Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Tilney St. Lawrence (Patrol 7A) Auxiliary Unit Patrol.

This page was updated at 3:11pm on 14/8/12

Thank you for selecting information on the Tilney St Lawrence Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Lincolnshire. The info and images below have been supplied by Aux researchers Evelyn Simak and Adrian Pye.

The other patrols in this area were Emneth Patrol (Area South 5 Group 7B), Sutton Bridge Patrol (Area South 5 Group 7C) and Crowland Patrol (Area South 5 Group 7D).

The Area Group Commander was Capt CN King, MC, from Wisbech (just over the border in Cambridgeshire).

31st December 1941

Sgt H Flint
Cpl B Flanders
A Rockcliffe
J Bridger
AR Goodley – farmed at Pullover Farm which is about one kilometre distant from the OB location.

The OB is situated on private land which was accessed by kind permission of the owner.

The nearest known and hence most likely patrol using this OB would have been Tilney St. Lawrence Patrol which, although it has always been situated in Norfolk, came under Auxiliary Units Lincolnshire.

The structure was built into an old flood defence bank, dating from the times when the Great River Ouse used to be much wider than it is now, from before the time the cut-off channel was built. It is made of concrete that was cast on site (with plank shuttering).

It is in excellent condition and well looked after. It has been used for the storage of Port wine for some time and all vent pipes were filled with expanding foam. Both entrance and exit openings were recently fitted with sturdy steel doors which are kept firmly locked and bolted to prevent unauthorised access.

Tilney St. Lawrence OB Plan

The main chamber measures 4.30 (L) x 2.40 (W) x 2.10 (H) metres; 3 ceramic field pipe vents in roof – 6 inch diameter; 3 ceramic field pipe vents in north wall – 3 inch diameter; one vent in south wall, one in north wall – both 3 inch diameter; one 6-inch ceramic vent pipe out toilet roof. Steel pipe through roof in SW corner and emerging above ground level – 2 inch diameter, appears to have been home-made and presumably used for passing through a cable.

The main chamber is accessed through an antechamber that is about 1m wide and 2m long. A toilet cubicle measuring about 1.30 (H) x 0.80 (W) x 1m (D) has been built into its south wall.

A 1.20m deep drop separates antechamber and main chamber. At the bottom of this drop there is a cast block of concrete (9x9x18in) serving as a step.

Two round un-concreted areas, one in the floor in the SW corner of the main chamber and the other in the SW corner of the antechamber, roughly 25 cm in diameter. Excavating the soil revealed that both of these served as drains. It is orientated E/W.

Entrances: Drop down shaft with steel rungs in wall (2 missing/corroded) – about 2 metres deep. Entrance shaft opening rectangular – 60 x 75 centimetres; originally covered by a wooden lid with tray on top that rested on the concrete lip of the entrance opening – no trace remains of the original cover. Entrance currently secured by modern steel lid with padlock.

The emergency escape tunnel consists of two sections of concrete pipe measuring about 2 metres – emerging in north bank. No trace remains of the original trap door. The internal opening was also secured by a door of which only the wooden boards of the frame remain. This door has since been replaced by a heavy steel door bolted to the interior wall. The exit end of the pipe is encased in cast concrete with a lip surrounding the exit opening. Exit opening currently covered by corrugated sheeting.

Tilney St. Lawrence Patrol OB 1Tilney St. Lawrence Patrol OB 2

Entrance (left) and exit openings

There is a hand-operated (oil) pump, about 1.30m down from the entrance opening, on the shaft’s north wall. We established that the pump was in all likelihood used to open the cover which was described to us as having been a wooden box or tray filled with soil and planted. No trace remains of the original cover.

The vertical shaft terminates in a small antechamber from which the hand pump was operated. A section of (rusty) pipe alongside the north wall still has the original (12) coat hooks attached to it. A toilet cubicle with its own vent pipe has been integrated into the opposite wall.

A 1.20m drop leads down into the main chamber. A solid block of cast concrete is at the bottom of this drop, on the main chamber’s floor, serving as a step.

Nails can be seen sticking out of the roof of the main chamber, presumably intended to hold in place wooden battens that have since fallen off. On the interior walls of the main chamber there are wooden boards, some with nails still in them. There is evidence that the chamber contained extensive shelving.

Glazed ceramic vent pipes were set into both end walls as well as into the flat roof. A small, apparently homemade, steel pipe runs upwards through the roof. It can be seen where it emerges above ground on the south side. We were unable to establish what purpose it might have served.

 Tilney St. Lawrence Patrol OB 3

Hand-pump in entrance shaft (left) and home-made coat hooks

The emergency escape passage is near the far end, turning off at right angles through the north wall. It consists of two sections of concrete pipe.

The exit end of the pipe is encased in cast concrete, with a lip surrounding the exit opening which is built into the slope. The opening is currently covered over with corrugated sheeting. The internal opening was secured by a heavy steel plate that was hinged at the bottom.

