The Garth - Kent HQ & Birthplace of the
This page was last updated at 3:40pm on 9/6/14
Information by CART and Phil Evans.
PLEASE NOTE, THE GARTH IS
PRIVATELY OWNED AND NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
At the beginning of the War the Owners
the Gowen family decided to leave for the safety of Scotland and arranged for Mr Harry Sexton to move into the
Garth with his family so that they could take care of the property whilst they were away. Peter Fleming, and his chosen men then moved into the house. The family initially moved to one
end whilst the army took the rest. This did not last to long before the family moved out completely and the Army
took the whole house and surrounding buildings.
To begin with Peter brought in his
brother Major Richard Fleming who brought with him the Lovat Scouts who he commanded. It was these men who were in
the patrols whilst everything was being set up. Alongside the Lovat Scouts Peter brought in elements of the Royal
West Kents and the Buffs to help him train men and act as taxis for men coming to train at the
'The Garth appears
originally to have been a cottage which was enlarged about a century ago. In the older wing the first floor had
removed-floorboards, joists and beams-and the roof rafters exposed; the exceptional height and the two rows of
leaded windows gave the look of a slightly impoverished and very old chapel. Everyone who entered it felt that the
inglenook fireplace might have sheltered an alter, and the wooden packing cases full of explosives that Fleming and
his men used as tables and chairs could have been pews'
older part had the upper floor removed and was known to Calvert as 'the Barn'. It was soon stacked to the ceiling
with explosives in crates, and whatever weaponry Fleming could muster. This was not an inconsiderable amount and,
as the office and dining areas were in the Barn too, a certain understanding was necessary among personnel. The
only lighting was candle power and this flammable correlation with crates of explosives sometimes led to firmly
articulated protests from uninitiated visitors. Cigarette smoking was
Front of the building - The white door is what would have
been the front door during the war. If you go through it and turn right it leads into the Hall. If you turn left it
leads into Norman Field's office.
The Garth before renovation - Image Phil Evans
The Garth during renovation July
2011 - Image CART
Entrance - Entry was made for Auxiliers through the arched door
(below). This led into the lecture hall and the area theycollected
The entrance before renovation - Image Phil
The Main Hall - Lectures were given in this hall. Peter Fleming
used to throw fuses with detonators into the fireplace to show the men in the
The main hall before renovation
- Image Phil Evans
In the image above you can see the window, top right, that Norman Field said the previous owner, John Ward had added.Originally it would have had a high level window. This was because it was this end of the hall
that used to have first floor that was removed at some point before the war. If you look through the doorway to the
left you can see the arched door the leads outside.
The Garth's main hall during
renovation July 2011 - Images Paula Sykes
On arrival at the Garth, Norman
Field was surprised to find a Luftwaffe pilot who had just been shot down lying on the kitchen
table! He had arrived by parachute, wounded in the arm and not in a very good state covered in
yellow dye. It had burst over his head! They turned on the one o'clock news and someone said"
listen carefully! you'll hear the truth!" He probably didn't speak a word of English as he didn't
respond anyway! The ambulance turned up and took him off. The table was cleaned up and lunch
produced for the assembled company at the same table!
Photo was taken by Phil Evans in 2009 and is
believed to be the same table.
Nissen Hut - It is a little bit hard to see but if you
look close enough you can see the remains of the Nissen hut Norman Field had built
for men to sleep in. Apparently there was another one further into the wood but Phil has wondered through
there and cant see any evidence.
The Nissen Hut - Image Phil
Stores Tunnel - Here is the remains of the Tunnel Norman Field had constructed for storing explosives as he was leaving. From talking to
some locals they said it ended up being used to store food.
The Stores Tunnel - Image Phil
Path into the wood - The path that runs next to the Garth up into the wood used
to be where machine gun training took place where men would walk up the path and targets would pop
out from behind trees. They were operated by men hiding near by who pulled on a string to pop the
One of the gentlemen Phil has been speaking to, who was a kid in the war, used to go
up this path, once the Auxiliers had stopped shooting with his friends, and dig the bullets out of
the trees and the ground to use in their catapults!
Not long after setting up it was decided to bring in Local men of Kent to form the patrols. Lectures were done
in the main hall in the old part of the building. Auxiliers have spoken of Peter showing them detonators and how
dangerous they could be if mishandled by setting them off in the fireplace in the hall this caused quite a few men
to jump! One Auxilier remembered seeing Peter wondering round the Garth smoking his pipe with detonators in his
shirt pocket he then pulled one out to show a man and was treating it like it was no more dangerous than a twig!!
