Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base 

This page was last updated at 5:38pm on 3/2/13

Thank you for selecting information on the Yelverton Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford. cartdevon@gmail.com

Yelverton is a village located close to the South Western boundary of Dartmoor National Park with the town of Tavistock to the North and the City of Plymouth to the South.

At stand down Devon is registered as area 16. Yelverton is part of Group 2 along with Plymstock, Holbeton, Tamerton Foliot and Plympton. The Group (and  South Devon Area) Commander Is Captain Cyril Wellington originally of Plympton Patrol.

At inauguration the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major) J W Stuart Edmundson of the Royal Engineers. He had married Iris Norrington in 1936 who's family home at the time was “Crossways” in Yelverton. Iris's  father was Lt Col R Norrington who came from an influential family including a past Mayor of Plymouth.

Edmundson  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.

In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and  Edmundson was replaced 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 Peninsula and South Wales.

The IO's were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where various patrols within a demographic area would regularly train together under a more local Captain.

Captain William Falcon of Cornwood  trained this and other local Patrols in the grounds of his home  called “Slade” along with help from Lt Cyril Wellington (Plympton) and  Lt Alwyn Robertson (Harford). Both became Captains at stand down, Wellington being named as the Area Commander for South Devon and Group Commander of Group 2. Captain Falcon is missing from the chain of command at stand down.

It can be assumed that Yelverton would have been one of the first Patrols formed in the  Summer of 1940 as Captain Edmundson would have had good local knowledge and contacts.

Sargent Sidney Bragg of Axtown Farm, a farm worker.

Lionel Coutier of Rock Garage, Yelverton, a mechanic.

Len German of Fairfield, Yelverton who worked as a milkman.

Howard Phillips who later delivered milk for Len German.

William Palmer of Yelverton

L N Tucker of Crossways Cottage, Yelverton

R N Tucker of Crossways Cottage who is most likely the son of L N Tucker and worked as a gardener.

F Willcocks of Southcote, Crapstone who was transferred to Plympton HG in 1942

William Ashton who was medically discharged

And possibly Robert H Bragg who joined HM forces April 1943

The Operational Base was in Olderwood Plantation which is maintained by The Forestry Commission.

The Plantation is maintained by Forestry Commission. There is public access but there are some  restrictions during the shooting season. The fields immediately next to the base is Callisham Cross Scout Camp-site

A large amount of explosives were stored in the base and some time after stand down the Royal Engineers were brought in to investigate. They discovered the explosives had become unstable and were “weeping” and dangerous so the OB and the explosives were detonated in situ.
All that remains now is a large depression in the ground and a smaller depression to the East separated by a raised ridge and some small pieces of general debris.

Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Operational Base 1

Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Operational Base 2

Main Chamber

Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Operational Base 3

Smaller Chamber to the East

Howard Phillips described it as “an underground tunnel which they had to climb down into, under a trap door covered in leaves “ he also complained that it had been quite damp.

The escape tunnel would have exited from the smaller chamber through a low  Devon bank affording some cover for the likely escape route which would then have been down a short incline to the River Meavy in the valley below.

Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Operational Base 4

Escape tunnel through bank with OB beyond on right.

The orientation of OB was West to East.

Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Operational Base 5

View from Callisham Cross on to Dartmoor beyond.

Observation Post: Not known, but ΒΌ of a mile further up hill at the Callisham  Crossroads between the villages of Meavy and Clearbrook would have been a ideal area. The view across to Dartmoor would have given an ideal outlook for parachutists.



It is assumed the main target nearby would have been RAF Harrowbeer. Photo C1946.

 

RAF Harrowbeer

 

Interestingly RAF Harrowbeer along with the nearby RAF Robourgh were protected from air attack by a decoy airfield which followed the straight road along Roborough Down from the A386 to Clearbrook. There were false runway lights and even a turntable with headlights to imitate a plane turning at the end of the runway. There are still remains of this deception in the area.

