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 The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2

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PostSubject: The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2   Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:44 pm

The War Time Farm BBC prog mentioned these at some length because the farm they are using is in Hampshire where Units were formed.

However, units were formed all along the east coast too. The site history of these gives some insight but could be richer. What is a truth though is that the participants having signed the official Secrets Act never spoke of it. So here is what I know of ours.

A local butcher whose shop was about 60 yds from my home - a major in WW1 - was never called up and there was ill feeling mentioned about that. His name was (Major) Jack Smith. I recall his shop and its closing when meat rationing - so it was assumed with another butcher opposite him making trade drop. He then ran the canteen in a local munitions factory... all our factories and work shops became part of the war effort in some way.

A dapper golfer, Jack seemed to spend quite a lot of time on the local links -more muttered talk there as it never went noticed. I recall that very well - a silent child who missed little... it was also whispered that he must have 'a bit on the side' though I had no idea what that meant then.

I learned from his son Tony a few years older than me, who sadly died before he could expose more of his dad's story who told me a couple of years ago. Jack led the local nucleus of 5 men in his unit having been for training at Coleshill -3500 leaders were trained there. A senior office directed the local units froma centre 6 miles away.

Of Jack's recruits I personally knew two so it turned out. One was a fierce man called Jock - he was invaluable, apparently, because he was the local poacher (also kept us in rabbits at the time) who knew the wild places up and down the river very well indeed. He smoked 60 woodbines a day, worked in the local brewery... very cheap beer.. heaving huge casks about and he always looked as if he had very high blood pressure with his complexion matching his neck scarf. A huge man, he always walked quickly, lightly and soundlessly. Totally unwarranted for any other reason, we children were always cautious of him.

The secret unit had a headquarters dug out by Canadians engineers who came by night did their installations by night and had no idea where they were before moving out likewise to make the next dugout - about 300 in all. This secret headquarters - I know where it was but I doubt many in the town do - if any - it being later filled in - had basic quarters with rations for ten days and a radio. There was another backup radio hidden elsewhere but Tony did not know where that was or if it was ever removed.

We lived in a strategic spot being a bridgehead; I spent a happy childhood playing on tank traps and inventing balancing games on the concrete support beam laid to one side. We did not know it but our bridge was also made ready for demolition should the need arise. No one recalled this until the bridge was rebuilt many years later and someone happened on the stuff..... still 'live' about 10 feet away from where we hung over it crabbing with bacon bones.

This unit was part of the early wartime resistance movement, meeting secretly to train and prepare themselves in all forms of sabotage and commando skills.

The secret location was close by the golf links so Jack's - I think he was on the bar committee - to and fro-ing was explained. No one would question Jock going out of a dark night from his cottage just over the bridge. The others lived in homes that backed onto the wilder area of the river too so they were all well placed for night excursions into the hidden places.

The butcher's shop front was shuttered when Jack closed shop; not ordinary shutters but thick metal ones that I used to bang on when en route to school. Once - oh dear - when for some reason I was at Tony's house, we found the door inside to the shop unlocked. And there on the wooden block counters were laid out all manner of guns and things. This did not alarm me - we were used to seeing armed soldiers and we were war children. On the other hand, Tony - who had not been inside since the shop closed, thought we had better not mention our going in - and I never did until I met up with him 2 years ago. As I recall, t beside the guns there a stack of things like car exhaust pipes - I later realised that these were perhaps for attacking tanks.

Tony said that later he found out that their garage at the bottom of the garden was stuffed to the roof with all manner of weaponry, mines, explosives and ammunition.

His dad said that if the invasion had come their life expectancy was 10 days at the most.They had a rum allocation for that though probably only enough for Jock for one night, I reckon. All this was yards from our house so I assume my mother and I would have had less than ten days. The bridge was never bombed - a lone machine gunners hexagon dugout beside it never fire a round either, I think, though bombers flew low over us following the river. I would have heard it. With Jak's cache a bomb would have sent our end of town up in a big bang too.

After the war, despite many appeals to the MoD, no one came to pick up all those the tools of war. Jack Smith eventually hired some fishermen to take it far out to sea to dump it.

