Fritham Auxiliary Unit Patrol
This page was last updated at 3:43pm on 19/3/14
Thank you for selecting information on the Fritham Auxiliary Unit
Patrol located in Hampshire. The info below has been compiled by Dr Will Ward CART CIO for
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
The patrol was part of Group 2 in Hampshire, Commanded by Lt G B Ash. Captain A J Champion, who was the area
commander for all the West Hampshire groups. The assistant commander of Group 2 was Lt G Forward.
|Sgt. Bertie Benjamin Smith
||Took over from G Forward
|Pte. William Charles Gulliver
|Pte. William 'Bill' Thorne
|Pte. Allister Thomas Holloway
||Joined patrol in 1944
|Pte. A H Holland
||Joined HM Forces May1944
|Pte. Gilbert Ernest W Smith
||Moced to Cadnam 1944
The patrol names for the west of Hampshire and the New Forest have been identified from National Archives file
WO199/3391, but are not divided by patrol. The nominal roll gives the surname, initials, ID card number and
address, together with date of birth. The patrols have been arranged according to the addresses and ID card numbers
around known patrol leaders. This means the allocations may not be completely accurate. Additional personal
information such as first names and dates of death have been added using the 1911 census, Ancestry.com and
FreeBMD.com. Some men, particularly those from the Ringwood area where there are several patrols, could not be
allocated with any confidence to one patrol or another, so are listed here.
The Fritham Patrol was set up by Gerald Forward who was almost certainly patrol sergeant from its creation until
he was promoted to assistant Group Commander in April 1944. He
recounted some of the details in a privately published biography. Gerald Forward was an Agister, a type of
supervisor of the livestock of the New Forest, with specific responsibility for the welfare of the free ranging
animals. Together with his brother Hubert, he covered the 93, 000 acres of the Forest during the war. Gerald
Forward recalled how he was approached by a staff officer who went around the subject at some length before asking
him to find the men to form a patrol. This was apparently “quite early on” so may have been something like July to
September 1940 (he also says it was after the renaming of the LDV to the Home Guard on 22nd July 1940).
Bert Smith, Gilbert Smith, Bill Gulliver and Allister Holloway all occupied well known Keeper’ or Forester’s
cottages in the Forest (Holly Hatch, Bramshaw Wood and Coppice of Linwood respectively). These were “official
residences” that came with the job and form part of the unique structure of the New Forest. Gilbert Smith, brother
of Bert (both sons of a New Forest Keeper), recounted joining the unit in 1941. He lived in Church Place cottages
at Normansland, but later moved to Shave Green Cottage, Cadnam, his address being changed in the nominal roll book.
He may have joined the Cadnam patrol at this time. Bill Thorne lived at Butler’s Farm. It is likely that the rest
of the patrol were in similar occupations and this meant that the men were older than in many other areas, but of
course had exceptional knowledge of the area they lived and worked in. In 1944, Gilbert Smith was moved to a new
beat at Cadnam, but continued to contribute to the Fritham patrol.
A H Holland is not remembered by wartime residents of Fritham. It is possible hat he might have been son of
keeper Maurice Holland. As he has been allocated to the patrol purely on the basis of his ID card number, it is
possible he was not a member of this patrol at all.
The patrol had one Operational Base which consisted of a caravan
buried complete underground, with a disguised entrance in “a part of the Forest which was difficult to get to”.
The caravan belonged to the Crosthwaite-Eyre family, well known in the New Forest, with various members
representing the area as MP, as Official Verderer and during the war as commander of the local Home Guard.
Gerald Forward checked with John Crosthwaite-Eyre, who he knew was involved in similar work, though it is not
clear if he knew how much, since John was pictured at Coleshill House around this time. The caravan was
carefully hitched to a tractor at just after 1pm, when the rest of the staff had gone to lunch and driven off.
It was buried by the following morning.
The patrol also had a more typical corrugated iron shelter,
though the wood for this was acquired from one of the Forest bridges! It no longer exists as it was dug up by
Gerald Forward for use as a pigsty after the war. Gilbert Smith describes burying an “Elephant shelter” (heavy
grade Nissen for underground use) in an old disused sandpit, near a badger sett on the side of a hill. This
dates it’s construction to 1941 at the earliest. It is thought that this may have been in Bramshaw Wood.
The OB contained a bunks, a table with stools and oil stove.
There was the usual 2 gallon rum jar, and a stock of drinking water which was changed regularly. What is
intriguing is that Gilbert Smith mentions a couple of times that they had a radio in the OB – and could transmit
with this if necessary. It was quite unusual for patrols to have a radio and this may have been because of the
isolated nature of the Forest patrols.
