Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Stoke Gabriel Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at on 14/5/16

Thank you for selecting information on the Stoke Gabriel Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford.

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.

Stoke Gabriel is a village in South Devon on the east bank of the River Dart.

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The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.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, Devon is registered as area 16. Stoke Gabriel is part of Group 4 along with Marldon, Brixham, Newton Abbot and Harberton Patrols under the command of Lieutenant (later Captain) Albert J Smith and 2nd Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) Edward J C Linscott. An earlier Lieutenant Arthur N Eversley-Green was discharged in Aug 1943 on medical grounds.

All originally signed up as Lieutenants in “H” Company of the 10th (Torbay) Battalion Home Guard before being recruited to Auxiliary Units 

The South Devon Area Commander is Captain Cyril Wellington originally of Plympton Patrol.

 September 1940.

Sergeant Alfred ''Alf'' J King of Stoke Gabriel
Private Edwin P Potham of Paignton
Private Frederick “Jack” Hodge of Stoke Gabriel
Corporal Alfred James “Jimmo” Collings of Stoke Gabriel
Private Reginald "Reg" V Baker of Coombe Shute
Private Francis Leslie Chubb of Stoke Gabriel
Private Charles Kiff of Sandridge Park, joined February 1943
Private Alfred "Alf' C Tucker transferred to 10th Battalion HG March 1943
Private Charles N Watson of Paignton, discharged Oct 1942

Click on image for larger version

Brixham, Stoke Gabriel and Marldon Patrols - Click on image for a larger view
Standing, from left : Reg Baker, Edwin Potham, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Frank Williams, ?, Charles Kiff.
Sitting,from left : Cpl. Philip Bawden, Cpl. Frank Hannaford, Sgt. Alf King, Lt. Arthur Eversley-Green, Capt. Albert Smith, Lt.
Edward Linscott, Sgt. Walter Minns, Sgt. William Wills, Cpl. Jim Collings.
On floor : ?, ?

The Operational Base is on PRIVATE LAND and was accessed by kind permission of the estate manager.

The OB is on the edge of East Wood below Sandridge Barton on the east bank of the River Dart, downriver from Stoke Gabriel.

It appears that some attempt has been made, post war, to dismantle the Operational Base though it may have collapsed naturally with the progression of time. Far too many ventilation pipes are intact and in situ for it to have been blown up and the depression in the ground is far too evident for it to have been filled in.

Ventilation Pipe still in situ at what would have been ceiling height.

Ventilation pipe in situ showing the channel dug for it to be placed in.

Though overgrown with Ivy and decades of mulch from the trees, a clear outline of the Operational Base can be mapped out, at least 10 feet down into the bedrock.

A lack of in-fill behind the remaining wall structure seems to indicate that the original pit was quarried or at least finished by hand to exactly the correct size and design.

The distinct layers of construction can be seen in the far end wall of the main chamber and this seems to suggest the base was maybe built by the patrol and may have been altered or added to when construction and materials became more standardised.

The far end wall of the main chamber of the OB showing construction and ventilation pipes.

A framework made of 4” X 4” timber was constructed around the sides of the quarried out area. This was then clad with 4” X 1” timber to create a “wooden hut” structure.

This was then internally lagged with chicken wire and then roofing felt (or possibly damp proof course, though no joins can be seen).

Screws used to build structure.

The more standard construction material of the corrugated iron “Elephant shelter” was then placed inside. No evidence remains of any concrete blocks being used.

Showing the different layers of construction finalising with the iron “Elephant shelter” on top.

The OB remains show the original structure consisted of a drop down shaft, lined with corrugated iron, leading to a small “entrance” chamber which had a small (approximate 4ft x 3ft) alcove off to the left as seen in the picture which is looking down into the side alcove.

Diagram of OB (Not to scale)

Looking into the small side alcove with the entrance shaft on the left.

Metal lined entrance shaft

After this the main chamber of the OB opens out to an area of around 17ft  x 15ft with (looking from the entrance shaft) a larger alcove to the right with various ventilation pipes still in situ and the escape tunnel leading off to the left.