Mercifully, the units were never called upon to do their bit and the secrecy of the Auxiliary units was not revealed until quite recently. There is a Museum in Suffolk of one bunker which was preserved - and Coleshill may have records, otherwise these secret units went unsung and unremembered. Sort of Heroes in Waiting.

Last edited by Priscilla on Sun Sep 09, 2012 1:01 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Need you wonder....too many errors as I dashed it off last night.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2   Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:12 am

I recall seeing a TV programme about these units where it was suggested that Michael Foot had been a member.
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PostSubject: Re: The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2   Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:14 am

If you don't mind Priscilla, I'll post a link for Coleshill House;


One of the men involved in setting up the Auxiliary Units was Peter Fleming, brother of Ian [James Bond] Fleming.
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PostSubject: Re: The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2   Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:21 am

Your tale of arms dumps fills me with great interest. As a kid at school we were all marched into the main hall to listen to the warnings of a visiting police officer to never go into a piece of land opposite the school. It was well known to us all as a danger spot, as it was a disused and over grown gravel pit with deep water that had already claimed the lives of a few children. The fence along the main road was of overgrown brambles that would cut you to shred should you brush against them, but there was rows and rows of rusting and in places barbed wire suspended on rotten posts and in places it was the wire that suspended the posts… the brambles towered over us kids and it was obvious no one in their right mind would ever go in there… plus it was right next to… ‘The haunted old rectory’.

However during the police officers talk… and telling us children to never go into the land because ‘you may find some of these’ he said holding up a handful of bullets, and then bigger bullets, mortars, hand grenades, and rifles… my god what the dumbest thing to say to a bunch of kids. Come the bell for home time, the kids that usually turned left at the gates went to the right, and almost all the boys waited to cross the busy main road to, err hang around next to the forbidden land.

The shouts of pain already coming from within the mass of brambles was evident enough that it was being invaded… I found handfuls of bullets, and an old rifle caked in mud… thank goodness I was a latchkey kid and got home before anyone else so was able to hide my stash.

The following morning at school was unforgettable with small bunches of boys gathered around in a scrum like bunch all admiring the goodies we’d found… and doing business swopping.

Naturally it was all confiscated and we all got into a lot of trouble… better that stupid policeman hadn’t goaded us into the enclosure. But I wonder if that arms cache could be similar to what you describe P.

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PostSubject: Re: The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2   Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:41 pm

The one saw was in vey orderly arrangement - and ready for use. The one in the garage was eventually boxed but locked p and lethal. If there were others I know not but I think Jack would have not left things about. However the MoD made no effort whatso ever to remove the cache - and never asked Jack what he did with it.

My only live find were bullets taken from a shot enemy downed (steaming hot) aircraft close by the river that we found on our way to school.... a different route that day having suspected a plane had come down there. Our bullets from the machine gun belt were confiscated at tschool and we had to tell the Head where we got them and he hurried off to tell the ARP. Sneaking off at lunch break with half the school following we found it fenced off much to our annoyance.

We did collect masses of silver foil that covered the trees in our garden in particualr and dropped to counter radar - so I later learned. At the time I had no idea why Germans decorated our trees thus but there was great competion about who could collect and make the largest ball.... these too were confiscated for the war effort. Rubber tap wshers used for the same reason often littered the playground. These we strung up but they were confiscated by our mothers as tap washers were impossible to get. Germany seemed to have masses to spare though.

Shrapel was also a collectors' item but I never had any - not until the place I worked abroad was shelled during one of two wars I lived through there. I wish had kept the staff towel put out to dry which had a large clean hole right through it. during a strafing raid whilst I was there..... I might say we were otherwise closed with my staff most other foreigners evacuated that time. BWith my daughter safely away I stayed on because I had local staff to support and keep safe and I sort of knew what to do about straffing and bomb aids and stuff; interesting times.
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PostSubject: Re: The Secret Auxiliary Units WW2   Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:15 am

Re the ammunition. The MOD may never have had a record to show who or where the arms dumps were. I know of a similar case in the sixties where the farmer walked into an army recruiting office and asked them to come and take it away and the sergent, expecting a sovenier grenade or two had a heart attack when he was faced with a cow shed full of gelignite.
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