights of Somerset cider. The telephone number was Buckland St Mary 228.

The billet, underground dugout and above ground hut are all within two minutes walk of each other.

Wireless site/s

The underground Zero Station and the nearby “Meteorological” (“Met”) hut or IN Station were constructed within the confines of Castle Neroche, Buckland St Mary, Somerset.

The location is managed by the Neroche Scheme, led by the Forestry Commission and is open to the public.
The Zero Station dugout was within the ramparts of the Norman motte and bailey castle and built by the Royal Engineers.

It is thought to have been filled in rather than removed but as the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument this cannot be investigated further. Maybe, in future, digital imaging may help resolve this.

The layout is unknown but it may have been similar to other discovered Zero Stations such as at Norwich.
Arthur Gabbitas recalled the general Zero Station lay out as having an entrance where stores were kept, a main chamber where they operated and had bunks and a sealed chamber that housed the generator. This chamber and a tunnel leading from it acted as an exhaust for the generator fumes and an escape tunnel for the men if necessary.

Castle Neroche

Castle Neroche ramparts

The concrete base that supported the above ground “Met” hut is still in situ. These were sometimes a wooden hut sited on a concrete base disguised to resemble a Meteorological Hut with maps etc on the walls though there was not a standard design in all areas.

Site of the “Met” Hut

View from the “Met” Hut showing the elevation above the Vale of Taunton.

Directions to the location(s): Turn off the A303 at The Eagle Tavern near Buckland St Mary. The forth turning on the right leads to the car park at Castle Neroche.

The location is managed by the Neroche Scheme led by the Forestry Commission and is open to the public.

Arthur Gabbitas and IWM recording 29463
Alf Ellis
Somerset HER Reference PNR 28026 and PNR 44544.
British Resistance Archive.
David Hunt.

If you can help with any info please contact us.