Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Perranwell Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base

This page as last updated at 6:23pm on 12/8/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Perranwell Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Cornwall. The info below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford. If you can provide any more info please email

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.

Perranwell is a village within the parish of Perranarworthal, South Cornwall.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall in 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The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.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. Perranwell was part of group 3 along with Redruth, Mabe, Constantine, Philleigh, Truro, Perranporth, Newlyn East, Grampound, St Colomb, St Mawgan, Probus and St Dennis. At stand down they were under the group command of Captain H W Abbiss from Truro along with Lieutenant F J Yeo and 2nd Lieutenant E K F Harte.

Captain H W Abbiss from Truro was also the area Commander for this and groups 1 to 4, covering two thirds of the county. In 1945 Captain Abbiss was awarded the MBE ( Military Division).

Locally, Perranwell, Mabe and Constantine were under the command of Lieutenant Alec McLeod. Though official records show McLeod was called up to HM Forces in July 1943 he is present in many stand down photographs. He may well have been called up but returned to Auxiliary Units when his roll was realised.

End of the summer of 1940

Sergeant William Kneebone, a butcher.
Corporal G E Brooks
George Tucker, a postman.
Percy Terrill, a quarryman.
Herbert F Snell, a butcher.
Cecil H E Sims, a shop owner.
Sidney Strick

Using various sources to place known Auxiliers in their Patrols as accurately as possible it is assumed the following were also members of this patrol:

Richard F Armytage joined HM Forces April 1943.  

George Tucker from Perranwell Patrol.

Cornish Auxiliers

Taken at Idless Woods 1944
Known to be a stand down picture of at least group 3 and the officers from group 2.  Major Harston is in the middle of the second row with Captain Abbiss to his right. James T Caddy from Constantine Patrol is in the second row from the bottom, second in from the right.

Constantine Auxiliary Unit Patrol 6

Constantine, Mabe and Perranwell Patrols. Not all Patrol members present.

Back L-R : ? S Goodman, William Dunbar (Mabe), Gerald Medlin (Mabe), Unknown, Clarence Thomas (Mabe), James Caddy (Constantine), Herbert Snell.

Middle L-R: Unkown, Sgt. Pascoe (Constantine), Lt Alec McLeod, Sgt. Donald Welch (Mabe), Unknown

Front L-R: Percy Terrill (Perranwell), George Tucker (Perranwell), Unknown, Unknown, Rex Rapson (Mabe), G Berryman (Mabe), Unknown.

Constantine Auxiliary Unit Patrol 7

Constantine, Mabe and Perranwell Patrols. Not all Patrol members present.

The Operational Base was built in a disused quarry near Pelean Cross a few yards West of the railway line and concealed at the time by a small copse. It was sited North East of Ponsanooth village and three quarters of a mile South West of Perranwell village, half way between the Sparnick railway tunnel and the Ponsanooth railway viaduct.

The OB was built by the Patrol members and consisted of two rooms with a drop down entrance and emergency exit. It was constructed of timber and corrugated iron sheeting. Nothing remains at the site today.

Perranwell Auxiliary Unit Patrol 1

Site of Perranwell Patrol's OB.

Observation Post: Currently unknown

Currently unknown, though assumed targets would have included the Sparnick railway tunnel at Pellynwartha (which was very close to the OB), the railway viaduct at Ponsanooth and the main A39 road.
The railway line would have been an important supply route as it ran from Falmouth Docks to the city of Truro on the main line from Penzance to Paddington.

Perranwell Auxiliary Unit Patrol 2

Ponsanooth Viaduct.

It is known Perranwell Patrol had regular training exercises with Constantine and Mabe patrols under the direction of Lt Alec McLeod. Local exercises included an attack on the nearby Stickenbridge on the main Falmouth to Truro road. It is recorded the Patrol were trained at Coleshill.

Currently unknown but it is assumed they had access to the standard weapons and equipment.

Herbert F Snell is recorded twice on the nominal roll. The first entry is crossed out with “discharged to HM Forces” 16th April 1943. At the bottom of the list his name is entered again as “joining” 23rd September 1943. The  Registration number is very slightly different but the date of birth is the same.
It may be that he was called up to the regular Army until someone realised the importance of his roll and returned him home. This happened to a few Auxiliers around that time.

Lieutenant Alec McLeod was a local quarry owner as part of Freeman & McLeod Ltd. It is known one quarry he owned was where Mabe patrol were based and he may have had ownership or knowledge of the quarries used by Perranwell and Constantine Patrols.

Alwyn Harvey and his work on The Defence of Britain Database, TNA reference WO199/3391, Hancock data held at B.R.A, Auxilier Ken Welch, Ian Butland

If you can help with any info please contact us.