Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Pelynt Auxiliary Unit Patrol

Thank you for selecting information on the Pelynt Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Cornwall. The info below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford.

This page was last updated on 26/4/14

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 contact us.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall on July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major) J W Stuart Edmundson an officer in the Royal Engineers. He liaised with the regular army and received supplies and equipment and formed all the Patrols. He was assisted by Lieutenant (later Captain) John “Jack” Dingley who became IO for Cornwall in 1943 though he may have assumed the roll before that.

In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and  Edmundson was succeeded in Cornwall by Captain John Dingley and in Devon by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain in command until near stand down. At the end of Harston's command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of the South West Peninsular and Wales.

The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some patrols within a demographic area would train together under more local command. Pelynt was part of group 6 along with Morval (Looe), Launceston, Liskeard, St Germans, St Keyne, Lansallos, Menheniot, St Juliot, Coads Green and Bridgerule (now in Devon). They were under the group command of Captain G H Sergeant from Liskeard along with Lieutenant W Crichton (discharged May 1944 due to ill health) and 2nd Lieutenant J F William Mewton.
Captain G H Sergeant from Liskeard was also the area Commander for this and group 5.

Currently unknown

The nearest village to all the patrol members is Pelynt which is 4 miles West -Northwest of Looe which is on the south coast of Cornwall.

Pelynt Auxiliary Unit Patrol

Pelynt Patrol.
Standing, left to right ; Ned Broad, Clarence Tuckett, Bill Libby and Ralph Weller.
Seated; Reg Wakeham, Sergeant Jack Bickford and Joe Northcott
Looking at the pose of Reg and Joe especially and also looking at the background I think this could be a professional studio portrait.

Sergeant George H “Jack” Bickford - He was a great nephew of Bickford-Smith, the inventor of the safety fuse. A one time student at Oxford, he had served as an officer in the trenches during WW1. I cannot confirm his WW1 record. He was farming at Trelaske Farm.

Joseph “Joe” Northcott - He served in the Middle East in WW1, was second in command and worked as a farm worker.

William “Bill” Libby - Yet another WW1 veteran having served in India. He worked as a gardener and gamekeeper on the Trelawne Estate all his life as did his father before him.

Clarence Tuckett - Another farmer, he was skilled with a shotgun and enjoyed rough shooting.

Ralph Weller - A hard working smallholder who kept poultry. His land was adjacent to Trelaske.

Reginald “Reg” Wakeham - Another WW1 veteran (RE) who was in France from Dec 1914 all the way through to March 1919. As a farm worker, he farmed in a traditional way and worked with horses all his life.

Edward “Ned” Broad - Brother-in-law of Bill Libby he worked at Trelaske Farm for Jack Bickford. Another WW1 veteran. He was shot in the backside by friendly fire while serving in France.

The picture above was kindly supplied by John Jolliff from the son of Joe Northcott (Pelynt Patrol).

It is thought to show the Cornwall Group 6 patrols which consisted of St Keyne, Morval, Menheniot, St Germans, Pelynt, Lansallos, Liskeard,St Juliot, Coads Green, Launceston and Bridgerule.

Back row far left: Reg Wakeham (Pelynt), Joe Northcott (Pelynt) rest unknown
Middle row far left: Ned Broad (Pelynt) rest unknown
Front row far left : Ralph Weller (Pelynt), Charlie Barrett ( Liskeard), unknown, unknown, Sgt.Jack Bickford, rest unknown.

Pelynt Auxiliary Unit Patrol OB 2

The OB was in the corner of the triangular spinny pictured. Nothing remains and it is on private land.
The picture was taken from Trelawny Manor (below), now a holiday park.

Pelynt Auxiliary Unit Patrol OB 1

The Defence of Britain database (DOB) states the OB no longer remains.

