Brandon Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base
This page was last updated at 6:14pm on 30/12/11
Thank you for selecting information on the Brandon 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.
The patrol formed part of Norfolk Group 10 which also included Hockwold, Fakenham, East Dereham and Lakenheath/Thetford Patrols.
CO Capt Walter G Gentle (Brandon) - Local butcher and pig farmer specialising in saddleback pigs. His nickname
Captain Gentle M.C. was awarded the M.B.E. in the 1945 New Year's Honours List for "Services rendered to the 202
Battalion Home Guard".
2nd Lt. Eric G Field, brother of Sgt. Philip R. Field
2nd Lt R.F.St.B Wayne
2nd Lt DC Kerry/Carey
? 2nd Sgt GR Holmes
Sgt. Philip R. Field (Thetford Road, Brandon)
Cpl. S. William "Bill" Baker (Railway Terrace, Brandon)
Roy D. Budden (Garage owner from Elveden)
Albert L. Drewery/Drewry
George A. Eagle (Bury Road, Brandon)
George H. Holden
YTZ147825 Billy Stead, Brandon
Walter ‘Wally’ Blake, Weeting
Back row from left to right: Billy Stead – Group CO Walter Gentle – Wally
Middle row from left to right: Sgt Philip Field – assnt CO Eric Field - Roy D. Budden
Front row from left to right: George A. Eagle - Cpl. S. William "Bill" Baker
Image © John Field
The OB was situated on the edge of Lingheath, a scrubby heathland bordering on the Thetford Forest, about 90
metres distant from a dirt track and a piggery.
According to information published on the Brandon at War website, Brandon was chosen as the site an OB because
it was thought that the invading German Army would rest up and regroup in the cover of the Thetford Forest.
The patrols first OB was built in July/August 1940. It was located in Forestry Plantation and large enough to
provide room for 15 patrol members.
Due to problems with flooding a second OB had to be built. It is described as having contained 8 bunks.
The OB is described as having been a 12ft underground structure that was reached by clearing brush from the
ground and opening a trapdoor to the bunker. Trees were cut down and used for the rafters, corrugated iron laid for
the roof and earth covered over with a final layer of leaves and pine cones to disguise the underground base. There
was an air vent that ran up alongside a tree. The patrol had a primus stove for cooking.
An Observation Post was constructed on the edge of Lingheath along the Bury Road. (Info: Steve Woods)
We were taken to the location by John Field, son of patrol leader Sgt Philip R Field. Mr Field was taken to the
site by his father, after the war, but was not allowed to access it. On returning to the site years later all that
remained of it was a depression in the ground. Presumably it had collapsed. Going by Steve Woods’ description, the
OB appears to have had a flat roof and was, in all probability, built by the patrol members themselves.
Over the years the location has changed considerably: the piggery no longer insists; trees are now growing on
the small area of former heath land, which is hemmed in by boarding kennels and two private dwellings to the north
and east, and a substantial house to the west of it.
In the 1940s, the nearest roads would have been Thetford Road (600 metres north) and Bury Road (550 meters west).
The patrol’s OP is said to have been near Bury Road.
Our thanks go to Mr John Field for kindly taking us to the location and for letting us have a photograph
depicting not only most of the patrol members but also Group C/O Capt Walter Gentle. The photo is believed to have
been taken on occasion of a competition (probably a shooting competition – note Lt Eric Field holding the cup they
Railway line and bridges in the vicinity; strategic road junctions between East Anglia and the Midlands; large
flat expanses of Breckland heathland around Brandon which would have made an ideal landing area for
Training was carried out every Sunday in the chalk pit on the Elveden to Bury St Edmunds road. Patrol members
were taught by the regular army to prime and throw Mills bombs, about dismantling fuses and especially the seven
second fuse; they were also taught how to wrap plastic explosive around rail tracks to cut 3-foot lengths of
A second joint training day was carried out in November 1940 and participants were taught about tank sabotage,
how to keep low, using the .38 revolver and how to track their target.
The unit also went to the rifle range at Cawston in Norfolk with .303 packed in grease that had been stored
since the previous World War. Info published at: http://www.brandonatwar.co.uk/aux_unit.htm
Mills bombs, High Explosive plastic (like a yellow putty), twenty minute pencil fuses, detonators, five and ten
minute fuse wire (for railway sabotage).
Steve Woods, Brandon Country Park - http://www.brandonatwar.co.uk/aux_unit.htm
JR Field (son of Sgt Philip R Field and nephew of Lt Eric G Field), Brandon
Stephen Lewins CART CIO Northumberland
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