In November 1940 Peter was pulled away from the Auxiliary Units to move on to other important work. On leaving, he
took the main bulk of the Lovat scouts and his Brother leaving two Lovat Scouts behind to help train the men of the
It was at this point Royal Fusiliers Captain Norman Field was brought in to take
over from Peter as Intelligence Officer for Kent. There was a two week period where Peter handed over control to
Norman before he departed. Norman remembers.
“On arrival at The Garth there was a live German airman on the only table. He had been wounded in the arm
and looked very yellow as a bag of stain, supplied for sea landings, had burst over his head when he parachuted
into a tree in Kings Wood. Peter Fleming came in from a day of bridge mining (without consultation) using gun
cotton and milk churns. He ensured we had top priority for anything we wanted, especially explosives. The following
day I was present at one of the training sessions and I realised there was much to learn during the week before
Peter left. Almost his last words to me were: ‘You will find this job intriguing but demanding. You will find the
Corps Commander takes a close interest in our progress so I suggest that when you wish to take some leave you give
him a call – out of courtesy’. “Fleming was a very agreeable man."
Lectures were soon moved from the main house to the outbuildings and the surrounding hillsides were used for all
sorts of training exercises from firing practice to grenade throwing to practicing with explosives. In one night exercise at the Garth Norman field and another
man were trying to plant a detonator stuck into a potato (stand in for real explosives) on a target it was raining
so they retreated into a barn. Whilst standing there chatting, the potato exploded blowing some of his fingers
clean off! Norman quickly had the man in a car and rushed him to the hospital in Canterbury to be treated!
In another rather hairy event Norman was up on the hillside behind the house showing soldiers a
few detonators. He flung one into a hole in the ground which went off and very unexpectedly set fire to the
scrub land which ran up the hill to the explosives dump in Kings’ Wood!!! He managed to get a group of Canadian
soldiers, that had stopped in the field opposite the house to camp, to help put the fire out. The main thing he
remembered about this experience was whilst he and the regulars with him were running around panicking about
blowing the explosives dump up the Canadians causally strolled up the hill and put the fire out with ease then just
as casually returned to their camp as if they had been out for a stroll!!
One day Norman was in his Office at the Garth when he received a phone call from his group leader in Faversham
Thomas Neame that a German Bomber had come down in a wood near where one of the O.B's was. He set off to see what
was going on and when he got there he found a strange scene.... Not only were the dead German aircrew lined up on
the floor but some funny chap had also lined up next to the dead Germans all the animals and birds killed when the
plane crashed!!! After witnessing this bizarre scene he and his men went about removing some explosives they found
in the cockpit area of the plane and returned to the Garth.
With the explosives from the bomber, and their own supply, they put on a demonstration in a field
behind the Garth where they blew up a car! It didn't go according to plan though. Everyone was positioned a safe
distance from the car for the event and when they finally blew it up they hadn't realized how powerful the
explosives were. Norman remembers seeing pieces of car flying clean over the spectators heads and into nearby
woodland. Needless to say everyone was a bit shaken by the whole event and Norman was very concerned because at
that time every day a chap walked his dogs through a part of the wood wreckage fell in. Luckily on this day the
chap had decided not to take his dog for a walk at that time!
George Elvy of Mushroom patrol remembers one very
eventful day whilst training at the Garth. His patrol and one of the other patrols from Romney Marsh were up at the
hand grenade pits practicing with live grenades. It came to a man from the other patrol to have a go at throwing.
He went into the pit and was given a grenade to throw by the regular overseeing the exercise. What happened next
made men run in all directions to find cover as quickly as humanly possible. The man pulled the pin from the
grenade primed it to throw then turned around holding pin and fly leaver in one hand and grenade in the other and
asked the regular which bit he was supposed to throw! Luckily for him, and everyone else, the fuse had not been
shortened to three seconds and the regular grabbed the grenade and throw it onto the range! It was very lucky
nobody was hurt.
Norman left the Auxiliary units in 1941 and a London Scottish Captain George McNicholl took over as Intelligence
Officer in Command of Kent till the Units stand down in October 1944.
A couple of Regular soldiers were left to destroy and clear the house out of any sign of military
It’s worth noting that there were rumours for years about the Garth being mined with a milk churn full of
explosives, to be set off, and the building destroyed if the Germans ever did invade. When the house was renovated
these seems to be true as under the floor a concrete cap the shape of a toilet lid was found covering a milk churn
In July 2011 a group from CART went to the Garth to see progress on the
renovations. Auxilier Ron Martin is pictured in the middle, seated. Image - Paula Sykes.
Thanks to the current owners of The Garth for site