Sandford Levvy Auxiliary Unit Patrol
This page was last updated at on 3/4/17
Thank you for selecting information on the Sandford Levvy Auxiliary
Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Somerset. The info and images below have been supplied by Aux writer
Donald Brown and various others.
The parish of Winscombe and Sandford is situated on the western edge of the Mendip Hills and on the A368.
Alan Crick was one of the original Officers that were sent out on reconnaissance. He surveyed Somerset and Dorset.
Captain Ian Fenwick (Kings Royal Rifle Corps) was the first Intelligence Officer covering the county of Somerset
along with the City of Bath. During his command he was billeted at Nerrols Farm near Taunton with a HQ in
Bridgwater. He went on to join the SAS and was killed in action in France in August 1944.
By August 1942 Captain L Strangman (Royal Army Ordnance Corps) was Somerset's IO based at Sherwood
House, Goathurst near Bridgwater. A move of HQ to The Lodge at Bishops Lydeard preceded a change of IO to
Captain John W Holberton who was, in turn, succeeded by Captain J M Martin (MC) in February 1944.
At a meeting held in July 1944 it was decided to group all the counties into 4 regions. The Somerset Patrols
became part of “Region 4” under the command of Major W W Harston based in Ashburton, Devon. As the final
Intelligence Officer, Harston's command would cover the whole of the South West and South Wales.
The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 onwards leaving the Area and Group Commanders.
After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where various patrols within a demographic area would regularly train together under more local command.
At stand down Sandford Levvy Patrol was part of Group 10 along with 5 other patrols at Cheddar, Wrington,
Compton Bishop, Blagdon and Wedmore. They were under the Area and Group Command of Captain Herbert
Radford, a wine merchant from Axbridge.
Lieutenant Clifford Hugh G Coombs 22.12.1896 “Claremont” Brendon Avenue, Weston Super Mare
Sergeant Cecil Frederick Trego 21.6.1921 9 The Rows, Weston Super Mare
Sergeant Clifford Banner 14.11.1909 DM Kelvin House, Bridgwater Road, Winscombe
Corporal Kenneth Victor Watts 12.1.1913 Sunny View, Shipham
Corporal Frederick Hayter 22.7.1911 Farm Road, Weston Super Mare
Ronald Banner 12.3.1916 Kelvin Nurseries, Winscombe
Samuel Gilling 12.11.1920 C/O Sunny View, Shipham
Arthur B Lovell 10.5.1910 10, Council Houses, Shipham
Edward L Pearce 25.12.1900
Kenneth G “Tubby” Weymouth 23.12.1923 3 Milton Avenue, Weston Super Mare.
Verdon Besley 1926 Hill Farm Cottage, Winscombe
Percy R Brooks 8.4.1902 Redcliff Cottage, Shipham
David R Ross 3.2.1902 4, Greenhill, Sandford
Edmund T Stephens 19.12.1909 Woodland Farm, Winscombe
Glyndoor Sweeting 24.1.1905 “Sunnyside” Sandford
Cliff Coombs owned a shoe makers and repairers in Regent Street, Weston Super Mare and one in Taunton. He
lied about his young age to serve in WW1 in Italy. He ended up as acting Company Quarter Master Sergeant in
Machine Gun Corps.
Cliff Banner and his brother Ron owned and ran Kelvin House Nurseries on the Bridgwater Road, the modern day
A38. Both were tractor drivers so exempt from call up. In 1950 Cliff took his wife and young family to Sydney, Australia. Ronald followed him in early 1951.
Fred Trego was a dairyman and a later Sergeant. He was called up for the services but deferred due to his
Auxiliary Unit role. He later joined Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
His widow Nora said: “Even when the war finished, up to when Fred died in April 1991, he never talked about it. I'm glad its all made public now so that people will know what they really did.”
Fred Trego and many Auxiliers from around the country were sent to the Isle of Wight in the summer 1944 to
defend it prior to and during D-Day. Nora recalled Fred's time on the IOW.
“He never said what he was doing and I didn't know where he was going or where he had been until it gradually came out later. I thought he was going overseas “
Author Don Brown was able to help Nora Trego (and others) be awarded a posthumous Defence Medal for Fred
from Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Sir John Wills, at Charterhouse in January 1997.