One Thursday the patrol went to ground in their OB, following an
alert that invasion was imminent. Aux Units were meant t avoid the initial battle and surface after the initial
fighting was over and wreak havoc behind the lines. However, they heard no fighting, or anything else to suggest
the presence of enemy forces. Eventually, 3 days later on the Sunday, they sent a man out to find out what had
happened, obviously discovering this was a false alarm. The patrol had heard nothing on their radio and had been
told not to call out, but the Army had forgotten that they had been sent to ground and not issued a recall!
Unknown at this time.
Gerald Forward reports training with Regular soldiers, possibly a Hampshire Scout Section as well as being sent
away on training courses, most likely a patrol leaders course at Coleshill
Gilbert Smith recalled an initial period of intensive training, mostly in explosives, as the patrol members were
already crack shots and familiar with camouflage. Army Officers visited to undertake the training, which also
included First Aid and Rescue drill. Gilbert was aware of two other Forest patrols, but didn’t know that the
organisation was much larger.
Another exercise was to stop an Army convoy on a particular road. Live explosives were tied to a large oak
branch, with a four gallon petrol tin full of water above, which would be shot full of holes with a Tommy gun as
the ambush was sprung, to simulate petrol being released by the explosive and descending as a flaming mass on the
truck. Two other patrol members had flour and soot “grenades”. The plan was for the CO to signal when to fire the
detonator and trigger the ambush. Gilbert says that the unnamed CO was rather nervous and excitable, and he failed
to make the signal until three lorries had already gone through, leaving the patrol concerned. Thus when the signal
eventually came, the string connected to the detonator was pulled rather too violently, yanking the detonator out
of the explosive rather than setting it off. Perhaps just as well, since a heavy oak branch might have done serious
damage among the men in the back of the lorry!
The patrol also launched a mock attack on an Army camp, with the aim being to leave time pencils (with
detonators, but no explosives) on the differentials of the parked Bren carriers. The camp was told the patrol
would come on one of three nights and went on the second, when there was heavy rain. Within seven minutes the
patrol were in and out of the camp having set their time pencils, 30 in all. Twenty minutes later the time pencils
went off. The patrol had brought the Colonel of target unit from his headquarters at Minstead Hall as an
independent witness of success. When the charges went off he was left rather red faced. Gilbert reports his
comment, “I think I’ve got a lot of rotten troops and, I don’t know for sure, but I think you are the biggest
rotters I’ve ever met!”
The patrol would generally have the weapons shown here
Just prior to the caravan episode, Gerald Forward and John Crosthwaite-Eyre made their own grenades. It is
likely that this was at the stage when the Home Guard had little more than Molotov cocktails and shotguns. The
grenades were made of cement contained within brown paper and filled with metal debris such as nails and tacks,
with a piece of Bickford cord as the detonator. His only remark is that these were probably more dangerous to the
user! A stash of them was discovered after the war at The Warrens (the Crosthwaite-Eyre residence) and the Police
called, since it wasn’t immediately clear how they had arrived there.
Gordon Thorne remembers his father having a revolver, something that would have been most unusual for a regular
Home Guard, but standard issue to Auxiliers.
Gilbert Smith recalled copious explosives and ammunition, including time pencils. He was rather more surprised
to receive cyanide tablets for use in case capture seemed inevitable. He had a Tommy gun. All the men would have
already owned shot guns and probably rifles as well for shooting deer.
After the war, Gerald Forward was elected as a Verderer, an
important quasi-judicial role within the New Forest. He was awarded an MBE for this work in the 1974 New Years
Bill Thorne never mentioned his wartime service, other than
to briefly mention membership of the Home Guard. When he died the small enamel red and blue Auxiliary Units
badge was among his effects.
Gilbert Smith was a well known Keeper, who wrote a book
about his life in the Forest. The book contains photos of groups of Keepers, taken in the 1950s. These included
Bert Smith and Bill Gulliver and Gilbert can be seen to be wearing his Aux Units enamel badge in some of the
One of those from 1953 can be seen here.
In the back row Gilbert Smith is on the left with his badge
just visible, Bill Gulliver is alongside him. Bert Smith is in the front row to the far left.
Information from Gerald Forward’s private biography forwarded by Mr A Passmore, together with other details of
Information from Mr G Thorne, son of Bill Thorne
New Forest Recollections by Gilbert Smith, published by Paul Cave publications Ltd 1986.