Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base
Thank you for selecting information on
the Cornwood Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Devon. The info and images below have been
supplied by CART's Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford. If you can help with any info
please contact Nina by emailing email@example.com
This page was last updated at 6:41am on
At stand down Devon was registered as area 16. Cornwood is part of Group 3 along with Diptford, Ugborough, Harford and Flete Patrols and is under the Group Command of
Captain Alwyn Robertson originally of Harford patrol.
The South Devon Area Commander is Captain Cyril Wellington of Plympton.
From the very first meeting in Whitehall on 13th July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall
(named Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major) 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 official 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 South Wales. The IO's were being withdrawn from around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 more local command.
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.
The villages of Cornwood and Lutton are near to the southern boarders of Dartmoor and 3 miles north of
Ivybridge. All the Patrol members came from the surrounding areas.
Captain William Falcon of Slade (more below)
Sergeant C W Godfrey of Little Stert
Corporal Richard M Wotton of Great Stert, brother of Andrew
Andrew Wotton of Great Stert
David John Lewis of Slade Lodge, Captain Falcon's gardener
Steve Hoskin of Higher Venton a farm worker
A C Sedgman of Mark's Bridge
H George Woodley of Sherrell Farm,a farmer he joined 1942
L G Bailey transferred to a Somerset Auxiliary Unit 2nd June 1943
James “ Jim” Batten joined HM forces April 1943. (more below)
The Operational Base was built by the patrol in an old sand / gravel quarry. Made from timber it quickly became
unsuitable and was rarely used by the Patrol. It had decayed and become unusable long before stand down.
Size of OB and entrance/exit etc: Unknown at present but another reason why the OB could have
been inadequate is due to the lack of entrance / escape routes. Other than the main lane leading up to and along
side the quarry the only other route of entry or exit is across open moorland allowing no cover.
Site of the Quarry where OB was situated.
Observation Post: The Observation Post was reported to be at Hanger Down Clump. An almost
circular clump of trees on the most Southerly area of open moorland where the Observation Post of Harford Patrol at
Western Beacon would have been clearly visible.
Hanger Down Clump.
Though it is a very fine vantage point with 360 degree views it would have been a well known prominent landmark
and maybe too public.
It is known that many locals made use of this area as it would have given a safe vantage point to view the
destruction of Plymouth in the Blitz of 1941.
Hanger Down Clump on the skyline as seen from Harford Patrol Operational Base.
The Patrol seemed to make little use of their Operational base and place little importance on it so it is
assumed they would have used Captain Falcon's house and outhouses more for storage.
Ash poles had been embedded in the ground over Hanger Down to deter the landing of gliders.
Trained with Harford, Ugborough, Diptford and Flete Patrols. All under the Command of Captain William
Falcon who was based at “Slade” in Cornwood in the Piall Valley. Group photograph was taken in the grounds
outside “Slade”reportedly in 1943.
The Book of Cornwood and Lutton copyright Halsgrove 1997
These patrols also trained at the rifle range at Cleeve, just below Ivybridge.
On one occasion the patrols all met in The Kings Arms in Ivybridge to receive medical training in the event of
serious injuries and not being able to get access to first aid facilities. This was carried out by a Captain
of the Army Medical Corps who gave instructions on how to deal with a wounded man. The volunteer who lay “wounded”
had been shot in the stomach which the Captain described in great detail. It was a warm evening and secrecy
demanded all the doors and windows to be fast shut. The atmosphere became very oppressive to the extent that an
Jim Batten's family remembers him as having a railway warrant entitling him to travel to Coleshill House for weekend training.
Main targets are assumed to be the many railway viaducts in the area including Slade and Blatchford viaducts
along with the main road leading East from Plymouth.
Brunel's original trestle-less pillars in the foreground were replaced in 1893. These pillars all have “drill
holes” near the base approximately 6” deep. These could be there for a totally innocent reason OR put there by the
patrol as training ?
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
Explosives included No 36 grenades, “Sticky Bombs” and
Phosphorous grenades and each would have had a fighting knife.
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 . They were also issued with magnets to fix
explosives to the railway line. These would have been used to derail trains thus blocking the viaducts leaving the
Patrol weapons and explosives were kept at Slade with Captain Falcon.
After the patrol was disbanded, local people remember that a digger was about to remodel the pond at the front
of Captain Falcon's old house “Slade”. Andrew Wotton (Cornwood Patrol) suddenly appeared shouting “STOP”. Captain
Falcon had arranged for some of the surplus explosives to be dumped in the pond after stand down.
Captain William Falcon of Slade had been a mining engineer in the Royal Engineers in World war 1 and by 1918 had
reached the rank of Acting Major. He was known to have extensive explosives knowledge.
When the grouping system developed in 1941 Falcon's roll became more of a trainer and he may have relinquished his
command of Cornwood Patrol.
He is on the Nominal Roll as an Auxilier but even though he carried out more of a training roll for the South
Devon area he is not recorded in the chain of command at stand down.
Jim Batten was a gardener for Major Passey at Blatchford House who it is thought may have been involved in the
recruitment process but this is yet to be confirmed.
Jim joined the Home Guard but was quickly recruited to the Cornwood Auxiliary Unit as he was a practical,
Shortly afterwards he was called up by the regular army and was sent to Halifax for training. Only a day or
two later he was summoned by his Commanding Officer who exclaimed ‘I don’t know what the hell is going on but I
have orders to send you home. I don’t suppose you can tell me why ?’
‘I can’t sir ‘said Jim.
The Commanding Officer handed him a letter marked secret, for his eyes only. Jim opened it in front of the
Officer who asked to see its contents. Jim had to inform his superior he was not allowed to show him, which
understandably irritated the Officer slightly.
He was sent home to rejoin his Auxiliary Unit having only missed a weekend of training.
Later (April 1943) when the threat of invasion was passing he was called up for a second time and
recruited to the Royal Engineers. He was in his thirties and sent to Scotland for Commando training.
Once asked by his family what he did during the war he stated calmly, he was taught to kill people with his
bare hands and how to break their arms and legs. A tough man who was patient to a point, he is remembered as a
strong man with hands like steel but a kind and gentlemanly manner.
Memories courtesy of Jim Batten's family through his grandson Dave James.
Jim Batten in service.
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.
After stand down all Patrols of Group 3 had a Thanksgiving church service in St Petroc's Church on the edge of
The Book of Cornwood and Lutton by Meriel Dodinson 1997, Ivybridge during the second World War by Arthur Clamp.
Mrs H Wotton, Miss E Andrew, Dave James and the family of Jim Batten. The family of Alec Rogers. The
local and tactical help from Noel Thornton and Mike Barber, The family of Capt. W Falcon, Major Hancock's data held
by British Resistance Archive.