Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


Yealmpton Auxiliary Unit Patrol

Thank you for selecting information on the Yealmpton Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford.

This page was last updated at 1:47pm on 17/6/15

Research into this patrol and its training is ongoing. The information below is published from various sources and is by no means conclusive. If information is not listed below it does not necessarily mean the information is not out there but normally means CART researchers have not found it yet.

If you have any information on this patrol or can help with research in this area please do contact us.

A decision has been made to call this Yealmpton Patrol though this is not known for sure. It has proved difficult to group the Auxiliers into a single Patrol as the men's addresses cover quite a wide area and there is a frequent turnover of members in 1942 / 3.

The only Sergeant that can be linked with this Patrol lived quite a distance from the OB but he may have needed to move due to the Blitz of Plymouth and heavy bombing in the local area.

These men ARE Auxiliers but grouping them into a single patrol is an assumption at present. Please contact usif you can help.

Yealmpton, Brixton and Plymstock are parishes to the south east of the City of Plymouth in South Devon.

From the very first meeting in Whitehall in July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major, then Colonel) J W Stuart Edmundson, an officer in the Royal Engineers. He liaised with the regular army and received supplies and equipment and formed all the Patrols. He was assisted by Lieutenant (later Captain) John “Jack” Dingley who became IO for Cornwall in 1943 though he may have assumed the roll before that.

In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and Edmundson was succeeded in Cornwall by Captain John Dingley and in Devon by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain in command until near stand down. At the end of Harston's command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of the South West Peninsular and Wales.

The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some patrols within a demographic area would train together under more local command.

At Stand Down, Devon is registered as area 16. Yealmpton is part of Group 2 along with Tamerton Foliot, Holbeton, Plympton and Yelverton under the command of Lieutenant (later Captain) Cyril Wellington who was both Group Commander of Group 2 and Area Commander of South Devon.

 Thought to be late July or early August 1940.

Sergeant Howard Newham of Furzehatt Road, Plymstock
Corporal George F Davey of Dean Park Road, Plymstock (succeeded by)
Corporal George Farley of Yeo Park, Yealmpton – joined October 1942
Leslie G Kennard of Hareston Farm, Brixton
John W C Hallett of Sherford Barton, Yealmpton
Irwin J Hannaford of Hay Farm, Plymstock
Vivian Harbut of Tuxton Farm, Plymstock
R Kingdom – Posted to 16th Battalion Home Guard July 1943
Richard F Snawdon of Yealmpton – joined May 1943
Samuel E Snawdon of Yealmpton – joined February 1942 discharged to HM Forces June 1944
Frederick J Cross of Torre House Farm – joined December 1942
William J Copp – joined November 1942 discharged to HM Forces April 1943.

Living in Plymouth the original IO, Captain Edmundson, would have known this area and Patrol well.

Corporal George Davey appears to start as part of this Patrol before moving to Porthleven Patrol in Cornwall and being succeeded by Corporal George Farley. It is then recorded he is posted to “Devon Aux” in October 1944 but it is unknown if he returned to this Patrol for the short time that was left before stand down. He was awarded the Defence Medal.

Brothers Samuel and Richard Snawdon were from a family of furniture makers with a saw mill and timber merchants.

Irwin Hannaford was a rabbit and poultry keeper and had cousins who were Auxiliers in Brixham.

Leslie Kennard was a keen horseman, riding instructor and cattle breeder.

Vivian Harbut was a dairy and poultry farmer.

The OB is located on the edge of a wood to the south east of Yealmpton. It is on PRIVATE LAND and was accessed by the kind permission of the land owner.

The block built entry shaft is 30ft from the edge of the bank and ditch bordering the wood. The shaft is 30” X 40” and eight 2” galvanised pipe “rungs” lead down 8ft 8” to a small corridor.

Looking down the entrance shaft, “rungs” either side.

Looking up the entrance shaft.

To the right is a small chamber 32” square which had a 2” pipe running in to it at 28” from the ground. This could have been used as the toilet area or housed the water tank. Both the corridor and side chamber have concrete roofs 6ft 4” high.