William Mewton did reveal that he was once disturbed on a Sunday afternoon by an army officer who had been inspecting the OB's in the area. The officer, dressed in civvies, was not best pleased as all areas had done well apart from Pelynt who had built nothing

Mr Mewton suggested a mistake had been made and took the irate officer to where the OB should be. Muttering that it was a poor show and a report would have to be made, the officer pointed to a tree and hedge marked on the map saying it should be there.

Mr Mewton suggested the officer should scrape away the leaves revealing a “only a rusty old piece of iron”. Encouraged by Mr Mewton to pull at it, the officer discovered the OB entrance.

When intact it was a 10ft by 10ft Nissen type chamber that was 6ft underground. There was a chimney  ventilated through a tree and  a main drop down entrance. The escape tunnel exited through a hedge where an old farm harrow concealed it.

Observation Post/s: Currently unknown.

Assumed targets were bridges over the East and West Looe Rivers slowing progress from the coast to Liskeard.


One Saturday evenings exercise

The Patrol met up with an army lorry at an agreed venue with an army Major travelling in front. After several miles the Major jumped in with them and gave them orders that they had until midnight to complete.

They were given a map that showed a small wood with a track that ran into fields and a nearby house that was guarded by six sentries.Their task was to get into the building without being seen or heard by “the enemy” and return to the army lorry.

Posted around the area were observers, wearing easily seen dress, that were to be ignored unless the patrol were caught in a booby trap or seen and therefore “killed” by the defending troops. No weapons were to be used.

The patrol studied the map in detail and decided to go a short distance into the wood and hide. They would then take it in turns to complete the task until one was successful. Joe Northcott was the first to try.

It was a cold, windy and dark night with the moon peeping out on occasions between the storm clouds. The patrol waited in the woods in silence for more than an hour before Northcott returned, nodded, and the group silently made their way to the canvas covered lorry. Inside flasks of hot drink were soon being consumed as Northcott was the only one who wasn't extremely cold.

After some time they were joined by six men in denims, showing no rank, and then the Major. They had a short conversation in German before the Major turned to Jack Bickford telling him they had failed in their task as the guards had reported that no one had breached their defences and entered the house. Bickford looked to the quietly spoken Northcott to explain.

Northcott explained his route as having gone along the track in the wood. By taking great care he was able to overcome a booby trap set across his path in the form of a wire hidden in the undergrowth about six inches above the ground closely followed by another one about four feet high.

He left the wood and crossed two fields, keeping close to an overgrown hedge. Following the map he now entered an orchard close to the target where he was able to hear the guards talking. Taking off his shoes and heavy great coat, he crept close to the guards and waited for them to move on before he darted across the road and into the target building. He explained how he found himself in a room with damp army coats hung around a fire to dry.

At this point the irritated Major interjected demanding proof he had been in the house.
Northcott was enjoying himself and was not going to be rushed by any army officer so he continued his explanation at his own pace.

Collecting his boots and greatcoat he made his way over a gate, having spent time checking it for booby traps, and back into the woods returning to the rest of the patrol. He did not mention that the imitation bomb, that he was meant to have left at the target, was still in his pocket.

The rain was now beating on the canvas of the lorry and the Major's patience was wearing thin, yelling, he demanded evidence.

Northcott quietly produced an alarm clock he had taken from the mantel shelf.

The guards were officers from Sandhurst that were being trained to operate at the front line. In the dressing down given to them by the Major he was heard to have told them to “improve their abilities”, for they had been “destroyed by a bunch of yokels”.

The Major chose to travel back to Pelynt in the lorry with the patrol, exchanging stories on the way, as like many of them, him had served in World War 1.

They were all in their beds soon after midnight.

It is said that they refused Tommy guns and heavy weapons, believing that theirs would be a silent conflict. They spent much of their time learning the skills of unarmed combat and the use of knives.

Currently unknown

The excellent research by Mr J Jolliff. Alwyn Harvey DOB. The memories of Ned Broad via his son. 1939 Kelly's Directory.

If you can help with any info please contact us.