'TOT' BARRASS - AND THE CRAMLINGTON AUXILIARY UNIT, NORTHUMBERLAND
An extract [page 65-69] from Hartley to Seaton Sluice 1760-1960: THE MILITARY CONNECTION by David
J Anderson RIBA Published by The Seaton Design Group 1990
These Parish invasion committees were essentially passive but in the background a
Resistance movement,” one of Britain’s best kept secrets” were traing gorilla Auxiliary Units in a coastal strip
thirty miles deep in readiness to harass the Nazi war machine when it landed on our beaches.
Taken from the Home Guard these men were expected to blend into the countryside,”
to live rough and go on fighting until they won”.
Many of these Auxiliary units were assigned to sectors where they lived and ‘Tot’
[Tommy] Barrass was in a local cell at Cramlington which was one of fifteen
patrols throughout Northumberland.
Part of the 202nd Home Guard ,Tot’s captain was the Actor
Sir Anthony Quayle and the Cramlington cell, of
seven men, included Alf Smith, D.Needhan, the cells leader,Wilf Wood, Wilf Henderson, George
Willey, Norman Thompson and ‘Tot’. The Cramlington Cell had their hideout in an underground
chamber in Hartford Woods near Bedlington, Northumberland with six months rations and
ammunition. The cell members used to also meet in secret at an empty terraced house in
Shankhouse, Cramlington, Northumberland.
Secrecy was all important and each cell, in Northumberland, was
not known by name to any other cell just in case of interrogation or collaboration. ‘Tot’ remembers
his Thompson ‘Tommy’ submachine gun, a mills bomb, a
Fairburn dagger and a sabotage diary made to look like the ‘Countryman’s Diary’
Training for each cell was intense but it was often not to
difficult for ‘Tot’ to disguise the fact that he was away from the ‘coal- face’ for long periods as
being part of the Home Guard meant that excuses could be made for his absences from the coal mine
at Seaton Delaval. For the training to be effective it had to be realistic and many exercises were
carried out on real soldiers and many active camps, who were supposed to be informed of a pending
exercise, were not and ‘Tot’ well remembers one such incident with disastrous results.
Scotland was a popular training area and at Couper ‘Tot’ was on
such a training exercise. He was crawling up a gulley, with his blackened face and knife w between
his teeth, when he was discovered and a blow from the boot of an armed guard crashed between his
ribs. Fortunately his cell-mate was just behind ‘Tot’ and came to his rescue with the heel of his
rifle, right between the eyes of the guard, and both ‘Tot’ and the guard ended up in
With his ribs strapped up ‘Tot’ was soon back at work down ‘The
Seaton Delaval making excuses and trying to explain away his painful
Perhaps the most important exercise in ‘Tots’ career was defending the Royal
Family at Balmoral, Scotland. For this special exercise ‘Tot’ remembers how he was provided with a new suit and
Glengarry Beret and how on one Sunday morning, accompanying the Royal family to Crathy Church ,he had to desert his
King and Queen during the service for a call of nature and he was nearly arrested for his actions!
For his services at Balmoral ‘Tot’ received a personal commendation/citation with
a message of thanks from the King.
Entitled 490 the citation is dated October 1944 and proudly hangs on the wall of
his flat at Beresford Court, Seaton Sluice.
During the D-Day landings ‘Tot’ guarded a Power Station on the Isle of Wight.
'Tot' sadly died in 1999 and his wife Belle knew little about his activities during the war.
For readers who wishes to learn more about this ‘Secret Army’ they should read THE
LAST DITCH by David Lamp, published by Cassell and Company 1968”…………………………
Our thanks goes to David J Anderson for this info