Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Upton Pyne Scout Section Operational Base

This page last updated at 9:41am on 27/12/12

Thank you for selecting information on the Upton Pyne (Devon) Scout Section and their Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford and CART webmaster Tom Sykes.

The Scout Sections were made up of regular soldiers enlisted from the county regiments, in this case The Devonshire Regiment. They were gradually withdrawn from late 1942-3 and either re-absorbed into their regiments or often involved in other Special Operations such as the SAS.

The role of the Scout sections was to assist in training the Auxiliary Unit Patrols as well as being a fighting Patrol themselves.

In many places they also helped with the construction of Operational Bases and distributing concealed arms dumps.

In Devon they worked under the direct command of their Intelligence Officer Captain J W Stuart Edmundson.

It is recorded that each area (Devon and Cornwall were initially one area) had two Scout Sections consisting of one Officer and eleven other ranks along with a driver. It is thought that each Scout Section had two OB's as, in the event of invasion, they would split into two fighting Patrols.

First discussed in July 1940 most Scout Sections were formed by November 1940 and withdrawn during late 1942 -3.

Devon Scout Section Members

Known Devon Scout Section members include:

Lieutenant ( Laurence) Roy Bradford, Devonshire Regiment.
Corporal Wally Tucker
Private Bert Hole
Private Jack Abbot
Private Les Brunton (or Biriton)
Private Bickle
Driver W A “Paddy” Maguire RASC
and others as yet known.

The Operational Base is located in Upton Pyne in the Pynes House Estate though much of the training was carried out around the neighbouring area of Thorverton which is around 3 miles West of Exeter.
It is on private property.

It is known the men were billeted around Robins Court, Upton Pyne and the camp in Thorverton.

Upton Pyne House


Upton Pyne OB Map

OB Remains: Larger chamber shelter roof collapsed but with far end block built wall still standing complete with stove ventilation gap. Side walls of chamber are stone built and mainly intact. Partially intact, block built ? blast wall covers entrance from main chamber to small area containing escape tunnel which appears intact.

A second partially intact, block built ? blast wall covers entrance to a thin passageway running North to South with a what appears to be an entrance / escape area in the Southern stone wall.

At South end of passageway a doorway leads down into second smaller chamber which is mostly intact with block built blast walls towards the east end of chamber.

Size: All sizes are approximate. Main Chamber 5 x 3 m. Area containing escape tunnel 1.5 x 1.2 m. Far end of escape tunnel 5m away. Passageway 3 x 1.2 m. Intact chamber 3 x 3m

Orientation: West to East

Entrances: Concrete escape tunnel approx 5m away. Entrance or exit area hidden as part of stone wall in passageway between the two chambers, made to look like part of wall but with metal lintel. No vertical entrance remains

Other physical remains: Stone wall forming South wall of OB could have been made to look like an existing field boundary as continues beyond end of OB. Many areas of corrugated iron all over site. Various lengths of clay pipe. Single 0.5m long hinge. A small water well is situated 2m from the East end of the OB and a pipe appears to run from this into the OB. Remains of what could be a valve or pump are present in the same area.

Observation Post: Communication cable exits at the East end of the OB but the highest point in the area is slightly to the West.

Upton Pyne view

View from the OB (tsykes - 2012)

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-doorway entrance into smaller chamber

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-in main chamber-looking east

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-inside the smaller chamber looking west

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-looking down escape tunnel

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-looking into main chamber facing south

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-overview the main chamber

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-removable wall section

Upton Pyne Auxiliary Unit OB-standing in passageway facing west

As a fighting Patrol the Devon Scout Section were within 3 miles of the city of Exeter with all its transport links as possible targets.

At the nearby Cowley Bridge there are substantial rail links. The floods of December 2012 showed that damage to tracks in the area resulted in the total isolation of most of Devon and Cornwall by rail.

Records show that the following advice was given to the Scout Sections:

Devon Scouts Training 1

Devon Scouts Training 2

The Sections went through a course at Coleshill HQ within the first few weeks and continued training with their IO for three months. Further courses at Coleshill continued to train new recruits.

Many Devon patrols came to the area for training especially in the region of the village of Thorverton, about two miles from the operational base. The Scouts used Pynes Wier on the nearby River Creedy to train Devon Auxillers.

In an interview with Walter Denslow (Bovey, East Devon Patrol) he recalls:

“...the most difficult job I had to do, they picked us up one night in army trucks, we didn't know where we were going. They took us down to a place called Thorverton...There was a hall there and seven patrols met there, they gave us a map and on the map there was just North, South, East and West and just a red dot. Strange country, black.

It was very difficult I had to lead Branscombe [East Devon] Patrol, not my own and I led it to where I thought I'd found it, but they only had about half of us found our targets....

Twas a British camp and we had to make out it was a German camp...there was a deep river there [River Creedy] and this Commando chap he said “you stay here..I'll swim across” and in the dead of the night he entered this black river. Anyway we got in and put the flash there and the time pencil and we got about 2-300 yards away when it went off. That woke them up...”

In early 1941 they were mobilised around the county as they trained Plympton Patrol on the South West edge of Dartmoor. Here the Patrol would have known the land better than the Scout Section.

Records show that the Scout Sections were advised that the following weapons and equipment were essential:

Devon Scouts Weapons

Transport was usually a 15 ton truck, a motorcycle and eleven bicycles.

Upton Pyne local Jim Swain recalls the following

I was born in Upton Pyne at 3 Robins Court and at one period in my early childhood, we came back to live in the same house. This was at the time of Dunkirk. There were sheds around where we lived and at that time we had some soldiers billeted in these sheds with their cook house and we had one of these men sleeping in our house. We kids went to Upton Pyne School and in the summer holidays we went down to Pyne’s woods to pick up acorns for pig food. There were men from Dunkirk digging in the nearby laurels. Of course at that time we kids did not know just what they were up to. These soldiers also came from a camp in Thorverton. I’ve now found out from a friend it was a special place where a specialist Home Guard unit would be based. If the Germans were to invade there job would be to hassle the invading force.

Railways, factories and of course the coast line for any enemy troops of infantries. I believe it was a top secret project. I don’t know if anybody knows just where it is. I am also led to believe there were many such places all over the country.

Just for the records there were some 225,000 British and 113,000 French troops evacuated from Dunkirk.

I also have a painting of 3 Robins Court where I was born and of course lived at the time of Dunkirk. It is painted by and was given to us by F.Parr.

Further information-

A week after a government appeal in May 1940, 250,000 men had joined the then LDV local defence volunteers. These numbers doubled by July when they were renamed the Home Guard. Few had uniform or weapons and were only armed with sporting guns, golf clubs or broom handles. These unpaid men’s job was to watch public buildings and roads.

Any other info I may be able to give, you only have to ask.

From Jim Swain

Exeter. 2010.

Lt Roy Bradford went on to become Captain Bradford, the Intelligence Officer for Sussex Auxillary Units from May 1943 until Febuary 1944. He and several men from this group then joined 1 SAS Regiment.
He was parachuted into France under Operation Houndsworth.

Bradford was killed 20th July 1944 while operating behind enemy lines in Lucy-Sur-Yonne.

A map of the area can be seen here

“Resisting the Nazi Invaders”, Arthur Ward, (1997) pages 41, 50, 90, 97, Letter from Mr J Swain, Exeter.
Arthur Cook, David Blair, CART CIO for Scotland. Walter Denslow, Dr P Hook, “Auxiliary Units History and Achievement 1940-1944” Major N V Oxenden, “With Britain in Mortal Danger” John Warwicker.
Military Illustrated Aug 1992

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