Firle "Badger Two" Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base
This page was last updated at 5:45pm on 11/5/14
Thank you for selecting information on the Firle Auxiliary Unit Patrol and
their Operational Base in Sussex. The info and images below have been supplied by Stewart Angell.
This patrol used the codename 'Badger Two'.
Formed around August/September 1940. Patrol included in Group No.2, Sussex
being Area 13.
Patrol Leader: Bill Webber
Patrol Members: Tom Dinnis, Jack Cornwall and John Pilbeam.
The Firle Patrol was the smallest patrol in Sussex, having only four members. The Patrol Leader was Bill Webber,
a market gardener from Firle. The other patrol members were Tom Dinnis, another market gardener, Jack Cornwall, a
painter and John Pilbeam, a farmhand. The latter two men both worked on the Firle Estate.
All the men were originally in the Home Guard until Bill Webber was approached by Captain Gwynne with a view to his joining the Auxiliary Units and
forming the Firle Patrol. They all did their basic training at Coleshill and
trained locally in association with the neighbouring Bishopstone Patrol.
OB is positioned very close to a main footpath that connects the upper part of the Downs to the lower level of
the Firle Plantation Wood. This is private
land. The spot chosen has a levelled of area with steep slopes above and below. Trees are
positioned all around the local area.
Due to the discovery and ransacking of the hideout by Canadian soldiers, on several occasions, in 1942, this OB
was abandoned. The patrol then shared the Bishopstone OB from August, 1942.
Bill Webber recalled the time the patrol followed the River Cuckmere from its haven at Exceat all the way to
Heathfield. They had to cross the river at various points during the journey. On another occasion he took a
high-ranking officer, based at Coleshill, from their hideout at Firle over the Downs to Bishopstone, using only a
prismatic compass and the stars to guide them
The main chamber of the Firle hideout has collapsed and the only evidence is a depression in the ground and some
corrugated sheeting marking the site of the entrance shaft. The Anderson Shelter extension is accessible either by
crawling in through the connecting tunnel between the extension and the main chamber or by decending the emergency
escape shaft which is tight.
The entrance hatch was opened by lifting a small tree trunk which was attached to it. The earth on top of the
hatch was kept in place by netting which had moss and leaves intertwined in it to disguise its existence.
The hideout contained three bunks at one end with a stove. Food, ammunition and explosives took up most of the
remaining area. Water was stored in a galvanised tank. An extension was later added to the hideout in the form of
an Anderson shelter, along with an emergency exit.
The chalk spoil created from this excavation was spread under the trees in the lower part of the plantation.
Patrol Leader Bill Webber and Tom Smith are the only surviving members of the patrol. They both recalled using
the hideout as part of their training and many nights they walked from Firle to Bishopstone to join their
neighbouring patrol in training exercises.
Plan by Stewart Angell.
The original entrance to the shelter, someone has put an old section of the roof down it to
The depression in the ground is where we think the tunnel emerged, it had a metal bracket in
each corner, indicating a shaft (main hideout in background)
Observation Post/s: Sited within 50 yards of the OB. Not evidence remains.
Other physical remains nearby: Small underground store formed from corrugated iron (4’ x
4’ x 2’)
Twenty yards north of the hideout the patrol had a small underground store which contained extra food and
ammunition. To the south there was an underground lookout, connected to the hideout via a direct telephone line. It
only had enough room for one man inside it, and overlooked the main trackway through the upper part of the
Main A27 road between Polegate and Lewes. Railway line between Polegate and Glynde.
Did a lot of training with Bishopstone Patrol in both their local areas. (see extracts from Bill’s diary)
Known to have plastic explosives, mills bombs, sten guns, TSMG, sniping rifle and delay action fuses.
Bill Webber, the Firle Patrol Leader, kept a diary of his patrol's movements during their
operational years. Although the entries are brief it gives a detailed account of their training, visits to
Coleshill House and Tottington Manor, inter-patrol competitions and interactions with neighbouring
The diary contains 124 entries and is about 1200 words. Not every entry that appears in the
diary is noted here as it would become repetitive. Only the most informative entries have been summarised, with
additional details supplied by Bill Webber, who discussed the diary with the author.
The first entry was made on 5 October, 1941 and mentions a rally at Northease Manor. At this
event Captain John Gwynn mapped out the autumn and winter programme for the patrols. He also gave his farewell
speech on this day and introduced his successor Captain C G F Bond.