Main body of OB with back to escape tunnel

The escape tunnel exits from the main chamber, runs downhill 33 feet and seems to turn a right angle and continue for another 7 feet before terminating near a path and gateway.

It appears to have been constructed in a similar way to the main chamber. Being 4 feet wide,corrugated iron lines the sides and the presence of 4 inch screws indicates a wooden frame was used for the structure.

Escape Tunnel running from main chamber

The right angle turn in the escape tunnel.

The length of the tunnel was covered with stones which would have been the spoil from the excavation of the main chamber.

Orientation of OB: South to North with escape tunnel branching off main area to East.

Observation Post: Currently unknown. The location of the OB, close to and above the River Dart, would suggest the best location for a observation post would actually be on lower ground, closer to the River edge.

The wood continues down the river bank, almost to the waters edge, so they could have good visibility up and down the River whilst still well concealed by trees.

View from the River Dart up to the OB.

Other physical remains nearby: During the preparations for D-Day, Allied forces were based in the nearby fields.  Many trees, only yards from the OB, have military arborglyph (graffiti) carved by American personnel.

As there are few important road or rail links close to Stoke Gabriel it is assumed that the most obvious target would have been traffic on the strategically important River Dart.

Looking upriver from just below the OB

 Currently unknown

Unknown, but it is assumed that they had the standard weapons and explosives issued to all patrols.

Like Philliegh Patrol on the River Fal in Cornwall there is a thought that due to Stoke Gabriel's location next to the extremely strategically important River Dart they may have been issued with Limpet Mines.

Sgt. Alf King was a transport diver and lived next door to Alf Tucker. He was related, by marriage, to Edwin Potham.
Cpl. Jimmo Collings was employed as a horseman on Whitehill Farm, the last person to have that roll as tractors took over. He was a cousin of Francis Chubb and related through marriage to Fred Hodge.

Jimmo Collings

Jimmo Collings, last horseman on Whitehill Farm.

Fred Hodge lived at Sandridge Cottage, near to the OB site. He worked as a timber worker carrying out work for the Merchant Navy.

Charles Kiff was a gardener at Sandridge Park where the OB was built.

Alf Tucker was a carpenter and farm help during the war and was a next door neighbour to Sgt. Alf King.

Sylvia (nee Tucker) knew her Dad was in the Unit and was aware of where the base was but remembers very little. On her fathers death, when cleaning out the house her husband did come across and couple of hand grenades which they took around to the house of the local policeman.

Bob Scadding was a great friend of Reg Baker who did say he was in the Unit but would never talk any further about it.

Reg was employed on a sand barge involved with sand dredging so would have been at home on the river.

Edwin Potham was a farm worker.

Just downstream from the OB was another wartime clandestine operation. The 15th Motor Gunboat Flotilla of the Royal Navy used to lie midstream in the River Dart alongside an old paddle steamer, “Westward-Ho!”.
This flotilla carried out clandestine operations from the Dart to Northern Brittany from 1942 to 1944. Working closely with the French Resistance, it landed or brought back many British and Allied agents supporting intelligence and escape networks and SOE (Special Operations Executive)

Militärgeographische Angaben über England (image 20)

In 1941 the Nazis produced a folder containing maps and booklets that were intended to be used as military intelligence documents for invasion.

In preparing for the invasion a vast amount of information, including maps and photographs, was assembled by the German military which resulted in the production of a series of military/geographical assessments, showing what might be found by those arriving.

There are two pictures of the River Dart, one an aerial view with the caption of “a harbour of refuge” and the one above taken from the east bank looking up towards Stoke Gabriel.

TNA ref WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B.R.A
Charlie Bircham
Bob Scadding
Sylvia nee Tucker
The Secret War from the River Dart by Lloyd Bott ISBN-10:1899011137
Martyn Allen
Old Stoke Gabriel Photos
1939 Register on Findmypast.