Yelverton Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base
This page was last updated at 5:38pm on 3/2/13
Thank you for selecting information on the Yelverton Auxiliary Unit and
Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford. firstname.lastname@example.org
Yelverton is a village located close to the South Western boundary of Dartmoor National Park with the town of
Tavistock to the North and the City of Plymouth to the South.
At stand down Devon is registered as area 16. Yelverton is part of Group 2 along with Plymstock, Holbeton,
Tamerton Foliot and Plympton. The Group (and South Devon Area) Commander Is Captain Cyril Wellington
originally of Plympton Patrol.
At inauguration the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major) J W
Stuart Edmundson of the Royal Engineers. He had married Iris Norrington in 1936 who's family home at the time was
“Crossways” in Yelverton. Iris's father was Lt Col R Norrington who came from an influential family including
a past Mayor of Plymouth.
Edmundson 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.
In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and Edmundson was replaced 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 Peninsula and
The IO's were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.
After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where various patrols within a demographic area would regularly
train together under a more local Captain.
Captain William Falcon of Cornwood trained this and other local Patrols in the grounds of his home
called “Slade” along with help from Lt Cyril Wellington (Plympton) and Lt Alwyn Robertson (Harford). Both became Captains at stand down, Wellington
being named as the Area Commander for South Devon and Group Commander of Group 2. Captain Falcon is missing from
the chain of command at stand down.
It can be assumed that Yelverton would have been one of the first Patrols formed in the Summer of 1940 as
Captain Edmundson would have had good local knowledge and contacts.
Sargent Sidney Bragg of Axtown Farm, a farm worker.
Lionel Coutier of Rock Garage, Yelverton, a mechanic.
Len German of Fairfield, Yelverton who worked as a milkman.
Howard Phillips who later delivered milk for Len German.
William Palmer of Yelverton
L N Tucker of Crossways Cottage, Yelverton
R N Tucker of Crossways Cottage who is most likely the son of L N Tucker and worked as a gardener.
F Willcocks of Southcote, Crapstone who was transferred to Plympton HG in 1942
William Ashton who was medically discharged
And possibly Robert H Bragg who joined HM forces April 1943
The Operational Base was in Olderwood Plantation
which is maintained by The Forestry Commission.
The Plantation is maintained by Forestry Commission. There is public access but there are some
restrictions during the shooting season. The fields immediately next to the base is Callisham Cross Scout
A large amount of explosives were stored in the base and some time after stand down the Royal Engineers were
brought in to investigate. They discovered the explosives had become unstable and were “weeping” and dangerous so
the OB and the explosives were detonated in situ.
All that remains now is a large depression in the ground and a smaller depression to the East separated by a raised
ridge and some small pieces of general debris.
Smaller Chamber to the East
Howard Phillips described it as “an underground tunnel which they had to climb down into, under a trap door
covered in leaves “ he also complained that it had been quite damp.
The escape tunnel would have exited from the smaller chamber through a low Devon bank affording some cover
for the likely escape route which would then have been down a short incline to the River Meavy in the valley
Escape tunnel through bank with OB beyond on right.
The orientation of OB was West to East.
View from Callisham Cross on to Dartmoor beyond.
Observation Post: Not known, but ¼ of a mile further up hill at the Callisham Crossroads
between the villages of Meavy and Clearbrook would have been a ideal area. The view across to Dartmoor would have
given an ideal outlook for parachutists.
It is assumed the main target nearby would
have been RAF Harrowbeer. Photo C1946.
Interestingly RAF Harrowbeer along with the
nearby RAF Robourgh were protected from air attack by a decoy airfield which followed the straight road along
Roborough Down from the A386 to Clearbrook. There were false runway lights and even a turntable with headlights
to imitate a plane turning at the end of the runway. There are still remains of this deception in the area.
There were railway tunnels in the area
servicing Yelverton and Horrabridge railway stations on the main line from Plymouth to Tavistock part of
the Plym Valley Railway.
Railway tunnel just before
Clearbrook. Close to the OB. Now part of the National Cycle Route.
The main road linking the Cityof Plymouth
to Tavistock, running through Yelverton, would have been a important supply route.
Howard Phillips would recall being taken in
a truck to different places and being told to leave a “calling card” without being seen.
After 1941 a
“grouping” system was developed where various patrols within a demographic area would regularly
train together under a more local Captain.
They trained with Plympton, Plymstock, Tamerton Foliot ( now all suburbs of Plymouth)
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.
Group 2 patrols 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 7th March
1942 this Patrol along with Plympton Patrol had a “large scale night attack” on a target in Yelverton. The
airfield would have been the biggest target in the area. Lt Wellington recorded that the Patrols worked
well together that night.
The records of RAF Harrowbeer records a “raid” on the Airfield by the “Home Guard” which was successful, leaving
many red faced on the airfield.
On 28th March 1942
Wellington records that the Plympton Patrol (along with other unnamed Patrols though thought to be group 2) took
part in a practice raid a bit further afield into Cornwall. The target was the home of Cornwall's future
Intelligence Officer Lt (later Captain) Dingley. Its 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 would have access to the “standard” Auxiliary weapons of a Browning Automatic Rifle, a Thompson
Machine Gun and two Enfields.
Explosives included No 36 grenades, “Sticky Bombs” and
Phosphorous grenades and each would have had a rifle and fighting knife.
Most of the explosives were stored in the inspection pit of Capt. Cyril Wellington's
garage after he had turned it into an air raid shelter. They also used his attic as a store.
Howard Phillips would joke about the first issue of the Sten Gun being difficult to
control and liable to go off and empty the magazine if shaken, so only the Sargent was allowed to carry it.
Other equipment issued to the Patrols includes torches, lamps, candles, compass,
water sterilization sets, picks, ration packs along with eating utensils and a gallon jar of Rum .
Some questions were asked in the village about whether some of the men were “doing
their duty” as they were not seen to be part of any defence structure. With all their training and the secret
nature of their roll it would have been difficult for them to defend their honour.
There was a prisoner of war camp at Bickham, just before Yelverton. Two from the
camp were known to help tend an ex Royal Navy gentleman's garden in nearby Dousland.
At stand down all Auxiliers still active in the Patrols in Devon an Cornwall were
presented with their lapel badges and letters of thanks in a ceremony held in Exeter.
Nigel Rendle and Mrs Hamilton-Leggett from http://www.yelvertonhistory.org.uk/index.asp
Mike Hayes from Knightstone Tea Rooms and Stephen Fryer from http://www.rafharrowbeer.co.uk/
Geoff Phillips son of Howard Phillips, Capt Hancock's data held at the British Resistance Archive.
Evelyn Simak CART CIO for Norfolk, Margaret Gardener (nee Wellington)
Can you help with this patrol or OB? Please email email@example.com