Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Captain John Nevile Wake Gwynne - Royal Artillery

Researched by Bill Ashby, CART's Coleshill Information officer.

Page last updated at 8:13am on 6/7/13

Related PDF files:  Appendix 'A'  War Diary       Appendix 'B'  A Report of Op. in Greece

 Capt. John Gwynne

First Aux Unit Intelligence Officer for SUSSEX

Followed by

Major C.F.G. ‘Dick’ Bond
Captain I.J. Benson

Outward Bound Executive Director

 Captain John Nevile Wake Gwynne

Family Background

Born: 20 June 1905 Broxbourn, Hertfordshire.
Parents: Neville Gwyn Gwynne and Isabel (nee Wake).
Grand Parents: James Eglinton Gwynne and Mary Earle Gwynne of Fokington Manor, Polgate, Sussex and 97 Harley Street, W1.
Educated: Eton and Christchurch College, Oxford (BA). Played cricket for College, 1925
Died: 19 February 1981 Quenington, Fairford, Gloucester
Civilian Profession: Commercial Lawyer


1927 March 11th Commissioned 2nd Lt 98th (Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry) Fd Bde RA TA
1930 March 11th Empld. Promoted to Lieut. 98th (Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry) Fd Bde RA
1933 June 17th  From active list 98th (Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry) Fd Bde RA to be Lt 

1938 Historical Note 

98th renamed RA Regiment (as all RA field brigades were) and organised into two batteries, each of three troops, each of four guns, a total of 24 gun.
1939 August 24th  ‘Mobilised’ as Lieutenant 
1939 September 3rd   War Declared 
1939 December 17  Acting Captain Transferred to 53 Anti-Tank regiment RA 
1940 January 9th  Arrived Le Havre to join the BEF 
1940 February 18th Posted to 210 Bty as Battery Captain
1940 March 17th Temporary Captain
1940 May 21st 210 Bty Fought off German Blitzkrieg. Involved in the defence of the Dunkirk
perimeter during which Captain Gwynne was slightly wounded. Evacuation from Dunkirk. See Appendix ‘A’ 53 Anti-Tank Regiment RA War Diary May 1940 
1940 June Commanded 209 Battery 53 Anti-Tank Regiment 

1940 July 12th


Acting Captain on Special Employment AUXILIARY UNITS

Recruited by Colonel Colin McVean Gubbins (the man given the task of forming the new Resistance Organisation) as one of the original twelve officers sent out to form Patrols.

Official title: Auxiliary Units Intelligence Officer Sussex. Sussex  divided into two halves - East with 18 Patrols and West with 10 Patrols. Each had a Scout Section of regular troops to assist in training and sighting Operational Bases. His two Scout Sections (one led by Lt Ashby) came top in a National Scout Section Competition. 

1941 Sept 27th P.T.C. (Security Check) before joining SOE
1941 October 1st Joined SOE as M/Operations M Sections
1942 April 1st S.S.R.F. (62 Commando) First as Planning and Intelligence Officer then on
Operations. He is mentioned in a book “No Colours or Quest” by Peter Kemp.


1942 February

 .....At the wedding we met some of the other officers who were to form the nucleus of the Small Scale Raiding Force.  Senior among them was Major John Gwynne of the Sussex Yeomanry, in charge of planning.
A teetotaller and vegetarian, obstinate, unwearying and  fearless, he fretted constantly under the restraints of his sedentary occupation; eager to lead an operation in the field, he was always planning for himself some desperate venture into enemy territory.  With his lean, dark, ascetic face, gleaming eyes, thinning, almost tonsured hair, he had the look of some medieval inquisitor; he always shaved in cold water.


In October the Chiefs of Staff gave orders for the expansion of the Small Scale Raiding Force. It seemed that March-Phillip’s dream was coming true. Four more large houses were requisitioned to provide bases for us along the South coast-one in the New Forest, another near Dorchester, a third near Paignton and the fourth between Falmouth and Truro. Bill Stirling, recently returned from Cairo, arrived to take command of the whole force, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; Appleyard became second-in-command and field force commander; John Gwynne was at last allowed to train a party of his own to operate into Northern France. Two motor gunboats were put at our disposal, but on operations we preferred to use M.T.B. 344 because she was smaller, more difficult to see, and easier to manœuvre. Two navigating officers were added to our establishment.


