Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


AU or Scout Section Operational Base near Foxborough Hall

This page was last updated at 3:42pm on 16/8/12

Thank you for selecting information on the unknown Operational Base in Suffolk. The info and images below have been supplied by Aux researchers Evelyn Simak and Adrian Pye.

We visited the site in order to record the remains of an as yet unassigned operational base which geographically would most likely have been in the Woodbridge Group. Unless the OB was at some time used by one of the patrols known to have operated in the area we do not have names for this patrol and its members.

The OB is located in private woodland currently owned / managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and was accessed by their kind permission.

Geographically, the OB is situated within the area that was covered by patrols of the Woodbridge Group:

Debach Patrol (aka Clopton or Otley Patrol), Woodbridge (aka Melton Park) Patrol, Nacton Patrol
Eyke Patrol, Great Bealings Patrol and Dallinghoo (aka Pettistree/Bredfield) Patrol

We were unable to find a record for a Foxborough Patrol. The patrol is not mentioned on the list of Suffolk patrols that was found amongst papers belonging to Capt David W Beeton, CO of Woodbridge Group. Considering that there is no record of a Foxborough Patrol and no record of members of a patrol of this name, the following scenarios spring to mind:

i) The OB was a patrol’s 1st OB, and was abandoned in favour of another location.
Woodbridge (aka Melton Park) Patrol would have been the patrol based closest to the location,its alternative name referring to an area known as Melton Park, which immediately adjoins the grounds of Foxborough Hall in the north.

ii) The OB served as a patrol’s 2nd OB, after their 1st OB had to be abandoned for reasons unknown to us.

iii) Foxborough Patrol did exist but was disbanded before stand-down, ie before names were being recorded.

iv) The OB served for training purposes only.
There was at least one such OB in Durham which is known to have been used for training by a several patrols. Northumberland’s I/O Lambert Carmichael set up a CQ (close quarters) training area along with pop up targets and aerial ropeways around his OB at Allerdean.

Capt Noel Andrew Cotton Croft arrived in Suffolk some time before August, after having set up the first Auxunit Patrols in Essex. The first operational bases constructed were frequently nothing more than rectangular dug-outs hidden in woodland, with roofs of corrugated sheeting, supported by railway tracks, sleepers or timbers. Many of these structures had barely room to house the five patrol members it was intended for, and when the number of patrol members was increased from 5 to 7 in spring 1941, many OBs had to be abandoned for this reason alone. Some patrols had three or even four different bases during the first few months of their existence, one after the other soon to be abandoned because they were unsuitable for even short-term use until replacement bases were constructed from a standard drawing. Occasionally this first standard base had to also be abandoned, because it was discovered by school children, courting couples or poachers.

Condition of OB: Main chamber intact; entrance shaft, exit, and escape tunnel collapsed

Size of OB and entrance/exit etc: 12ft long Nissen hut with drop-down entrance shaft, ante-chamber and 16ft escape passage

Orientation of OB: N/S

According to information published on DoB, their recorder (Mike Osborne) visited the site in Oct 1998 and found it destroyed by development. The grid reference provided for the location is TM 277 516, which is in the grounds (garden) of Foxborough Hall.

The recorder has added that the structure was destroyed ‘before 1998’ and that the building materials used were ‘clay brick and corrugated iron’. The condition of the structure is given as ‘removed’. No reference is given concerning the original source/s used.

The information provided by DoB is conflicting, also, there is no evidence of development in the area which might have lead to the destruction of the OB site at the grid reference given (this taking into account that DoB grid refs are deliberately ‘off’). In an attempt to clarify, I have contacted Mike Osborne, whose name is given as the recorder in the information published by DoB. Mike Osborne informs me that he knows nothing about the site and that he has never been to it. I have consequently contacted CBA (Council for British Archaeology) in York, who hold all data compiled by DoB since the project was closed. CBA informs me that they no longer have the data. Following up on their suggestions as to whom to contact about the matter it turns out that none of their contacts have the data either, advising instead that the data are still with CBA, somewhere… I gave up my search at that point.

BROM (Parham) appear not to have information on the site.

We visited the OB site with Brian Ward, who kindly took us there. As it turns out, the site is about 1 kilometre distant from the grid reference given by DoB, located in a woodland that is surrounded by fields on all sides. An old cart track skirting the woodland in the east is about 150m distant from the OB site, which is located about 20 metres to the south of a narrow path traversing the woodland from east to west.

Operational Base near Foxborough Hall 1

OB site and collapsed exit

Brian Ward had discovered the location in 1943, when, as teenager he had visited the woodland with his brother, in the hope of catching a rabbit for the pot. The two boys came upon what looked like a manhole cover and whilst still wondering what it might do here in the middle of the woods, they heard male voices from below, and ran away. Apparently the patrol members had assembled in their OB, neglecting to disguise the hatch covering the entrance to it.

On occasion of our visit in mid November the ground in the young birch woodland the OB is located in was covered with birch leaves. About 20 metres south of a narrow track traversing the woodland, we noticed three marked depressions in the ground, filled with twigs, branches and tree stumps. Sweeping the level ground in-between two of the depressions with a metal detector indicated that something was underneath there. On closer examination we could clearly see the rounded shape of the end of a corrugated iron Nissen-type hut, buried under about 60 cm of soil.

Operational Base near Foxborough Hall 2

Collapsed entrance shaft (above) and glazed ceramic ventilation pipe beside the silted-up entrance doorway.

The structure was originally entered through a drop-down shaft (filled in/collapsed) by the south-eastern corner. The shaft was lined with corrugated sheeting, much of which is still in place.

An approx 3m/10ft long passage (collapsed) leads from the entrance shaft to what appears to have been an antechamber. The earthen walls of this chamber (collapsed) appear to have been stabilised with wire mesh, much of it still in place.

The main chamber is 12 ft long and in good condition, but filled with an approx 50 cm deep layer of sand that has trickled in through the doorways at both ends. The walls were originally painted off-white (standard army issue off-white lead paint) much of which is still in place.

The main chamber was accessed through a central doorway.
Both earthen end walls of the main chamber were lined with corrugated sheeting, some still in place.

A ceramic ventilation pipe can be seen emerging into the chamber immediately beside (to the west of) the entrance doorway.
The main chamber was exited through a central doorway, immediately adjoined by a 5m/16ft long escape tunnel (collapsed apart from an approx 1m long section that is blocked/inaccessible).

Both doorways into the main chamber are inaccessible due to tree stumps having been placed there.

Brian Ward, Ipswich; Mike Osborne (DOB 1998); Stephen Lewins CART CIO Northumberland; John Warwicker, Churchill’s Underground Army (2008); Major NV Oxenden MC, Auxiliary Units – History and Achievement 1940-1944 (Oct 1944)

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