Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Admiralty 4, Prior Park Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 6:44pm on 2/5/14

Thank you for selecting information on the Admiralty 4, Bath Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Somerset. The info and images below have been supplied by our Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford and Dorset CIO Dr Will Ward.

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.

September 1940

Alan Crick was one of the original Intelligence officers that were sent out on reconnaissance. He surveyed Somerset and Dorset.

Captain Ian Fenwick (KRRC) was the first Intelligence Officer covering the county of Somerset along with the City of Bath. During his command he was billeted near Taunton with a HQ in Bridgewater. He went on to join the SAS and was killed in action in France in August 1944.

By August 1942 Captain L Strangman (RAOC) was Somerset's IO based at Sherwood House, Goathurst near Bridgewater. A move of HQ to The Lodge at Bishops Lydeard preceded a change of IO to Captain J W Holberton who was, in turn, succeeded by Captain J M Martin in February 1944.

At a meeting held in July 1944 it was decided to group all the counties into 4 regions. The Admiralty Patrols became part of “Region 4” under the command of Major W W Harston based in Ashburton, Devon. As the final Intelligence Officer, Harston's command would cover the whole of the South West and South Wales.
The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 onwards leaving the Area and Group Commanders.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 more local command.

Admiralty Officers - Bath

Left to right; Lt. Jeffery G. Spearman, Capt. Leonard Arthur Aves, 2nd.Lt. Ivor M. Phillips, 2nd.Lt. George Richard M. Hutchings.

Lt Spearman was later promoted to Captain and Sargent Frank Bradbury to 2nd Lt. Captain Aves was posted to 20th Essex Bn in April 1944 ranked as Lt.

The Admiralty Patrols were formed from men working for the British Admiralty in Bath.

In command of the Admiralty patrols were initially Captain Leonard Aves and Sergeant (later Lieutenant) Frank Bradbury. They were subsequently re-deployed by the Admiralty and were replaced by Lt Jeffrey George Spearman and 2nd Lieutenants George Richard Hutchings and Ivor MacGregor Phillips as the other officers.

Ivor Phillips, before joining the Admiralty, was a cameraman at a film studio. It is known that he filmed  some training sessions but it is unknown if they survive. He was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in December 1944 for “ Meritorious Service in the Home Guard”

 Admiralty 2 Langridge Patrol 1

Copyright J Wilson ( Spearman Collection)

This picture shows Aves, Spearman and Hutchings on a return trip from Taunton, presumably from meeting with IO Captain Fenwick. The journey in the Morris 8 was broken by a refreshment stop at The Rose and Crown at East Lyng.

When war was declared a section of the Admiralty headquarters were moved to Bath. Initially scattered around the city making use of requisitioned hotels, they eventually moved into more suitable locations such as at Fox Hill and purpose built military hutments at Ensleigh, Landsdown Road.

Most of those working with the Admiralty were billeted locally, either with families or in hostels.

There were five Admiralty patrols, Number 1 at Kelston Park,  2 at Langridge,  3 at Warminster Road,  4 at Prior Park and 5 at Newton Park, Newton St. Loe.

All five Admiralty Patrols were recruited from those working for the Admiralty so there was a high turnover of patrol members as men were posted elsewhere through work.

The Patrols OB was located to the SE of the centre of Bath.

Admiralty 4, Bath - Auxiliary Unit

Left to right, H.D.Rees B.E.M.,  L.M.Pussey, H.Banham, B.Masters, R.W.Bennet.

Sergeant Robert  W ( Bob) Bennett,
Lt Cpt John Dilworth,
Bert Masters,
Harry Banham
Leonard M Pussey,
Hubert David Rees (BEM),
Alexander W "Jock" Campbell

Due to the high turnover of personnel, without further information, it is impossible to record all the members in their correct Patrols. A list of patrol members, recorded for a reunion in 1950, lists many men that cannot be allocated a certain Patrol.

They are listed here.

The men were only brought together in Bath due to their work for the Admiralty. Post war, therefore, they have scattered around the country and even around the world.

