Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


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 (Norwich)

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
Cringleford Patrol
Hellesdon Patrol

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
FE Blythe
RC Cooper
AS Bird
PAA Hawes 

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit

Back row from leftt: Unkown – unknown  - Ernie Roxby
Front row from left: Arthur Roxby – FG Matthews of Eaton Patrol (?)  – unknown – unknown –  HF ‘Darkie’ Lambert

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.

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit OB Site

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. 

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit OB Plan

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.

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit Ammo Store Site-2012-update
The collapse of the ammo store’s (above) roof has created a third depression, measuring approx 9 x 6 ft. 

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit Ammo Store roof 2012-update

(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). 

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit Ammo Store Pipe-2012-update

(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 Sentinels, 1999):
“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 police.” 

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.

Thorpe St.Andrew Auxiliary Unit OP Site-2012-update

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.

Rackheath airfield

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)

 Currently unknown

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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