Nora Trego awarded the Defence Medal. Thanks to Don Brown.
Corporal Ken Watts was an agricultural labourer who always wore his “Home Guard” corporal's uniform but the
locals noticed he never appeared on parade.
Sam Gilling was to be contacted via Ken Watts C/O Sunny View, Shipham. He was an agricultural labourer and the
first in the area to use a combine harvester. An early volunteer in the Home Guard he was an old friend of Ken
Watts. Sam ribbed Ken about never doing Home Guard parades so Ken said “Come and find out, we could do with a bloke like you”
Sam said “ I think I was replacing somebody. I was 18 when the war started. When I signed up with Sandford Auxiliary Unit, I had to go to their head office in Exeter to sign secrecy papers. It was probably late 1941.”
Sam Gilling along with Fred Trego and many Auxiliers from around the country were sent to the Isle of Wight in the summer 1944 to defend it prior to and during D-Day.
“I was working for the War Agriculture Committee and I just had to tell them I was called up. Nothing was said about where we were going or what we were doing. Of cause we thought we were off to France.
We got picked up and taken to Bishops Lydeard [HQ] and fitted out overnight. We left the next morning about half past seven and it wasn't until we got to Southampton that we knew where we were off to. We got on this boat and were taken over to the Isle of Wight into Parkhurst Prison. There were ack-ack sites on the Isle of Wight and we were stationed on one of them.
They thought the Germans might send paratroops over. The invasion communications went through the Isle of Wight, and there was PLUTO the big oil line. That's what we were guarding.
We were all Auxiliers, no Home Guard. We were on duty all night and used to go back to the camp and have breakfast, a good clean up and a couple of hours sleep.
We had to recce likely German landing points. Then we selected the best defensive positions to stop them. That was all until a fortnight after D-Day. Then we went home again. It was all very secret.“
Sam was twice called up and sent home from joining the Army due to his Auxiliary Unit role.
Frederick Hayter was an accountant and insurance agent and was a Boy Scout leader prior to war. Tubby
Weymouth was a member of his troop.
Hayter was called up in April 1943 (he had signed on in 1939) but it is unknown how long he was with the Auxiliary Patrol. It was many years before what he had really been doing was known about. He served in Reconnaissance
Corps in Northern Europe, was at the liberation of Holland, and moved forward with Canadian troops to cross the
Rhine. After the end of the war he was in Germany with The Commission for Europe. Demobbed in January 1946.
He died in 1971 aged 59.
Edward Pearce was transferred to Gloucester Home Guard 5.3.1943. He was from the Exeter area in Devon and
was directed to work in Banwell or Oldmixon for Bristol Aeroplane Company.
Kenneth “Tubby” Weymouth was a milkman at David Greig Ltd. He was discharged to His Majesties forces
14.4.1943. His first Army call up was cancelled due to his Auxiliary Unit role. He joined the SAS.
Though not recorded on the nominal roll, Verdon Besley of Hill Farm, Winscombe, joined aged 16 before he signed up to the Army “ I must have been 16 or 17. Father stopped in the New Inn at Cross on the way home and I waited outside as I wasn't old enough to go in.
Cliff Banner came out of the pub. I was already in the Home Guard and Cliff approached me to join this secret
army. I had to sign this secret form. Not even my parents knew. They though it was just Home Guard.”
In 1944, aged 18 he joined the Queen's Royal Regiment and went all the way to Berlin. They captured a farm
house but were counter attacked and cut off. Verdon's Auxiliary Unit training kicked in and he threw a phosphorous grenade at them to get them out.
He fired his last bullet out the window at a man shouting in German. He found out later that man was Captain
Robert Maxwell shouting at the Germans to surrender. Maxwell got the Military Cross for this rescue. It was the day after Verdon's 19th birthday.
Roy Clarke was a hairdresser in Upper Bristol Road, Weston Super Mare.
Percy R Brooks was discharged at his own request November 1942. As a Farmer and carter his work would have
taken up a huge amount of his time.
Edmund Stephens was a farm worker for his father at Woodborough Farm, Winscombe.
Glyndoor Sweeting and Arthur Lovell were quarry workers so it is assumed they would have been used to handling explosives.
Sandford Patrol had two vehicles to use; Ken Watt's Austin 7 and Cliff Coombs' Morris. The Morris would tow a
trailer with a canvas top and the men would sit either in the car or the trailer.