2nd Lt Ivor Phillips and Hubert Rees were awarded the BEM for their rescue work during the Baedecker air raids on Bath in April 1942. Rees was involved in an incident at the Regina Hotel where he worked at great danger and without a break for 36 hours and helped to bring out 25 people, 5 of whom were found to be alive.

 Admiralty 1 Patrol 1943 to 44

Photo. W.R.Bennett.

Admiralty Patrols 1-5

Nominal role, left to right:

Rear row:  E.Dwane ,  A.P.James,   N.J.James,   W.W.Curry,   J.Blair,   S.R.G.Sauter,   L.M.Pussey,   H.D.Rees BEM, W.F.E.Emmerson.

Third row: B.Masters,  C.J.Gates,   L/Cpl .R.A.Partridge,   S.L.Baldery,   F.N.Jermy,   H.Banham,   R.A.D.Heward,   A.P.Morgan, P.F.Carter,   T.F.Pope,   L/Cpl. R.N.Reeds.

Second row. R.M.B.Judson,   L/Cpl. S.F.Phillips,   E.White,   Sgt. E.A.Steane,   Sgt. N.W.S.Baker BEM,
Sgt.N.E.Shepherd,   L/Cpl .E.Roscorla,  A. N.Armstrong,   J.O.B.Canavan.

Front row:  Sgt. D.F.Stevenson,   2nd Lt. G.R.M.Hutchings,   Captain L.Aves,   Lt. J.G.Spearman,
2nd Lt.  I.MacG.Phillips BEM,   Sgt. R.W.Bennett.

Possibly taken April 1944.

View of Bath from Prior Park

Prior Park with the city of Bath beyond- Operational base is to the left of the second dam.

Prior Park

Prior Park showing Prior Park College - Operational base is to the right of the Palladian Bridge

The OB was constructed in an existing structure of an ice house in Prior Park which was built c1750. The Ice house is made of Bath stone.

The building that was “Prior Park” had been a school for many years and the grounds had long been left  to nature to reclaim. Though the ice house would have been a structure that was known about, the patrol would have been well hidden in the general decay of the gardens.

The ice house was situated just below the Ralph Allen Road and a long way from the original house which was (and still is) a Catholic boarding school.

Prior Park OB In these woods

Bank where operational base is in ice house - The operational base is in the ice house. A sign placed outside the ice house can be seen to the left of the centre tree. Above and to the right of centre a gate leading onto Ralph Allen Drive can be seen.

Today Prior Park is owned by The National Trust and the gardens are open to the public. There is no public parking on site at Ralph Allen Drive. The icehouse can be viewed from the outside but there is no public access into it.

Prior Park OB Drawing

Drawing of the OB by patrol member Harry Banham.

Will Ward Prior Park OB Drawing

Drawing of the OB by Dr Will Ward, CART CIO for Dorset. (Image © DR Will Ward)

The structure in good condition but OB evidence minimal. When the structure was being renovated it was unclear to restorers what some fixings and alterations were and from what era.  The Trust then received a letter from Mr W G Dennis (Admiralty No 3 Patrol ?) in 1994 explaining its war time use and he was able to confirm the layout of the operational base. Harry Banham also explained what various fixings were for.

Outside of ice house showing entrance

Outside of the ice house showing entrance

According to Bob Bennett, when intact, the OB was entered via the main entrance tunnel which was a 4 ft high stone lined cut in the hillside. This lead into an underground chamber approx 8ft in diameter by 12ft deep. The patrol concealed the main entrance and dug an escape tunnel. They built wooden floors and bunks and shelves.

Inside ice house

Inside the ice house - Shows two cables entering the ice house. No trace outside where a very tall Yew tree is close by.

Ice house floor

Inside the ice house - Underground chamber at end of tunnel. Approx 8ft diameter and 12ft deep.

