Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Bishampton 'David' Auxiliary Unit Patrol

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Thank you for selecting information on the Bishampton 'David' Auxiliary Unit Patrol in Worcestershire. The info below have been supplied by our internal archive.

Code name for the patrol was 'David'

Research into this patrol and its training is ongoing. The information above is published from various sources and is by no means conclusive. If information is not listed above it does not necessarily mean the information is not out there but normally means CART researchers have not found it yet.

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Worcestershire (Groups 1a and 1b) formed part of area 19 which also included Herefordshire, Monmouthshire (Group 3) and latterly from 1943 part of Glamorganshire (Groups 4a and 4b).

The first intelligence officer was Captain John Ellerman Todd who had been a London stockbroker before the war. Known to be a character but dressed as the country gent it is believed he lived at Llanfihangel Crucorny in Monmouthshire. Recruited to SOE, Todd was replaced by Captain Christopher Sandford and the area headquarters became Eye Manor near Leominster. A later Intelligence Officer included Captain Lloyd Bucknell RA.

Worcestershire Group 1a consisted of three Patrols: Bishampton (“David”) Patrol, Overbury Patrol and Alfrick (“Jehu”) Patrol.

Area Commander for both groups in Worcestershire was Captain Lewis E Van Moppes.
Group commander of 1a Patrols was his brother Lt Edmund M van Moppes.

It is thought that stores were held at Wolverton Hall, the home of Company Quartermaster Sergeant Thomas Dawe.

Many Auxiliers recall Sergeant Thurston Holland-Martin of Overbury Patrol as having a roll in recruiting and training.

Worcestershire,  Herefordshire and Monmouthshire Patrols were given Biblical code names. It is assumed this was an initiative of Todd to prevent the use of patrols locations names. 

Currently unknown.

Sergeant Algy Herbert “Alec” Fernihough (Patrol Leader – Farmer and pre-war boxer)
Harry Curnock
Corporal Colin Curnock
Arthur Peace “Tom” Harwood
Harold Plain
Ernest “Ernie” Shervington
Harold Wilkins

All from the farming community of the Abbots Lench, Abbots Morton and Radford area and were recruited by Alec Fernihough. The patrols HQ was a Alec’s house at Grove Farm.

Located two miles to the east of Pershore airfield at the highest point of a wooded ridgeline. Constructed of brick and built by Espleys of Evesham rather than Royal Engineers. It had a conventional vertical shaft entrance which was heavily camouflaged and an escape tunnel. To avoid disturbing the camouflage the patrol members used the escape tunnel as an entrance. The OB survived until 1990 when it was demolished as part of a plan to develop the woods as a competition trap shooting ground. No telephone was provided in the OB.

The patrol did not have an Observation Post. Colin thought their hide provided a good view all around anyway.

The ammunition and explosives were stored at the hide. The hide was visited about once a fortnight and the patrol might stay overnight but they apparently did not stay any longer, unlike some of the other patrols we know of. Colin recalls the jar of rum being stored threre but says that it remained intact and was handed back when the patrol was wound up, unlike some of the other units, who managed to siphon theirs off and drink it!

Tom Harwood said that there was a large oak tree in the vicinity of their hide, which is
interesting. Might it have been a natural marker for them to find their hide in the dark.

Control Tower at Pershore Airfield

Control Tower at Pershore airfield. © Copyright Philip Halling

Observe Pershore airfield and after invasion to attack and destroy any German aircraft. By the middle of 1940 this former private flying field near Tilesford Farm was being expanded to become a fully developed RAF Bomber Command Operational Training Unit airfield with the conventional concrete runways and hangars.

All three members of the patrol members interviewed were quite clear about their operational role, should there have been an invasion. This was to observe and if necessary, attack to German aircraft which might be using Pershore Airfield, which is about two miles away, to the East of their hide location.

Training would take place at Kington Break, a former quarry to the West of Grove Farm. Alec’s son John, who still farms from the family home, remembers the noise of firing and explosions on Sundays!

The patrol spent a weekend at Coleshill "from Friday night to Sunday night", where they did one night patrol led by "somebody who knew the area", presumably one of the instructors there. Colin could not recall any of the other training there, and although he was told about the various facilities we have seen there and that still exist, such as the practice OB, he did not remember them.

Colin thought one of the trainers could have been a Captain Sandford but was not sure. He recalled the name of Peter Price the boxer but not what his role was.

Harold Wilkins recalls being trained in unarmed combat by Peter Price, who lived in Worcester and was a former boxer. Peter Price was in the regular army and was from a family of butchers in Worcester.

Colin remembered a training exercise involving the railway viaduct at Ledbury and that other Auxiliary Units were involved. These were met some where near Leominster and their task was to get to the viaduct past the local Home Guard. He apparently got to within a few yards of the objective by crawling along a ditch and that he was undiscovered when the exercise was called off. He thinks he was probably the most successful of those competing and would have been more so had he been on familiar ground. As it was, the terrain was completely unknown to him. The reference to Leominster suggests that Captain Lacon was behind this scheme.

Training at Hereford was at a site now occupied by the SAS and their instructors were from the Regular Army.

The patrols ammo was stored in a secure place at Grove Farm. Each member had a Smith and Wesson revolver. Colin Curnock also had a brand new .22 rifle (he once won a shooting competition at Lower Wolverton). Tom Harwood can remember having a FS knife and that he traveled to Hereford where he was trained by regular army officers. He also remembers they had been issued with an automatic weapon and that they practiced shooting in single and auto modes. Initial training was carried out at Coleshill and local training (which involved explosives and tree stumps) was conducted in the Lenches area.

Explosives, grenade and some firearms training was carried out at a quarry called Kington Break on Alec Fernihough's farm at Radford. This no longer exists having been filled in. He can recall having training in the use of explosives, including plastic, time pencils and pressure switches, and that some of the explosives were used to remove tree stumps in the locality. He also tells the story that one member of the Auxiliaries used to do tree stump removal for local farmers using Unit explosives and charging for it!!

Contact was maintained with the van Moppes by Alec who would visit Wolverton Hall on the first Monday of each month. David patrol did not go to the Isle of Wight for guard duties.

Colin does not recall the van Moppes being involved in the recruiting process or of knowing them subsequently, although he has in a group photograph of a number of the Worcestershire patrols taken at Lower Wolverton where the van Moppes lived.

Colin said that their activities were known about but that their hide was always kept a secret. Indeed he said it was quite commonplace for them to be in unit on going in one direction, perhaps to practice shooting at Kington Break, and the Home Guard to pass them going in the opposite direction, on one of their exercises. This confirms what John Boaz said about their Sampson Patrol going openly to the pub after exercises, still with their muddy uniforms on! Colin also said that they knew members of other patrols including those at Crowle and at Overbury. This appears to have been inevitable, when most were recruited from the Worcestershire farming community which is close knit.

The patrol did not go to the Isle of Wight, as did others from this area, nor were they invited to go to France, after D-Day.

The Mercian Maquis by Bernard Lowry & Mick Wilks, TNA WO199/3389
Hancock data held at B.R.A, Interview with Colin Curnock, Harold Wilkins & Tom Harwood by Mick Wilks in 1999, Dr Will Ward.