Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


GHQ Coleshill Site Selection

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This page was last updated at 7:18am on 9/6/13


On 2nd July 1940 Colonel Gubbins was directed to form a British resistance organisation in advance of a pending German invasion.  It was given the nondescript name of Auxiliary Units.  Two rooms in the War Office at No 7 Whitehall Place became his Headquarters.

Whitehall Place, London

He immediately began by selecting Officers to lead the organisation.  Captain Donald Hamilton-Hall describes in his book “SOE – Assignment” that first meeting:

While twelve Officers went off to establish the resistance patrols in coastal areas, three moved out to temporary Officers in Berkshire.


In August 1940 some of the AUX HQ Officers moved out of London into temporary offices in North Gate House No. 38 London Street, Faringdon.  This was also the HQ of No.1 Arm’d Brigade Coy. RASC.   Immediately Orders were placed for men, material and all manner of equipment to be delivered to an ‘as yet unknown’ destination. Meetings were held in a nearby public house ‘The Crown’ 

As the letter below shows Southern Command were processing ‘Requests for Stores’ but as the GHQ Auxiliary Units was without the necessary establishment even transport was being borrowed from other units.


Major M.T.  Henderson was tasked with finding a site that was suitable for guerrilla training. It needed a main building to accommodate the GHQ , Out-buildings to house not only the permanent staff but also Auxiliers attending training courses, and ample grounds for training purposes.

Major Henderson’s brother Lord Faringdon lived on the Buscott Estate.  His neighbours, the Pleydell-Bouverie family owned the Coleshill Estate which had all of the facilities he sought. 


The War Department set to work and quickly negotiated with the two Pleydell-Bouverie Sisters ‘Molly’ & ‘Bina’ to requisition the whole estate but it was agreed that the sisters would remain in residence in the Main House.  On the 20th August the first load of stores were delivered to the new GHQ.


The small village of Coleshill is located on the Wiltshire/ Oxfordshire border but it was Berkshire until 1974. Faringdon is 4 miles to the East and Highworth is 3 miles to the West.  It was very quiet and consisted of about fifty houses, a church, school and shop.  No bus served the village making it isolated ideal for a secret headquarters.

Most of the village inhabitants were employed by the Pleydell-Bouverie family on the Estate either on the farms or as groundsmen or domestic staff

Coleshill House was requisitioned in August 1940 and became Auxiliary Units GHQ.


Bill Ashby 2011

CART's County Information Officer (CIO) for Coleshill is Bill Ashby.

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