Side chamber.                                                      Side Chamber showing entrance “rungs” and pipe.

The corridor leads into a narrow chamber 31” wide constructed of block and corrugated “Nissen” hut structure. Wooden door lining and lintels remain in a doorway, off set from the entrance shaft and corridor, leading into the now collapsed main chamber.

First narrow chamber.                                         Wooden door lining leading to main chamber.

The main chamber measured 16ft X 12ft approximately. It is now collapsed and many of the ventilation pipes are lying around, some still in situ in the ground.

From main chamber looking towards first narrow chamber, entrance is offset.

Walking through the main chamber leads to another doorway through to a second narrow chamber like the other side.

From main chamber looking through door into second narrow chamber and escape tunnel.

Second narrow chamber, escape tunnel lower right.

By the floor it can be seen where the wooden joists for a raised wooden floor were put in place before the concrete was poured on top. As the wood has rotted this has left the castellated shape of the concrete.

Concrete plinth on top of where floor joists would have been.

At floor level the escape tunnel leaves the OB. Made from 30” concrete pipes the first section curves around to the south and is 54 ft 6” long.

Escape tunnel leaving second narrow chamber Looking up first section of escape tunnel, curving south.

This first section ends in a small concrete roofed chamber which is 3ft X 3ft and 5ft 7” in height. Just below roof height is a cut block in the wall. This creates a small shelf which would have been an ideal place to leave an explosive devise for use by the last man escaping so preventing any pursuit.

Middle chamber of escape tunnel, shelf on top right Looking up second section of escape tunnel.

In this chamber the escape tunnel changes levels. It enters the chamber at floor level then exits opposite 2ft 8” higher.

Looking from second tunnel back into middle chamber showing where the level changes.

This second section of escape tunnel continues curving on for 36ft 3” before ending in a small “boxed” area within the hedge line surrounding the wood. This makes the total escape route 94ft long.

The escape tunnel ends in a block built “box” 3ft X 3ft 8” with a stepped block roof. Built into the bank surrounding the wood it emerges in an open field.

Escape tunnel emerges in block built “box” on the edge of the wood.

The only chance for escape would have been to have followed the bank and ditch enclosing the wood until around the corner of the wood. The length of the escape tunnel and the fact it curves around close to 150 degrees would place any escaping Auxiliers well away from obvious search areas.

Arrow showing where the escape tunnel emerges on the edge of an open field.

Orientation of OB: The main chamber runs east to west.

Observation Post: Currently unknown but the far south west point of the wood gives a fine view over the village of Yealmpton and towards Plymouth beyond.

View from the OB site looking towards Yealmpton.

Unknown but assumed targets would include the A379 out of Plymouth along with Laira road and rail bridges.
The Patrol could also have had city targets within Plymouth.

They trained with Plympton, Tamerton Foliot (now both suburbs of Plymouth) and Yelverton and Holbeton Patrols. Firstly under the Command of Captain William Falcon (of Cornwood Patrol) who was based at “Slade” in Cornwood, then when Cyril Wellington (Plympton) became Group Commander these local Patrols would have trained with him.
This group also trained at the rifle range at Cleeve, just below Ivybridge.

It is known that the Patrol trained regularly with the Plympton Patrol under (later Captain) Lt. Wellington.
On 21st Feb 1942 the Patrol took part in a large scale exercise named Operation Drake in Plymouth. This exercise involved a mock invasion of Plymouth and lasted for two days. All the services were involved and it virtually closed the city.

On 28th March 1942 Wellington records that Plympton Patrol (along with other unnamed Patrols, though it is assumed it would have been all of group 2) took part in a practice raid a bit further afield into Cornwall. The target was the home of Cornwall's Intelligence Officer Captain Dingley. It is not known if he knew this was going to happen or if it was Devon's IO having a joke with Cornwall's IO !

 Unknown, but it is assumed that they had the standard weapons and explosives issued to all patrols.

Nothing currently. 

TNA ref WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B. R. A.
The Hon George Lopes.
Noel Thornton, Mike Barber and Tony Brand

If you can help with any info please contact Nina by emailing