Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Cranbrook Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base (Codename 'Pepper')

This page was last updated at 8:29am on 14/3/13

Thank you for selecting information on the Cranbrook Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Kent. The info and images below have been supplied by CART CIO for Kent, Phil Evans.

The first I.O for Kent was Grenadier Guards Captain Peter Fleming. He was the man responsible for setting up the Units in Kent under the name of the XII corps Observation Unit. In late 1940 he left and a Royal Fusilier Captain Norman Field then took over as I.O. At some point in Normans command he split Kent in two. West Kent came under the command of Captain George MacNicholl and Norman commanded East Kent. In late 1941 Norman was taken away from the Units and George MacNicholl took over as I.O. for the whole of Kent for the rest of the war.

1940.

William 'Bill' Hocken, Little Glassenbury Farm, Cranbrook 
F W 'Chub' Terry, Little Glassenbury Farm, Cranbrook 
Percy Hocken, Glassenbury Hill Farm, Cranbrook 
Edward 'Ted'  Golding,  Tanyard Farm, Hawkhurst 
Cyril Stears, Yew Tree Farm, Hawkhurst  
Fred Coleman, White Lanes, Cranbrook

The Patrol Leader was Percy Hocken. Chub Terry later transferred to the Goudhurst Patrol in March 1941 and was replaced by Albert Saunders from Little Trenley, Hawkhurst. Another of the tasks assigned to the 'Pepper' Patrol in the event of an invasion was to arrest the Nettlebladt-Roberts family from Glassenbury Manor and take them to Maidstone Prison, in a van they had on standby for the job. If they met any resistance they were to shoot the family. Apparently, the family was, eventually, interned on the Isle of Man during the war. The first three men recruited by John Foreman in June 1940, William Hocken, Percy Hocken and Chub Terry, lived either side of Glassenbury Manor.

 East Sutton Patrol

1. Jack Skinner, 2. Ian MacDonald, 3. John Foreman, 4. Peter Highwood, 5. Murry-Wood, 6. Percy Hocken, 7. Ken Larkin, 8. ?, 9. ?, 10. Chub Terry, 11. Dudley Harmer, 12. Ted Worsfold, 13. John Hocken, 14. Bill Hocken, 15. ?, 16. Stan Levett, 17. Gordon Standen, 18. ?, 19. ?, 20. ?, 21. Albert Saunders, 22. Ted Golding, 23. Fred Coleman.

There were three patrols based in The Weald and under the command of John Outhwaite Foreman, a seed and corn merchant from Headcorn. Foreman was approached by Peter Fleming and Michael Calvert in the first week of June 1940. He knew the local farming community intimately through his commercial activities and by the end of the month had selected three men in each area to form the nucleus of each patrol. The following names and information came from Cyril Stears, former member of the Cranbrook Patrol, and Michael Foreman, son of John Foreman.

John Foreman’s son, Michael, has a photograph of 23 patrol members taken at Stand Down in November 1944 outside Wenman’s Cottage in Angley Wood, near Cranbrook. Wenman’s Cottage was a former gamekeeper’s house and was home to a Scout Patrol formed by Captain George McNicholl in 1942 to complement The Garth at Bilting. The Scout Patrol was commanded by a Lt. Strangman. Cyril Stears has been able to identify 17 of the men shown. He is not in the photograph as he was in hospital at the time. One of the men he recognises is a Mr Murry-Wood; although the name does not appear in War Office records.

Other members may have been W R Wilson (Pest House, Cranbrook), G T Excell (Homestead, Headcorn), C F Weller (Stream Farm, Benenden), J C Greenwood (Bells Farm, East Sutton) and L J Bates (Waterman Quarter, Headcorn).

Cranbrook Patrol 1  Michael Foreman: “I have many memories of the comings and goings of personnel to and from our home in Headcorn, where we lived during this period. I still have my father’s knuckle duster knife, spiked knobkerrie and lapel badge.”

John Foreman officially held the rank of Lieutenant, GHQ Auxiliary Units (Home Guard) Kent. He was awarded the Commander-in-Chief’s Certificate for Good Service in the New Year’s Honours and Awards 1943. The official citation stated Lt. Foreman:-

“Has been a Group Commander since the original formation of Auxiliary Units in Kent and it is due entirely to his keenness and enthusiasm that his Group has consistently remained one of the best in the county. He has realised the vital necessity for efficiency in every branch of the work, and through his personal example has trained his patrols up to a very high standard. His work has been of the utmost value.”

There were three OBs in the vast Bedgebury Forest and Frith Wood at The Sandbanks, Iron Latch and Three Chimneys Bank. The sandy nature of the soil in the forest caused serious construction problems.
Cyril Stears: “Sand is terrible stuff to tunnel into as it is always collapsing, especially when it has been raining. When Captain Field and General Montgomery inspected The Sandbanks site they went mad and told us to shut it down and build a new one. This time we buried a Nissan hut at Iron Latch with an escape tunnel through a bank. The Three Chimneys site was primarily used for storing weapons and ammunition. They were all blown up after the war.”

Another OB was in Old Park Wood near Blue Barn Farm, north of the Four Wents between
Sissinghurst and Goudhurst. In 1943 the OB was discovered by two young lads, Kenneth Hill and D. Connell.

Kenneth Hill: “We were rolling tree stumps down a slope. One stump would not move and when we tugged harder we found it was attached to a trap door. There was a steel ladder leading down into the dark. We went home to get a torch and returned. The bunker was like a buried Nissan hut about 20’ long and has a second trap door. There was boxes of ammunition (.303 and .45 rimless), but no weapons. There were detonators, time switches, plastic explosives, ready-made charges about 4” by 1’, flat tin boxes, wash basin, cutlery and rations such as Spam, corned beef and Ovaltine. We returned several times to remove some of the rations and the occasional detonator or bullet. The bunker was destroyed later on during the war. A V-1 Doodlebug crashed in the wood in 1944 and exposed a second, smaller bunker. We did not enter this one. Although we played in the woods throughout the war we never spotted anyone building the bunker or bringing in materials and supplies. I do not think the Police, Regular Army or Home Guard knew of its existence.”



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Cyril Stears: “I was working in the fields when two officers approached me - Captain Norman Field and, possibly, Captain Peter Fleming. “They mentioned Ted Golding’s name and asked if I was interested in joining. I was told to report to Percy Hocken at Glassenbury Hill Farm that night. I trained with Michael Calvert at Salehurst in Sussex for most of the Summer. The last time I saw him was when we blew up Hasting Pier.

“We trained at Glassenbury Hill Farm and in Bedgebury Forest, and concentrated on preparing and using explosives. In the event of an invasion we were to destroy the railway tunnels and road bridges. Fred Coleman and Albert Saunders were very good with bombs, while Ted Golding and me were excellent shots and grenade throwers. Later we trained at Wenman’s Cottage, in Angley Wood, under a Lt. Strangman, who was an Oxford or Cambridge rower. I went down to Coleshill for a week with Ted Golding. We were driven there by a Kent-based Regular Army officer who lived near Coleshill.”

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CIO's own research and kind thanks go to Adrain Westwood for letting us use information from his website.

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