Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

St.Columb Major Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base.

This page as last updated at 12:53pm on 2/7/15

Thank you for selecting information on the St Columb Major Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Cornwall. The info below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford.

If you can provide any more info please email cartdevon@gmail.com

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 contact us.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall in July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major) 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. He was assisted by Lieutenant (later Captain) John “Jack” Dingley who became IO for Cornwall in 1943 though he may have assumed the roll before that.

In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and Edmundson was succeeded in Cornwall by Captain John Dingley and in Devon by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain in command until near stand down. At the end of Harston's command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of the South West Peninsular and Wales.
The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some patrols within a demographic area would train together under more local command though it appears St Columb never knew of any other patrols.

St Columb was part of group 3 along with St. Mawgan, Redruth, Mabe, Perranwell, Philleigh, Truro, Perranporth, St Newlyn East, Grampound, Constantine, Probus and St Dennis. They were under the group command of Captain H W Abbiss from Truro along with Lieutenant F J Yeo from Truro and 2nd Lieutenant E K F Harte from Truro.

Captain H W Abbiss from Truro was also the area Commander for this and groups 1 to 4, covering two thirds of the county.

In 1945 Captain Abbiss was awarded the MBE ( Military Division).

It is currently unknown when the patrol was formed.

Sergeant Harry Warne. Foreman of the surface works of Castle-an-Dinas Mine.
John O'Shea
Archibald Nail
William Edward Roberts
Charlie Warne – Older brother of Harry
Frederick “George” Rounsefell (See below)

These men were all miners at the Castle-an-Dinas Wolfram (tungsten) Mine and so were in a reserved occupation.

William Roberts remembered the Patrol consisted of the same six men throughout the war.

The Nominal Roll of Auxiliers however also includes :
Sergeant William Hawkey – Transferred to 11th Battalion Home Guard May 1943 (Harry Warne recorded as Corporal at that time)
Albert E Lobb of Winnard's Perch
Robert S Harris – Discharged to join HM Forces April 1943
and Richard H Ellery (See below) of West Street.

William Roberts in November 2000.

Known to be a stand down picture of at least group 3 and the officers from group 2.

Major Harston is in the middle of the second row with Captain Abbiss to his right.

Taken at Idless Wood 1944.

Castle-an-Dinas looking towards St Columb.

The OB was constructed within the workings of Castle-an-Dinas Wolfram Mine. North of Castlean-an-Dinas iron age hill fort, two miles east of St Columb Major.

The Castle is maintained by Cornwall Heritage Trust and welcomes visitors.

An adit near the North Shaft.

The Patrol constructed their own area within the adits of the North shaft of the Castle-an-Dinas Mine to use as an Operational Base.

A tunnel entrance, a few yards North of the Castle, lead directly into the maze of mine shafts and works. One hundred yards into this tunnel the patrol dug out a large chamber around 16 ft x 10 ft to use as their OB.

The walls were not lined and left as natural rock. Large, heavy wooden doors were fitted at the entrance but no dedicated escape tunnel was formed as the men were experienced miners and knew the shafts and works well.

The Patrol built bunks, tables and chairs and generally the chamber was considered very comfortable !

Buildings near the North Shaft.

North Shaft 1945 (Cornwall Heritage Trust)

South Shaft 1945 (Cornwall Heritage Trust)

Observation Post: The buildings of the mine working in the South would have given a fine view of the strategic roads nearby.

The top of the hill fort provides a panoramic view of the area. With the cover of the ramparts the Patrol could have easily seen airplane movements to and from the nearby Newquay Airport which was originally RAF St Trebelzue then RAF St Mawgan.

Top of Castle-an-Dinas hill fort showing aeroplane movement.

Opened in 1917 the mine was the largest producer of wolfram in Cornwall between 1934 to its closure in 1958. It remained open and productive during the war years. Some beautiful images of the mine workings as they
existed in 1997 can be seen here. A explosives store was hidden within a mine spoil heap nearby.

A “Q-Type” night bombing decoy was constructed at nearby Tregonetha Down. It displayed a series of lights to
simulate an active airfield thus acting as a decoy site for RAF St Eval airfield.

A night exercise was carried out against a group of regular army sent to defend the site. They were easily evaded and the Patrol were able to cause havoc at the site before escaping unseen until their work was discovered in the morning. The Commanding Officer was said to have been livid but hugely impressed.

Years later the Patrol were told that the defending force at the site were a group of high ranking officers on a training exercise. The officers were left very red faced.

OS map New Popular edition 1945-47 Sheet 185.

Castle-an-Dinas (marked) is perfectly placed to disrupt the main roads, the A30 East and A39 towards the North coast, along with the rail line.

It is thought that none of the Patrol went to Coleshill for training but official training was carried out at
Porthpean House near Charlestown on the South Cornwall coast.

Weapons firing was carried out within the confines of the mine area as there were plenty of waste tips to fire into safely and any explosive training could easily be explained as mine working.

It is assumed they had access to the standard equipment. The Patrol were issued with plastic explosives,
gelignite and dynamite. Some of the explosives were stored in the OB and some concealed in a small store constructed within a old mine spoil heap nearby.

Initially the Patrol made their own time fuses with different lengths of fuse. Later in the war they were issued with time pencils. Weapons issued were restricted to Sten guns and Colt revolvers and hand grenades.

William Roberts had no memories of training with any other Patrols and was unaware of the existence of any local Patrols until he was interviewed in November 2000 by researcher Alwyn Harvey.

George Rounsefell died in a mining accident in March 1944 and it appears that even at this stage he was replaced by Richard Ellery who joined the Patrol in May 1944 at the age of 16.

George Rounsefell


Alwyn Harvey and his work on The Defence of Britain Database who interviewed William Roberts.
TNA reference WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B.R.A
Phil Ellery of St Columb Old Cornwall Society

If you can help with any info please contact us.