Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Baconsthorpe OB and Auxiliary Unit

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

Currently Unknown

The addresses of patrol members are missing from the lists, indicating that the patrol was probably formed in late 1942.

TRJ 533487 Sgt John George Seaman – farmer (died June 2011) *
TRKO 75/3 Donald Llewellyn “Steve” Dagless
Anthony Smith (he replaced Rix)
TRKO 4/4 Hedley George Smith
TRKD 12/4 Harry Paul Adlard/Alland ? – discharged pre Sept 1942
TRKO 51/1 Archibald Albert Newstead
TRKO 8/4 JF Rix (discharged ?)

* Some of his activities and training are being mentioned in Sgt John Seaman’s obituary, published in the Eastern Daily Press on 12. June 2011 (for the full text of this article see 'Other Information' below)

He formed a unit of the 202 special Home Guard and was trained to use explosives.
As a “peterman” or safebreaker, his official role was to blow safes at County Hall and government offices to deny the enemy official records.

For some years after the war, before his store of explosives was exhausted, he removed many tree stumps and even a huge solid concrete searchlight base on the farm.

The OB was situated in the base of the north-east tower of the ruined castle at Baconsthorpe.

The site is currently managed by English Heritage and open to the public all year round.

Baconsthorpe Auxiliary Unit Patrol 1

Baconsthorpe Castle (NHER 6551) is a moated, fortified 15th century manor house, now in ruins. It was built by the Heydon family and part of the complex was later used as a wool-processing factory. The castle was later abandoned and, after having accumulated large debts, the family was forced to demolish parts of it to sell as building materials in the mid 1600s.

Aerial photographs taken by the RAF in 1945/46 – provided by Norfolk County Council Services’ E-Map Explorer – show the castle site much overgrown, with trees and shrubs almost completely covering the ruins and dense vegetation in the surrounding moat.

Baconsthorpe Auxiliary Unit Patrol 6

 

 Baconsthorpe Auxiliary Unit Patrol 4

 

 

 

The site has since been taken into the care of English Heritage who have designated it a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The ruin was cleared of vegetation after the war, revealing the intact curtain walls with the remains of towers, forming a square court of 30 metres. The remains of a three-storey gatehouse and drawbridge can be seen in the south wall and a two-storey range remains along the east wall. The site is adjoined by a lake in the east and surrounded by a moat on the other three sides.

Baconsthorpe Auxiliary Unit Patrol 2Baconsthorpe patrol’s OB was built into the base of the tower situated in the north-east corner of the curtain wall. The base of this tower is currently filled with water which, depending on the fluctuating water level in the surrounding marsh pastures, is about 0.80 to 1.20m deep. The red-brick wall of the tower’s base is covered with deposits of lime, turning it white, up to maximum high-water level height. (Left)

According to one of the information boards put up by English Heritage, it is believed that a water tank was inserted into the base of the tower at the time when the east range of the complex was used as a wool processing factory, and that the process of fulling the cloth - which requires the use of water and/or urine - would have been carried out here in the 16th century.

According to patrol member Hedley Smith there was no trace of a water tank having been in the tower when the Anderson shelter that served as their OB was put in, and they never had a problem with water. At the time the shelter was put in the base of the tower was dry.

 

 

Baconsthorpe Auxiliary Unit Patrol 3

 

The Anderson shelter filled the whole base of the tower. Hedley Smith told us that there was no escape route. The OB was sealed off, with the only way in and out being a narrow space that patrol members had dug under the adjoining (north) curtain wall. The crawlspace providing access is still in place underneath the wall where it was dug. The OB’s entrance/exit opening faced west.

No traces remain that would indicate that an Anderson shelter has ever been contained in the tower’s base. However, at some time in the past bricks were cut out along the whole width of the tower’s north wall up to a height of about 2 metres, effectively enlarging the tower’s interior space by about 10 centimetres. We failed to find records as to when this was done and can for this reason only guess that an action like this could have been taken in order to accommodate the width of an Anderson shelter.


Loopholes, created by the medieval builders of the castle, can be observed all along the curtain wall as well as in the towers’ walls. They all have the same design and measurements.

The loophole in the north wall of the north-east tower, the tower that accommodated the OB, appears to have been altered, ie narrowed.

Also, stones and bricks seem to have been picked out of the interior wall surrounding this loophole. We presume that this particular loophole may have been altered perhaps to serve as a peephole, affording a good view over the ground to the north.

A number of bricks are missing in the east wall at about (exterior) ground-level height, forming a cavity that appears at first sight to perhaps have been an exit or entrance opening that has later been blocked. A closer look, however, reveals that the stones on the outer (east-facing) side of the wall are undisturbed.

One item that we found to be out of context in a medieval castle’s wall was a rusty nail in the tower’s exterior east wall. (Below)

Baconsthorpe Auxiliary Unit Patrol 5

Proposed targets for the Patrol have been indicated as supply targets, had the nearby deep waters off Weybourne been used as a landing area; the Chain Home Radar station at West Beckham and possibly local large residences being used by enemy staff.

The patrol had detonators, gun cotton, bullets, plastic fuses (Orange line, Bickford, cortex, hand grenades). (info: A Hoare)

Training took place four nights per week, with extra weekend training at Syderstone, Holt and the ranges at Plumstead. (info: Jeremy Norman)

On patrol leader Sgt John Seaman’s passing in June 2011, the following obituary was published in the Eastern Daily Press newspaper (dated June 2011). It mentions some of the Aux activities of Mr Seaman (see highlighted text).

John Seaman: Crackshot north Norfolk farmer was trained as safebreaker
An enterprising north Norfolk farmer with an eye for mechanical innovations, John Seaman – who has died peacefully aged 92 – was also a long-serving ploughing match judge.

He started farming on his own account at the age of 18 and built a highly successful business.
Born at Park Farm, Wolterton, John George Seaman was the eldest son and second of six children. His father, Sidney, was a tenant on the Earl of Orford’s estate.

A crack shot, he had started school in Holt and was a boarder at Norwich High School for Boys in Upper St Giles, where he won the annual rifle competition at least five times.

He got the chance to take Becket’s Farm, Hempstead, and Hall Farm, Baconsthorpe, just when farming was emerging from seven decades of depression. He stayed there for the next 70 years.

He had joined the Territorial Army and on the outbreak of the Second World War became a small arms instructor, serving with the 5th battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. As a farmer, he choose to serve rather than rely on his reserved status.

He was also involved in planning for Pluto (Pipeline Under The Ocean) until his father’s illness led to his return to farming in 1943. He formed a unit of the 202 special Home Guard and was trained to use explosives.

As a “peterman” or safebreaker, his official role was to blow safes at County Hall and government offices to deny the enemy official records.

For some years after the war, before his store of explosives was exhausted, he removed many tree stumps and even a huge solid concrete searchlight base on the farm. He went into dairying and milked some 400 cows at Shrubbs Farm, Edgefield.

Always of an inventive mind, in 1952 he made a combination seed drill. The later Mini-Mat incorporated many of these features and he designed a side-mounted tractor bale loader. This reduced in-field handling of 170,000 small bales until 1976 when big bales were introduced.

He judged Holt & District Farmers’ Club’s ploughing match for 40 years and was a local tax commissioner for more than a quarter of a century.

A keen sportsman, he was shooting and fishing into his eighties.
He leaves two children, Ann and Peter (Spin), three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

 

A Hoare, Standing up to Hitler (2002); Jeremy Norman, Hedley Smith, Corpusty (personal interview) Harold Sewell, Hungate (personal interview); Stephen Lewins CART CIO Northumberland; B West, Beccles