Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Westwell 'Onion' Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 8:43am on 18/10/12

Thank you for selecting information on the Westwell 'Onion' Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Kent. The info and images below have been supplied by CART CIO for Kent, Phil Evans.

Based at Westwell Leacon they used the code name Onion.

The Group Commander was Alfred Chester-Beatty Jnr. He was the son of Sir Alfred Chester-Beatty, the American mining engineer who founded the Selection Trust; at the time one of the world’s largest mining companies. CB Jnr was Joint Master of the Ashford Valley Hunt from 1927 – 1953. He was also at Eton with Peter and Ian Fleming.

Mid 1940

Patrol leader not known.

Stan Hayward
R.C. Brown
Bert Lockwood
Charles Underwood
Roland Batt
Gordon Hayward
Percy Patternden
Edward Strouts

Stan Haywood (sitting down) Edward Strouts

(Left) Stan Hayward, seated. (Right) Edward Strouts

Edward Strouts was a farmer, Percy Pattenden a businessman, Stan Hayward a farm worker, Charles Underwood a former Policeman and then a gamekeeper, George Mann and Jim Brown worker for Chester-Beatty as his chauffeur and gardener, respectively, and Gordon Hayward owned a garage.  Gordon Hayward s garage always used to fix Chester-Beatty's cars this could be the reason he was involved in the patrol as he didn’t have much knowledge of the local area around Westwell.

At Stand Down Chester-Beatty organised a dinner at The Swan Hotel, Charing.

Edward Alan Strouts was a chicken farmer from Benenden. A brief look at his background gives us some idea why he was recruited into the Auxiliary Units, and also suggests he might have been involved in other secret work. He spoke fluent German, was married to Ursula Gercke, the daughter of a First World War German submarine commander, who left Germany after Hitler came to power, was an amateur wireless operator, and regularly flew to France, Germany and Switzerland in his own open-cockpit Tiger Moth.

His daughter, Hazel Honnywill-Strouts, still lives on the same farm. She has his Farmers and Countryman Pocket Diary for the years 1939 - 1945 in which he kept extensive notes concerning his chickens and other business. According to the diaries he knew the Hocken Brothers, from Glassenbury, and John Foreman, from Headcorn (see Weald Patrols), and Sonny Hall, from Biddenden (see Biddenden Patrol).

There are also several entries referring to Percy Pattenden and onions. However, Mrs Honnywill-Strouts doesn’t recall her father ever growing or dealing in onions. Was this the patrol’s codename? Other entries refer to Snow White, Sparrow and Cherries. Also after the war a couple of the patrol members went and talked to Strouts wife about his involvement in the patrol and the only thing she could think off was that he always used to speak to Percy Pattenden on the phone and they always used to mention Onions which used to confuse her! This could well have been them talking about the patrol.

Also a rumor went around the patrol that the reason Strouts was in it was because he had a private pilots license and if the Germans had invaded him and Chester-Beatty would have gone to the plane and flown off up country to safety!! This was only ever a rumor though.

There are a few entries relating directly to his clandestine activities. It would appear Mr Strouts was a member of the Sissinghurst Home Guard before being recruited to the Auxiliary Units, probably in November 1943. Entries refer to meetings and night exercises at Rose Cottage, the home of Alfred Chester-Beatty Jn; rendezvous at the Woolpack (Pub or Corner?), probably where they were picked up from before being taken to Angley Wood, The Garth or Rose Cottage; Sunday training at The Garth; and collecting petrol from George Mann at Leda Cottages. The last Auxiliary Unit entry is for Wednesday, September 27, 1944, when he reported to the “Army Hut at Cranbrook.” This is more than likely Wenman’s Cottage at Angley Wood.

The puzzling thing about Mr Strouts’ involvement is that he farmed in Benenden but was recruited to the Westwell Patrol; a good 20 miles away cross country. The same can also be said for Percy Pattenden, the businessman from St. Michaels, Tenterden. The other members of the patrol were from the general Westwell area. Mr Strouts was surrounded by Patrols in the Wealden, Biddenden and Tenterden areas. The last time the Strouts farmed in the Westwell area was in the early 1800s when they owned Yonsea Farm between Ashford and Hothfield.