Tilney St. Lawrence Patrol OB 4

View towards exit tunnel (left) – view towards entrance shaft

Both antechamber and main chamber have concrete floors. There are two round un-concreted areas, one in the floor in the SW corner of the main chamber and the other in the SW corner of the antechamber, measuring roughly 25 cm in diameter. Excavating the soil revealed that both of these served as drains.

A well-disguised exterior zinc water tank is located on the north side. The tank was originally covered with corrugated sheeting that has only recently fallen in. A water pipe was put through the wall and can be seen emerging from the interior wall. We presume that a water tap would originally have been affixed to it.

This to-date is the only OB we have seen that was constructed exclusively from concrete, cast on site. We had not as yet seen one with so many ceramic vent pipes (9 altogether) either, or one where two different sizes of vent pipes were used. We had never come across a hydraulic hand pump used for opening the entrance cover, and we had certainly never seen any evidence of shelving to the extent as can be seen here. Despite no two OBs ever being exactly the same, this one does stand out for a number of distinct features shared by none of the others we have recorded.

Tilney St. Lawrence Patrol OB 5

Outline of water tank seen from above and glazed vent pipes

We have fairly good documentation re Norfolk AU Groups, patrol names and locations, and patrol members’ names etc. However, we failed to unearth any information regarding AU in the King’s Lynn area, apart from a dot on the map of A Hoare’s book and the annotation that there are 2 OBs in the King’s Lynn area (one of these presumably Mintlyn patrol’s, which, so we have established, belongs in Norfolk Group 8). Interestingly, some obviously cross-border patrols in this area, whether they were located in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire, all appear to be listed under Lincolnshire Area South, and this, of course, explains their absence in the Norfolk list.
We have seen the copy of a 1940s map taken from Headquarters in Lincolnshire, where the locations of OBs, AU Scout Sections and/or Radio Stations are marked by hand-drawn circles surrounding the respective areas. One such circle can be seen drawn in the vicinity of King’s Lynn.

Other physical remains. 

Hand pump on entrance shaft wall. On occasion of a second visit we managed to establish that the pump is a hand-operated hydraulic oil pump and that it would presumably have been used for opening the wooden box covering the entrance opening.

Coat hooks on a section of pipe running along one of the walls, in the antechamber. According to the landowner, the hooks were used for hanging coats, they are original and were always there as long as he can remember.

A zinc water tank abutting north wall, measuring 1.30 x 0.60m. This tank was originally covered with corrugated sheeting that has recently fallen in. A water pipe was put through the wall and can be seen emerging from the interior wall. We presume that a water tap would originally have been attached to it.

No trace remains of the nearby ammo store.

Observation Post/s: Currently unknown

We have consulted CART CIO Northumberland, Stephen Lewins, CART CIO Sussex, Stewart Angell and Dr Will Ward, CART CIO Dorset who all are familiar with and have recorded Operational Bases as well as Zero Radio Stations and Scout Section patrol OBs in their respective areas of research. Many thanks for their thoughts and information:

“It certainly looks like an OB or, I think a Zero station. That might explain the extra pipes for wiring and possibly message drops along with ventilation. The pump would probably have been used to keep the water from seeping in to the structure, especially as it is built on a dyke. The separate area for the toilet would suggest more constant usage requiring a bit more privacy hence my Zero station theory, ie manned 24/7. There seems to have been a lot of stuff attached to the walls suggesting shelving. “

“The West Lynn/South Lynn bunker is a bit of a puzzle. The pump to open the door is a bit more specialised than normal. It still looks more like a Zero radio station to me … the site might have been a Scout Section Patrol as opposed to the AU.” (Stephen Lewins)

 “Looks to be an Aux Unit OB, the fact that you cannot find a patrol to use it does not matter. Consider that it could have been built by the Scout Patrol for themselves, hence the locality of an additional nearby store. From your photos it appears to be in an ideal position, built within an existing bank, this provides good air supply and somewhere for the emergency exit to go.
The number of vents at any one site may differ for various reasons, taking into account the location, the number of men in a patrol and who was building the thing!
I have come across this more solid build in Sussex along with the concrete emergency exit tunnel so am confident that this is Aux Unit. (Stewart Angell)

“I wonder if this a West Norfolk Scout Section with the Wroxham Group covering East Norfolk. Lots of counties has two Scout Sections, often from different regiments - eg in Lincolnshire they had one from the Leicesters. Against this is that the Scout Sections tended to build their OBs early on. This looks more advanced - with extensive ventilation - suggesting a later build and influence of the RE Tunnelling Engineers on design.” (Dr Will Ward)

MGNR railway line and bridge, the 'Cut’ Bridge, South Lynn, and other bridges in the vicinity.

Not known.

Not known.

.Not known.

Desmond Neville (personal interview); Tim J Tooke (personal interview); Alan Giles; Stephen Lewins CART CIO Northumberland; Stewart Angel CART CIO Sussex; A Hoare, Standing up to Hitler (2002); Dr Will Ward CART CIO Dorset; Major NV Oxenden MC, Auxiliary Units – History and Achievement 1940-1944 (Oct 1944)

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