Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Hetton Le Hole Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 11:14am on 2/1/16

Thank you for selecting information on the Hetton Le Hole Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in County Durham. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Northumberland CIO Stephen Lewins.

The Commanding officer was Captain A.C. Burningham with 2 i/c Lieut. J.West of Hetton-le-Hole. They were in control of Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire Group No.3 which consited of 5 patrols.

These were Birtley, Haswell, Hetton-le-Hole, Kibblesworth and Wheatley Hill. 

Spring 1941

Sgt. Norman. Hopper   Lyons Colliery 
Cpl. Jimmy. Jarvis     Hetton-le-Hole 
Pte. J. McCall ( known as Spud Murphy)    Hetton-le-Hole 
Pte. George. Woodland  Hetton-le-Hole 
Pte. J.H. Gulliver   Hetton-le-Hole
Pte. John Manner  Hetton-le-Hole 
Pte. R.Fisher   Hetton-le-Hole 

John Maneer also recalls the Sgt in the patrol was Sgt Johnny West.

All the patrol members lived to the south of the O.B. all around the village of Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham.

John Manner was recruited out of the Home Guard in late 1941 or early 1942? One of the existing auxiliary members (?) recruited him as they were looking for young single men, the basic role was explained when he was accepted, ie wouldn’t be able to return home when the invasion started, made aware couldn’t get any help or medical, otherwise would have risked family and community, couldn’t go home as this would risk German reprisal. Told that anyone wounded would be expected to shoot themselves or be shot or take cyanide capsule which was kept in the OB.

A very rare photo of Jimmy Jarvis in uniform and wellingtons with his dog Rex. Thanks to his Grandson Paul Jarvis for the info and photo.

Site Visit: 6/2/11  Area/Location: County Durham  Map: OS Tyneside National Grid Ref:  NZ35511 48951

The O.B. was built by the 184th Tunnelling Co. R.E.

The ground surrounding the OB is soft, wet and muddy. The O.B. has suffered from land slip. The east side is on a steep bank side that is slowly creeping into and over the site.

Hetton le hole operational base 1

Remaining end walls. Entrance foreground, bolt hole distant.

Hetton le hole operational base 2

Entrance Wall

Hetton le hole operational base 3

Bolt hole end showing the higher ground on either side. When complete the two hills would have joined hiding the O.B.

Both end walls of the OB remain along with two of the clay ventilation pipes. The bolt hole tunnel route to the stream is visible at the south end of the O.B. To the north end, that would be the entrance shaft, a tunnel outline can be made out.

The O.B. is a standard “Elephant“ type shelter. Possibly modified slightly for the site. See drawing below.

 Hetton Le Hole Operational Base

 Hetton le hole operational base 4

Part of clay drainage pipe used as ventilation shafts into the O.B.

Other physical remains are two clay ventilation pipes are still visible on the main entrance end wall. See above.

The best way the find the O.B. is from the south side of Houghton-le-Spring in county Durham. You need to find Gillas Lane East which is the B1260. At the crossroads of Hetton Road and Gillas Lane take the left turn as you are heading south from Houghton-le-Spring. Pass the Lingfield turn and turn right into Meadow Close. From here it is all on foot. Follow the footpath passed the houses to the style and low gate. Continue along the path heading for the footbridge over the stream. At this point turn left and follow the track into the woods. Keep the stream to your right. The O.B. site is on raised ground which is looped by the stream. 

Hetton Le Hole Map

The site is below an ancient burial cairn which is on top of the nearby hill. There is a public house called The Copt Hill on the B1260. The O.B. could be found from this side also. From the pub cross the road and head up the Hill towards the cairn. Once reaching the cairn look to the east. There are two wind turbines visible. Head for the corner of the field. There is a well worn track into the woods, follow this down the steep bank and it will lead you to the O.B. site.

Auxilier John Maneer says he was never in the OB described above. He has not previously been aware of this OBs existence.

John Maneer says his OB was in Cocken Wood near Finchale, access pathway adjacent to cottage on west side of Lumley road. He only went there once during his service.

Wooden Hut about 12 x 8 foot, (only used for clothes and sleeping bags, stayed over on Saturday nights only, before back to work) this was in wood near the gamekeepers cottage adjacent to path, land belonged to the Nicholson family who owned the Vaux brewery, OB based in the middle of the wood, constructed of excavated underground chamber dug out by unit before I joined, escape route 20 yards down towards river. Entrance hatch covered by turf with bush growing on top, not a spring loaded hatch. Entrance led down a ladderway, internal layout was similar to the drawings on web site, benches etc, damp but not waterlogged. Everything lifted off the floor, I believe all the explosives and arms etc were kept here.

Not currently known.

All explosive training, fire pots, time pencils, cordite, ordinary fuses, knew how to fell trees, blow railway lines, military targets – planes, lorries, petrol dumps etc. Training weekends organised at Castleton in N Yorkshire led by the Green Howards regiment.

The unit was equipped with .38 Smith & Wesson revolvers, rubber truncheons, knobkerries, sten guns, Enfield .303 rifles, commando knife and one sniper rifle. The Sniper rifle was used for killing rabbits.

BG explosive (blasting gelignite – trees, railway lines etc), fire pots with time pencils ( planes and similar), cordite wasp fuse cord ( eg wrapping around fuel cans used with time pencils for instantaneous inflammable explosive), grenades, sticky bombs (attach to tanks etc) – all stored in OB (Operating Base). Sten and .38 revolver ammunition was interchangeable.

All team issued with cyanide capsule, instructed to use it if wounded or captured to avoid compromising local inhabitants as no help could be expected. 

John Maneer has sten ammunition in the house for a few years.

Do you/they know of other Patrols?

John was aware of something in Haswell, Wheatley Hill and Birtley – loose talk from the commanding officer – ie I’ve come from x and I’m off to y over a period of 3 years, not sure when he knew this. He never knew any information about who was in any other unit.

John Mennear was sometimes quizzed by others as to why he was not in the local Home Guard unit, did wear home guard tunic over his 202 tunic.

When detailed for guard duty at the large Finchale ammunition store it was sometimes noted that he was wearing a revolver, whilst members of the Home Guard were often without a rifle each never mind a revolver.

After the war John Mennear continued working at Elemore Colliery as a miner until 1948 – then joined Carl Rosa Opera Company in London, following a successful audition. Singing is a life long passion from a young age, including dance bands, concerts, ‘help the war effort’ etc, latterly with Male Voice Choirs.

Above you can see page two of the service record belonging to Jimmy Jarvis. Below you can see they have recorded his move to Aux Units.

Thanks to Auxillier John Osborne Mennear who recorded his memories for us via his son John Mennear on 28th February 2011. Thanks to Paul Jarvis.

If you can help with any info please contact us.