......the only person with the prospect of any action for the moment was John Gwynne. He refused, quite rightly, to give us any details of his proposed mission beyond the fact that it was not planned by Stirling and had nothing to do with Combined Operations Headquarters.  He spent much of his time away from Anderson visiting SOE experimental stations, in particular one concerned with camouflage.  He reappeared at the end of his tour with two unusual pieces of equipment.  One was a lifelike cow’s head mask in papier m?ché with holes pierced through the eyes; the other was a curious arrangement of fine meshed camouflage netting. He was good enough to reveal to us their purpose. The mask was for road watching: in other words, he would lie up in a field beside a main road and push his head, enveloped in the mask, through the hedge; thus disguised, he would be able to keep watch on the road and observe the number and nature of the enemy troops using it.    The person of the netting was even simpler , ‘It enables a man to disguise himself at will’ explained Gwynne, as a rubbish  heap or pile of sticks.

Not all the products of the extensive research organisation  maintained by S.O.E. were camouflaged exclusively for protection; almost the whole range of children’s joke toys was exploited for some destructive purpose. For instance, imitation turds of horse or camel dung contained small explosive charges which would destroy the tyres of any vehicle that drove over them; and sickeningly realistic dead rats apparently in the later stages of decomposition, were dropped by the gross over occupied Europe to be smuggled into German barrack rooms and offices. Anyone picking them up by the tail-the natural method when throwing them away-would automatically release a pin, exploding a small but lethal charge.

We were concerned with Gwynne’s operation only in that the Small-scale Raiding Force was to transport Gwynne and his party over to the Brittany coast and provide an escort in case they ran into trouble on landing; once they were safely ashore we should return to England. In early December I spent a week at Paignton with a party that included Appleyard, Ogden Smith, Lassen and  Warren, waiting for a chance to land them in France. Once again, however, the weather defeated us, and we all returned in disappointment to Anderson. And so went out 1942.                      

1943 August 9th Captain / Temporary Major Special Employment

1943 January 18th Transferred for Special Operational Duties in the field w.e.f. 1.2.1943 
1943 February 3rd Left UK for North Africa with ‘BRANDON’ in Algeria and Tunisia 
1943 March 24th

Returned to the UK.

There followed a period where Major Gwynne was seeking an active posting in the Middle East.

Initially he was turned down and it took a letter like this to support his request:

Gwynne is a fully trained guerrilla warfare officer, having spent a year in Auxiliary Units where his two Scout Sections came out first and second out of a total of 24 in a competition for the general operational efficiency by day and by night.

He was also with the Small-Scale Raiding Force, and with Brandon when his section was sent off on a special operation.

I feel you are turning down a very able and gallant officer, who is fully trained in both boat and parachute work, who knows the Middle East, and is a real fighter.  I would therefore ask you to reconsider the matter.  The only thing I have against Gwynne at all is a certain fussiness in the preparation of operations, as he goes in for almost too much detail, which is a fault on the right side, e.g. the weighing of rations, the division of loads on bodies, etc., etc., I myself would not hesitate to take Gwynne with me on any operation on which I was proceeding.  If you still have any doubt, I suggest you speak to MT who is in London now.

1943 August 9th

Left UK for CAIRO The letter had worked.
Appointed as a British Liaison Office and sent to Greece to organise Resistance. Where SOE found itself in an impossible situation, trying to coerce Greeks with diametrically opposed political interests into unified resistance. Civil war erupted between ELAS and EDES in late 1943.
1943 September 1st An incident occurred on this day resulting in the shooting of a British Soldier.
1943 Sep 29th/Oct 4th Major Gwynne experienced some of the tensions in Greece as can be seen in an Account of a Harassing Operation on the Epirus Road that he reported on. See Appendix ‘B’
1943 October Major John Gwynne held while the shooting incident was being investigated. He was exonerated.
1943 November Hospitalised having caught Malaria
1943 November 29th

Returning to UK

Seeking New Posting –

1944 March 3rd Left SOE
Posted to P.I.D. (Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office)
1945 Officer in Charge of Religious Affairs in the Control Commission of Germany.


1948 - 1952


In early 1948 John Gwynne successfully applied for a newly generated post as the First Executive Director of the Outward Bound Trust. He spent four successful years laying the foundation of getting Industrial support.

1956 April 11th Ceases to belong to the TA Reserve of officers due to reaching the upper age limit. Granted Hon. Rank of Major.


 Related PDF files:  Appendix 'A'  War Diary       Appendix 'B'  A Report of Op. in Greece