Thorpe St Andrew Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base.
This page was last updated at 8:21pm on 8/5/12
Thank you for selecting information on the Thorpe St Andrew Auxiliary Unit Patrol
and their Operational Base in Norfolk. The info and images below have been supplied by Aux researchers Evelyn Simak
and Adrian Pye.
Belmore Plantation, Thorpe St Andrew
The patrol is alternately referred to as Thorpe St Andrew Patrol, Rackheath Patrol and Sprowston Patrol.
It formed part of Norfolk Group 1 (Norwich).
Other patrols in this group were
Eaton Patrol (Marston Lane), Norwich
Earlham Patrol (Earlham golf course, now UEA), Norwich
CO Lt. Cecil H. Buxton
Assisted by Sgt. J. Page
It is currently unknown when the patrol was formed.
Members name/s (from 1942 list):
Sgt. Robert Leslie Wright
Cpl. Jack Dennis Thorne, Norwich
Pte. Herbert Philip Bowman - Sprowston
Pte. Ernest Richard Higgs - Norwich
Pte. James Edward Smith
Pte. Jack Allan Ridgway (Lance Corp)
Pte. Fred Taylor
Pte. Harold Wm. Parker (discharged) – Norwich
The following names, found on the 1944 (stand-down) list, are also associated with this patrol:
George Gibbs - returned to HG 31.1.1944
Robert Thomas Maskell – returned to HG 31.1.1944
Raymond Edward Woods – returned to HG 31.1.1944
Ernest “Ernie” Frederick Roxby – returned to HG 31.1.1944
Arthur W Roxby
Back row from leftt: Unkown – unknown - Ernie Roxby
Front row from left: Arthur Roxby – FG Matthews of Eaton Patrol (?) – unknown – unknown – HF ‘Darkie’
Thanks to Russell Roxby for providing this photo which is believed to have been taken in 1942.
The OB is situated in a privately owned woodland with public access. RAF aerial
pictures taken in 1946 reveal that although the wood extends across roughly the same area that it covers
today, the only mature trees were growing in its south-western corner, on the edge of which the OB is
located. The 1940s O/S map denotes it as mixed woodland comprising conifers and broad-leafed trees.
The OB site presents itself as three pronounced depressions in the ground. The smallest of these was caused by
the collapse of the drop-down entrance shaft at the eastern end of the main chamber which is an elephant
shelter. A section of roof is still in place, supported by the end wall, forming a cave-like shelter
underneath which has been partially filled in with rubble in order to prevent access for local children who used to
play there. The remaining roof has collapsed, forming a second, larger, roughly square-shaped
depression. A narrow path leads right across the section of roof that is still in situ.
A passageway, now collapsed, lead at right angles from the western end of the main chamber to the ammo store,
located approx 25 ft further south and to the emergency exit, approx 30 ft further to the north. The
emergency exit is collapsed. The course of the passageway is denoted by a marked linear depression.
The collapse of the ammo store’s (above) roof has created a third depression, measuring approx 9 x 6 ft.
(Above) The ammo store, which was connected to the OB by a tunnel, now also collapsed, had a flat roof supported
by lengths of telegraph poles (two still in situ) resting on wooden uprights (in situ) and covered by corrugated
sheeting (small sections still in situ).
(Above) What appears to be a homemade ventilation pipe emerges from one corner.
An interesting account given by Mr Neil Evans, a local resident was published by Chris Bird (in: Silent
“The Norwich base, in Belmore Plantation, off South Hill Road, had three rooms, connected by a long
passageways. There were two entrance hatches. The complex was just below ground level, covered with soil and
pine needles. To give ventilation, some pine trees were cut down to their stumps, which were then hollowed out. Mr
Evans stumbled across the Norwich base in 1946, finding some hand grenades inside, about which he notified the
An article published in the Norwich Evening News (30 June 2011) informs that “local resident Neil Evans took
the group (a group of ‘Save Thorpe Woodlands’ campaigners) to two large craters in the wood. He explained how they
were underground bunkers for the secret army during the Second World War that he and friends had discovered in
their youth but were dismantled in secret by people sworn to the Official Secrets Act”.
According to patrol member HP Bowman (in: A Hoare), the OB was built by regular army engineers and
measured 12 x 8 feet.
The Defence of Britain Database has the following information: “Underground hide. Two entrances. Three rooms with
long connecting tunnels. Ventilation through hollow tree stumps. [Positional reference from Mr. J. Fielding, former
Norfolk auxiliary]. (Source: Oral Account ). Recorder: William Ward.
The OB site has also been recorded by Norfolk Heritage: “The site of a former Second World War Auxiliary Units
underground hide was allegedly located within Belmore Plantation off Plumstead Road East at the eastern outskirts
of Thorpe St. Andrew. According to an oral source the hide featured two entrances, three rooms with long connecting
tunnels and a ventilation system through hollow tree stumps. In 2006 the condition of the underground hide was
uncertain and it was not visible on aerial photographs of the area.” E. Bales (NMP), 10 November 2008.
What both recorders appear to have missed is the site of an Observation Post (Above) that was situated about 175
metres to the north-west of the OB site, not far from the edge of a pond at TG 271 103 – 114ft ASL. All that
remains of the OP site is a rectangular dugout.
Locally: Whitlingham sandpits; Cawston Heath rifle range; Leicester Square Farm, North Creake
Training in Syderstone and South Creake and occasionally in the OB.
Sten or Thompson submachine guns, Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knives and .38 revolvers plus a variety of explosives
including hand grenades, detonators and fuses would have been standard issue. (Info from HP Bowman, patrol member
in A Hoare)
A Hoare, Standing up to Hitler (2002), Norfolk Heritage Explorer (NHER number 51911*), DOB
(Dr William Ward); Lorna Beckett, Thorpe St Andrew; RN Evans, Thorpe St Andrew; Norwich Evening News (30 June
2011); Chris Bird (Silent Sentinels, 1999)
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