Fred Trego moved stores around in the side car of his Raleigh motor-bike.
Local soldier, Wally King lived at Eastwood as a boy and knew the mine area well. He saw the army there hard
blasting. Later he went and found the entrance built over with new access from the top, via counterweighted
camouflaged trap door. He went in when solders were not there and found slabs and curved corrugated round
ceilings. Drainage channels were cut at the side of passage.
Wire mesh shelves held grenades, cases of rifles, dynamite in 6lb sweet jars. Local boys knew of another way in,
further up the hill, lowered down by rope. The Army had cut a second entrance, 30yrds south west of the main
Wally watched them fire metal topped milk bottle phosphorous bombs from something like a mortar on a tripod right across Sandford Quarry.
Another local Percy Baker, discovered the OB and found it camouflaged and full of ammunition. Thinking it was an enemy hideout he reported his discovery to police. He was made to swear to keep it secret.
Sandford Levvy is an old horizontal mine adit, many feet underground, running south into Sandford Hill. It is 450m long. It was a trial lead mine first opened in 1830.
This very early image shows the men on their first trip to the
(Above left) Cecil Trego sat beside young Ken Weymouth while Cpl
Hayter examined a beer bottle. Lt Cliff Combs is leant against the bunk (made of chicken wire). Ammunition boxes
are stacked alongside.
The Patrol only used to go there in the dark, never in daylight and never the same way twice. Inside there were
sleeping quarters, hard tack rations, explosives and special equipment (Sam Gilling).
Inside their Ob the patrol plan their
Cpl Watts, Lt Coombs, Pte Weymouth and Pte Trego displaying their new
weapons in Sandford quarry.
Sgt Fred Trego of Sandford Patrol fortunately kept some of his
notes after training at Coleshill. His widow Mrs Nora Trego kindly makes them available, with the photos of
Sandford Patrol and OB. Fred also left a copy of his personal Kit List and a sketch of how to construct an OB
trapdoor, seen below.
Sgt Fred Trego's Trap Door
There was a lift door on pulleys with shrubs and rubbish all over to conceal it. It looked like a gruffy hole of which
there are hundreds over the Mendip.
Sgt Fred Trego's Kit
ALL IMAGES ABOVE ARE PROTECTED UNDER COPYRIGHT TO © DSBrown/NTrego
A big thanks to Kevin from a exploring website for the images below of the area and inside the mine. They were taken in May 2016.
Approach to the mine entrance.
Entrance to the mine. A tight squeeze.
The Army blocked up the main original entrance and made a new entrance some distance off.
The area of the Operational Base.
In the adit there are remains of paving stones, pieces of old wood and rusty brackets which may be the remains of bunks. There are faint marks on walls which could have been caused by candles and the air is
fresh. There are other tunnels above and below the chamber used by the patrol.
Left over signs of the bunk beds.
Observation Post/s: Currently unknown
Sam Gilling stated: “We had to get into Locking airport. Joint exercise as one of the lads from Wrington Wood was injured. Thumb and half the side of his hand blown off with a detonator.” This was Steve Fairhurst from Wrington Patrol who was discharged as medically unfit in July 1944. Other possible targets would have been road and rail links leading to Bristol and Bath.
Local training took place at Cliff Banner's house at Kelvin House and at Sandford Quarry.
Verdon Besley recalled: “Down at Cliff Banner's house he'd be practising blowing down his trees. I remember him giving me this explosive it was like plasticine. We had fuses, red, green, yellow, and blue timed from instantaneous up to so many seconds or minutes. It was all stored in Cliff's house.
He took us to Sandford Quarry to throw Molotov Cocktails. We made our own with petrol in bottles”
Sam Gilling remembered having a “cheese-cutter”. “They were handy, a length of piano wire with wooden handles on each end. You strangled sentries with them.” It is assumed they had access to the standard arms and explosives.
Donald Brown and his research for “Somerset vs Hitler” ISBN 1 85306 590 0
He was able to interview; Sam Gilling, Percy Baker, Wally King, Verdon Besley
Nora Trego, the widow of Fred Trego
Margaret Trevis (nee Hayter)
Hancock Data held at B.R.A
TNA ref WO199/3391
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