Churchill's British Resistance - The Special Duties Branch

 

Edgarley 'Chirnside Five' - Special Duties Radio OUT Station

This page was last updated at 8:14am on 6/1/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Special Duties out station known as Chirnside Five located at Edgarley in Somerset. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford.

Type: Out Station
Call sign: “Chirnside 5”
Date of construction: Currently unknown.
Area: 17

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

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.

The OUT Station at Edgarley would have communicated directly with “Chirnside Zero” at Buckland St Mary.
The roll of the AU Signals based at Buckland St Mary 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.

Operator/s:

 

 

 

There is some doubt over the actual operators of the station but the landowners (Captain) Kenneth and Dorothy Marsh have ideal credentials to be involved. At the very least they must have been aware of the wireless site.

Locally it is suggested a woman was the main operator.

On May 14th 1942 The Wells Journal (left) ran an article on Kenneth Marsh and his farming methods which was broadcast by the BBC.

The article records the Farm is predominantly rearing and selling poultry rather than selling the eggs. It also notes the feed is produced in vast sums from local food waste and army swill from military camps. This shows the Marshes would have frequently and freely travelled the area collecting waste and be able to monitor local situations if necessary.

The last part of the article states : “ Mr Marsh, who has many friends in Wells, is to be congratulated on his excellent broadcast” This implies he must have been an eloquent speaker and a well connected man, ideal attributes for a Special Duties Operator.

Kenneth Marsh was a tall, upstanding man with a impressive handlebar moustache. Having married in Kuala Lumpur the couple lived in Federated Malay States (today Malaysia). During the 1910s and 20s they often travelled backward and forward from the UK, his occupation recorded as “Planter”.

The Marsh's home at Edgarley Manor Farm was remembered as being full of lion skins, stuffed exotic animals and hunting trophies from his time in the Far East.

 

Wells Journal 14th May 1942

 

Wireless site/s

The Special Duties wireless set was recorded as operating out of a hut or box at Edgarley Manor Farm, Edgarley in Somerset.

The telephone number being Glastonbury 89.

This was concealed as, or part of, a chicken house that was located between the farm house and Wick Lane.

Edgarley Manor Farm House.

In an interview of 1997, Lt/Cpl Arthur Gabbitas (AU Signals) recalled the difficulty the AU Signals had when maintaining stations in a more urban setting. Delivering and changing heavy batteries regularly, without arousing suspicions of watchful neighbours, must have been a challenge. Though close to the main road, this site would not have attracted unwanted attention as frequent visiting to and from the hut would have been usual.

Today Edgarley Manor Farm forms part of Millfield School the farmland now being sports pitches. Nothing remains on the site today.

Edgarley Manor Farm House, now extended. The chicken house was near the white net frames.
Taken from Google Streetview.

1946 Aerial Photo showing Edgarley Manor (far left) on the main road (A361) with Wick Lane running up on its right.
Between the house and the lane is a small structure that could be the wireless site /chicken hut.

Arthur Gabbitas
Chris Perry
Donald Brown
British Resistance Archive.
Travel and Newspaper Records on Findmypast.co.uk
Somerset Historic Environment Record site 20568

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