Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


St. Levan Auxiliary Unit, Cornwall

This page was last updated at 7:00pm on 25/9/12

A report by Nina Hannaford - CART CIO for Devon. If you can help with any info please contact Nina by emailing

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.

St Levan is a parish in the far West of Cornwall close to Lands End and 8 miles South West of Penzance.

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The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.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

At Stand Down, Cornwall is registered as area 17. St Levan is part of Group 1 along with Madron and Trencrom. The Group Commander is Lieutenant W R Sandow of Trencrom Patrol..
The Area Commander is Captain H W Abbiss of Truro. In January 1945 Captain Abbiss  was awarded the MBE ( Military Division).

Currently unknown.

Sergeant John “Jack” Laity of St Buryan. The OB was built on his land at Bosfranken
Corporal Henry “ Harry” Laity who was later a JP of Porthcurno and Sgt Jack Laity's brother
W “Cyril” Lane of St Levan
Joseph “Joe” Semmens of Porthcurno
Norman Matthews of St Buryan
Lewis Hosking of St Buryan and his brother
A  “Nelson” Hosking of St Buryan. He was a later a JP and, though not on the nominal roll.

John Williams of Roskesal has been remembered as an Auxilier.

It is thought that the Operational Base has been destroyed or removed as nothing remains.

The Operational base was dug out and built by the patrol,by night, by hand and in secret. Made of a heavy gauge Nissen hut and set into a bank, it was entered by crawling through what appeared to be a fox or badger hole. The patrol never slept at the OB which was remembered as being very dry.

"The Base was positioned on an old Roman road at Crean Hill near St Buryan. It was 11 feet deep and 18 feet long with a built in escape tunnel. It had a wooden floor and walls with an arched galvanised roof.
There was about four feet of soil on top and turf and hawthorn trees were planted on top to camouflage.
Furniture consisted of a table with two wooden forms.
Information from Auxilier Norman Matthews and taken from The National Monuments Record (No 1426425)

Observation Post/s: Currently unknown.

St. Levan Auxiliary Unit Patrol 1

Footpath leading from Crean to Bosfranken. The OB was where the lane opens up at the top and on the right.

Porthcurno had a telegraph station with 14 working cables running world wide. It was the most important cable station in the British Empire. In 1940 underground tunnels were built at Porthcurno to house the station protecting from attack.

It is assumed that this would have been heavily defended but is a possible target.

Porthcurno, within the Parish of St Levan, housed a vital centre of communications at the International Telegraph Station of Cable and Wireless. With 14 working cables running world wide, it was the most important cable station in the British Empire.

Realising that a successful attack of Porthcurno would sever Britain's communications with the outside world, the Company dug out tunnels for an underground station.

St. Levan Auxiliary Unit Patrol 2

The entrance to the Porthcurno underground station.

As time went on an elaborate scheme of defence was built up with over 300 troops in the area guarding the branch. The valley was declared a Protected Place and passes were only issued to anyone who had a right to be there. An unscalable fence was constructed around the tunnels and flame throwers could be turned on at the entrances.

Mr W F A Bell, the Telegraph Station Superintendent, recalled several false alarms and sleepless nights and many mock attacks. St Levan Patrol could have been charged with testing the Station's defences.

Interestingly Mr Bell had orders to sabotage the Station himself before allowing it to fall into enemy hands.

 St. Levan Auxiliary Unit Patrol 3

The escape tunnel at Porthcurno station.

Though 40 minutes long, the YouTube video below gives a fascinating record of the defences around Porthcurno Village and of the Telegraph Station.

The St Levan Patrol and Harry Laity are briefly mentioned at 35.30 minutes in.

The nearby radar stations of RAF Sennen were first established as a mobile radar unit at Trevescan Farm in November1940. A more permanent system was established when the RAF took over land at Little Skewjack and for a time towering masts, over 300ft high, began to dominate the landscape.  Finally established in 1942, the earth covered concrete bunkers of the “Chain Home Low” station were a known target in other areas.

Currently unknown

It is thought they had access to the standard weapons and equipment.

It was remembered by Auxilier Norman Matthews that the patrol stored : ½ a ton of TNT, 8cwt of Nobel 808 explosives along with 124 bottles of phosphorus Molotov cocktails, Cortex explosive fuse, orange line fuse (remembered as burning 10ft a second), Bickford fuse ( 2ft a second) and time pencils ( Yellow, Blue and Red).

2 ½ lbs dynamite attached to a magnet was used as an anti-tank weapon.

Each Auxilier was issued with a Sten gun, a .45 Colt revolver and a .303 rifle. The patrol had one sniper rifle, fitted with a telescopic sight and plenty of ammunition which was stored at the OB

Harry Laity was approached by Lt.Reggie Sandow of Trencrom Patrol to form patrol.

TNA  ref WO 199/3391
Hancock data held at B.R.A
Alwyn Harvey and Defence of Britain Database.
Porthcurno in Wartime by W Bell and Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.
Information from Denys Matthews, son of Auxilier Dick Matthews of Madron patrol. Undated article in The Cornishman, Auxilier Norman Matthews, The National Monuments Record.

If you can help with any info please contact us.