Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

This page is part of a site tour of the Coleshill estate during WW2. Click here to start the tour.  

Please Note: The Coleshill House site and grounds are owned by the National Trust. The woods and grounds of the house are all strictly private and access is limited to set days a year. See our events page for their official open days. Attempting to access the site outside of these times is not only trespassing but could damage the future of our work and relationship with the Trust and villagers. Please respect this.

Firing Training Range

This page was last updated at 7:27am on 23/8/15

On 11th May 2011 Eddie Cox, an ex Coleshill resident, took Tom Sykes and Bill Ashby to the exact location of the firing range believed to have been used by the Auxiliers who trained at Coleshill. He had not been back to the spot for over 60 years but was certain he was in the right place.

He was asked if he thought it would be possible that it could have been used by local home guard from Faringdon or Highworth but he thought it highly unlikely.

When Eddie was a teenager he used to explore in the words near Badbury Hill with his friends and they came across the range which he said was very different to how it is now.
He said the side were like a sheer drop all around the walls of the range and it was a large horseshoe shape.

They used to collect the spend rounds and take them home and he said the walls of the range were peppered with bullet holes.

Whilst there Bill Ashby discovered a large metal object (see slideshow images below). He and Eddie think it is armoured panel work from a tank or the like. Can you shed any light on it?

A short video can be seen below.

See images of the range below. Can't view them? Click here.

 Our thanks go to Eddie Cox for helping us find this and giving up his afternoon.

The Tank Armour - By Dr Will Ward.

In 2011 Bill Ashby & Tom Sykes from CART discovered a large piece of metal armour from a tank. Advice from David Fletcher, historian at the Tank Museum at the time, advised that it was probably from the front of a Vickers Medium tank or one of the related armoured vehicles that company produced. Since then, further research has identified that this is part of the frontal armour of a Vickers Medium MkI tank. Around 80 were produced during the 1920s in 3 versions, MkI, MkIA and MkIA*, differing in their machine gun armament. The piece of armour found at Coleshill has the large round air intake hole, which would have been covered by wire mesh, but also a small polygonal armoured vent to the side which was unique to the MkI series of tanks.

It is known that there were armoured vehicles at Coleshill to be used for demolition practice. These tanks were obsolete at the start of the war but were used for driver training as Britain had so few tanks. After Dunkirk a number were used as pillboxes around the country. Using one of these tanks for demolition would make sense later in the war, when it would have been considered little more than scrap. Quite what this piece of armour was doing on the firing range is unclear. It may have been all that was left after demolition exercises or more likely was moved there specifically from the Coleshill House site. Most likely the rest of the tank went for scrap either during the war or shortly after. While there are 3 surviving Vickers Medium MkII tanks, this may be the only surviving piece of a Vickers Medium MkI tank.

© IWM (H 194) Used under Creative Commons Licence

Vickers Medium MkI (vehicle T27) at Colchester, a large garrison town, being used for driver training, November 1939. The circular air intake can be seen standing proud of the upper front plate of the tank, between the two oddly shaped boxes which are shrouded headlights.

© IWM (KID 240) Used under Creative Commons Licence.

Vickers Medium Mk IA* (vehicle T58). The round air intake is partly hidden by the headlight.

© IWM (KID 240) Used under Creative Commons Licence.

A close up view of the area just behind the left hand headlight shows the armoured vent top left.

The piece of armour with the round air intake and the small polygonal vent below. The holes are where the armour would have been riveted to the frame of the tank.

Close up of the small vent that identifies this as part of a Vickers Medium MkI

David Fletcher, personal communication
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197983

See another photo of this type at
http://tankdevelopment.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/medium-or-light-tank-1926-armstrong.html