Prior Park OB 1 ww

CART CIO Dr WIll Ward passing through the tunnel into the main Ice House chamber, with Mrs Ward looking into it from above. (Image © DR Will Ward)

Prior Park OB 2 ww

Here is a view from the base of the chamber up to the hole she is looking down. (Image © DR Will Ward)

Prior Park OB 3 ww

This picture shows bricks removed from the wall to create small shelves for candles – with the soot marks showing exactly where they were placed. The “drain hole” for the ice house heads out the bottom of the chamber and may have been considered the escape tunnel. (Image © DR Will Ward)

Prior Park OB 4 ww

A view down onto the circular base of chamber with a load of debris, including some of that wood. (Image © DR Will Ward)

Harry Banham remembers building a drop down entrance shaft and using the ice house “entrance” as an escape tunnel.  This version is corroborated by Ron Frost who found the OB as a child. He recalls an iron ring attached to a wooden hatch cover covering a deep shaft and a wooden step ladder leading  down about 10 feet to a dug out room with four bunks and a table. He remembers finding guns and ammunition.

In a newspaper interview in1996, Bert Masters described the OB as a “noisome” place. He recalled the dank, damp smell and especially the spiders.   

What the patrol constructed whether it be entrance or exit, has been filled in.

When the OB was discovered by school boys ( Ron Frost) they thought they had found a German spy hideout or something to do with the black market. They rushed to tell the police. The police informed the land owner and the Patrol found themselves on a raft of charges from trespass to damage of property to theft of timber. ( The timber used to build the shaft had been “acquired” from the landowners stable.). When the Intelligence officer for Somerset, Ian Fenwick, arrived to deal with the situation, he had a quiet word with the land owner. Being a retired Lt Colonel, the owner allowed the Patrol whatever they wanted and dropped all charges. Ron and his brothers were told NEVER to speak of it again !

Other physical remains nearby: A steel and concrete bunker built by the army “ quite a bit away” as explosives store. Location unknown.

Observation Post/s:  Unknown, but there are fine views of the city of Bath from Ralph Allen Drive which is just above the OB and from other areas of the grounds.

Possibly RAF Colerne as Bert Masters talked of a big break in there and it is known the other Admiralty Patrols were involved.                                                                                 

Admiralty 4 trained with the other Admiralty Patrols and sometimes  along with the “City of Bath” Patrols. Initial training was carried out in local quarries.On one exercise they even trained with sections of the cadet force from one of the local public schools when there was 80-100 men involved.
The Patrols were sent  to test the defences of the local RAF Station, all the men gained entry and plastered the aircraft with  “destroyed” notices. The commander was even held at gun point in his office. All RAF leave was cancelled for 2 weeks.

A training target was a disused water mill on an island in the River Avon. No 4 Patrol approached via a long heavy plank. Another patrol choose to rope themselves together and crawl along the weir.

Bob Bennett remembers leading the patrol crawling along in the shadow of a field hedge. Turning, he found they had been followed by a group of curious cows. 

Later, training became more commando like ie climbing cliffs and swinging over ravines.

Gelignite, plastic explosives, fuses, detonators. Also Colt, Tommy and Sten guns which they were told was a gift from New York Police Department. Phosphorous bombs came later and Bob Bennett can remember being trained with sticky bombs but not being issued with them.

They were also given a G licence for petrol, camouflage paint and the all important rubber boots.

The Admiralty Patrols also had a central explosives / arms store in an out building at The Royal School, Lansdown Road and according to Harry Banham another one built into the bank of the car park of The Ensleigh estate.

There was a shooting competition on 20th Feb 1944 at Monkton Coombe between the Admiralty Patrols. A resounding win for Patrol 4.

Bert Masters joked the Auxiliers in his Patrol were  “Middle-class types... not swede bashers !” Masters was the explosives expert in the group.

Bert married his wife the day before war was declared and his daughter was born just before the Blitz. Aware that any knowledge of his activities would put their lives in danger he never breathed a word to them. They only learnt the real truth when Bert was interviewed by the Mail on Sunday in 1996.

He recalled “ We were more or less told if anything happened, we'd be on our own. We did the spit and polish stuff because it kept up the fiction we were Home Guard but our REAL job was to keep our heads down – until invasion.

Any man who tells you he was not afraid is a liar”
Bert Masters stayed with the Admiralty and at retirement was a chief draughtsman. Though aware, in later years, he was eligible for the defence medal, the lack of recognition never bothered him.

Nothing currently

Bob Bennett, Bob Millard, the late Harry Banham, The National Trust, Ron Frost, The family of Bert Masters, The Mail on Sunday.9/11/1996

If you can help with any info please contact us.