The Patrol’s OB was at Leacon Farm, Westwell Leacon. The farm belonged to Mr Chester-Beatty. Jim Boyd was the tenant farmer but not a member of the Patrol. An Anderson shelter (15’ x 7’) was rolled into an old sand pit and buried. Farmyard rubbish and scrap metal was then spread around to disguise it.

Stan Hayward: “A manhole cover with a very heavy tin bath nailed to it was the entrance. This would have been nigh on impossible for an inquisitive German to move. However, it was perfectly counterbalanced and if you knew where to push it would rise up. The escape tunnel led through a barrel covered with netting woven with foliage.
One time when Stan wasn’t there Charlie Underwood was using the coke stove in the O.B. he was quickly overcome by the fumes and had to be dragged out . Whilst lied out on the floor Roland Batt commented "Good god Underwood you look just like my Uncle did half hour before he died!!" George Mann was told to get the car to take Underwood home.

Westwell OB today

O.B. was destroyed by army at the end of the war the site where it was has now been filled in no signs of it are left.

Westwell O.B - Phil Evans Drawing

Size of OB and entrance/exit etc: 15x7 Nissan Hut type shelter. Trap door was an old bath nailed to a manhole cover which was counterweighted. The exit was a tunnel which left the back of the base and exited through a 50 gallon drum hidden under an old tree stump covered in Ivy.

They were told to attack any targets they felt were worth destroying. i.e. Patrol dumps, Ammo dumps, vehicles.

Stan Haywood

“We trained at The Garth and at Coleshill (twice). I remember one chap, not from our Patrol, who got caught up while crawling under barbed wire. He put his hand up and promptly got shot through it. We were using live ammunition. The commander at The Garth was McNicholl from the London Scottish.

“There was also a corporal who got badly injured when a home-made mortar blew up. We put a grenade down a steel tube but it blew up in the tube. The standard unit charge was three sticks of gelignite taped to one stick of PE. We practised on trees using blue fuse, orange fuse and cordite to learn the various timings. The gelignite gave you terrible headaches.

“We once held an exercise in Kings Wood where we had to locate another group’s OB. We used to sticks to detect trip wires. We found the entrance, under a tree stump, after smelling the wood smoke from their stove.

“During an invasion we were to wear our uniform in case of capture but we were not to confront the Germans. It was more than likely we would have been killed than captured. If you were wounded you were to be left behind to cause the enemy as much annoyance as possible with grenades or PE. Any reprisals would have hardened our resolve, efficiency, capability and ruthlessness.”

Whilst training in Westwell Stan Haywood and Roland Batt were crawling across a field to place unit charges under a tree stump. Stan commented that they would both be killed if the charges accidently went off whilst they were crawling. Roland Batt said to him "Don’t worry lad it would all be over in a flash!!!"

Whilst at the Garth Stan remembered McNicholl telling them about an anti personel device. It involved hanging a sweet jar at head height from a tree and filling it with scrap metal and a unit charge and connecting it to a trip switch. He told them that if it was going to be necessary to go after troops then it would be better to injure three rather than kill one as this would pull more men away from fighting to rescue the injured men.

Stan Haywood

“The Patrol had a selection of .38 Colt revolvers, .32 Smith & Wesson long-barreled revolvers, .303 Lee Enfield rifles, short-barreled Colt. 45s, Thompson sub machine guns with all the bits (drum and straight magazines) in a green box and a .22 scoped rifle. My favourite weapon was the cheese wire, although the average Englishman was not conditioned to fight that way.

One day when the men were at the O.B. Chester-Beatty told them to open one of the boxes given to them by the Garth that had explosives in because he wanted to make sure it wasn’t just full of sand! He was proved wrong the second the box was open.

One day Chester-Beatty took the men to a local sandpit to practice firing pistols. He gave each man five rounds to shoot a target with. When it came to Stans go his first shot went straight through the bullseye and the others went everywhere but the target. Cheater turned to stan and said  "Well Stanely where did all your bullets go? Roland Batt then replyed "Well Sir the other four went straight through the same hole the first made!" Chester then said "I wish I could believe that!"

Nothing Currently.

Kind thanks go to Adrain Westwood for letting us use information from his website. Other information is from Phil Evans own research into the patrol.

If you can help with any info please contact us.