 

There were railway tunnels in the area servicing Yelverton and  Horrabridge railway stations on the main line from Plymouth to Tavistock part of the Plym Valley Railway.

 

Clearbrook Railway Tunnel

 

Railway tunnel just before Clearbrook. Close to the OB. Now part of the National Cycle Route.

 

The main road linking the Cityof Plymouth to Tavistock, running through Yelverton, would have been a important supply route.

 

Howard Phillips would recall being taken in a truck to different places and being told to leave a “calling card” without being seen.

 

 

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where various  patrols within a demographic area  would regularly train together under a more local Captain.


They trained with  Plympton,  Plymstock,  Tamerton Foliot  ( now all suburbs of Plymouth)  and Holbeton Patrols. Firstly under the command of Captain William Falcon (of Cornwood  Patrol) who was based at “Slade” in Cornwood, then when Cyril Wellington (Plympton) became Group Commander these local patrols would have trained with him.

Group 2 patrols also trained at the rifle range at Cleeve, just below Ivybridge.

 

It is known that the Patrol trained regularly with the Plympton Patrol under (later Captain) Lt Wellington.
On 21st Feb 1942 the Patrol took part in a large scale exercise named Operation Drake in Plymouth. This exercise involved a mock invasion of Plymouth and lasted for two days. All the services were involved and it virtually closed the city.

 

On 7th March 1942  this Patrol along with Plympton Patrol had a “large scale night attack” on a target in Yelverton. The airfield would have been the biggest target in the area. Lt  Wellington recorded that the Patrols worked well together that night.


The records of RAF Harrowbeer records a “raid” on the Airfield by the “Home Guard” which was successful, leaving many red faced on the airfield.

On 28th March 1942 Wellington records that the Plympton Patrol (along with other unnamed Patrols though thought to be group 2) took part in a practice raid a bit further afield into Cornwall. The target was the home of Cornwall's future Intelligence Officer Lt (later Captain) Dingley.  Its not known if he knew this was going to happen or if it was Devon's IO having a joke with Cornwall's IO !

 

 

Unknown, but it is assumed that they would have access to the “standard” Auxiliary weapons of a Browning Automatic Rifle, a Thompson Machine Gun and two Enfields.


Explosives included No 36 grenades, “Sticky Bombs” and Phosphorous grenades and each would have had a rifle and fighting knife.

 

Most of the explosives were stored in the inspection pit of Capt. Cyril Wellington's garage after he had turned it into an air raid shelter. They also used his attic as a store.

 

Howard Phillips would joke about the first issue of the Sten Gun being difficult to control and liable to go off and empty the magazine if shaken, so only the Sargent was allowed to carry it.

 

Other equipment issued to the Patrols includes torches, lamps, candles, compass, water sterilization sets, picks, ration packs along with eating utensils and a gallon jar of Rum .

 

 

Some questions were asked in the village about whether some of the men were “doing their duty” as they were not seen to be part of any defence structure. With all their training and the secret nature of their roll it would have been difficult for them to defend their honour.

 

There was a prisoner of war camp at Bickham, just before Yelverton. Two from the camp were known to help tend an ex Royal Navy gentleman's garden in nearby Dousland.

 

At stand down all Auxiliers still active in the Patrols in Devon an Cornwall were presented with their lapel badges and letters of thanks in a ceremony held in Exeter.

Nigel Rendle and Mrs Hamilton-Leggett from http://www.yelvertonhistory.org.uk/index.asp

Mike Hayes from Knightstone Tea Rooms and Stephen Fryer from http://www.rafharrowbeer.co.uk/

Geoff Phillips son of Howard Phillips, Capt Hancock's data held at the British Resistance Archive.

Evelyn Simak CART CIO for Norfolk, Margaret Gardener (nee Wellington)

Can you help with this patrol or OB? Please email cartdevon@gmail.com