The evening of 22 October, 1941 saw the patrol practicing in the FirIe area. An attack was
also made on the patrol's OB (Operational Base) by Badger I. Badger I was the code name for the neighbouring
Bishopstone Patrol (FirIe Patrol was Badger II). This exercise lasted five hours between 1800 and 2300
A combined patrol operation was held on 29 October, 1941, with both Firle and Bishopstone
Patrols at full strength. This involved an attack on a Canadian guard hut at Bishopstone. It lasted six hours
between 1900 and 0130 hours. At this point it is worth remembering that all the patrol members had to do their
daytime jobs as well as these night training sessions which lasted for many hours at a time.
The weekend of 8/9 November, 1941 was spent training at Tottington Manor. Lectures were given by Colonel Bill
Beyts who came down from Coleshill House specifically for that weekend. Colonel Beyts was in charge of training at
On 29 November, 1941, an inter-patrol competition was held at Bishopstone. Competing were
members of the Bishopstone, Cooksbridge, Ringmer and Abbot's Wood Patrols. The events included Mills bomb throwing,
pistol, rifle and Thompson sub-machine gun target shooting; and a night patrol efficiency test. Cooksbridge patrol
came first, with 84 points, Bishopstone second, with 81 points; Abbot's Wood third, with 55 points; and Ringmer
last with 43 points.
On 10 December, 1941 FirIe and Bishopstone Patrols started practising map reading.
The Sussex final of the inter-patrol competitions was held at Tottington Manor, on the
weekend of the 20/21 December, 1941. This was won by Icklesham patrol, who then went on to represent Sussex in the
second Home Guard patrol competition final at Coleshill House.
6 January, 1942 saw the FirIe patrol engaged in an attack on tanks in Stanmer Park, just
outside Brighton. This took place between 1900 and 0030 hours, the Firle Patrol being successful in their
On 18 January, 1942, Bill Webber visited the Patrol's OB and found that the Canadian soldiers
based at FirIe Place had been digging slit trenches within the FirIe Plantation. They had found the OB's entrance
and forced their way in. It was not until 8 February that he found the patrol's gallon bottle of rum was missing.
On 5 March a Court of Inquiry was held on this matter. No blame was attached to Bill Webber and a verdict was made
that a person or persons unknown had taken it.
Saturday 14 March, 1942, saw the patrol practice their drill for action, in the event of an
invasion by the Germans. They had to get to their OB with all their kit. This started at 0700 hours Saturday
morning and finished 1130 hours on Sunday.
On 26 March, 1942, a Patrol Leaders' meeting was held at Allington Farm, East Chiltington.
This was where the Cooksbridge Patrol Leader, Frank Martin lived. After the meeting they all visited the Cooks
bridge Patrol's OB.
Captain Bond gave a lecture at Bishopstone on 15 April, 1942, about using and concealing
knives. By 23 April this was being put into practice. The patrol attacked a sentry with the object of killing him
silently with a knife. This operation lasted from 2000 to 2200 hours.
30 April, 1942 saw another Patrol Leaders' meeting at Allington Farm. The men were issued
with the silenced .22 rifles, with telescopic sights, for the first time at this meeting. They were also given a
new pass-word. Bill Webber could not remember what this was but recalls that such phrases as 'Rule Britannia',
'South Down' or 'Sussex Weald' were used at any given time.
It was discovered on 20 May, 1942 that the entrance to the Patrol's OB had been forced open
again, and the operational rations ransacked. A Court of Inquiry was held at Bishopstone on 12 June about the loss
of the ration packs. The outcome was again that a person or persons unknown had taken them
On 25 June, 1942 a Patrol Leaders' meeting was held at Offham. They learnt that Captain Bond
was leaving to take up a new appointment. They also heard details of another inter-patrol competition that was to
be held on 12 July
On the days 28 June, 2 July and 5 July, 1942, the patrol trained for the
forthcoming competition. The competition was held on the 12 July, as planned, at Mary's Farm, Falmer. The
Cooksbridge patrol won. Bishopstone and FirIe finished third after leading. They lost valuable points on the last
event called a 'relay'. This involved each man running at a target, while firing a sten gun at the same time. Out
of a possible 40 points they only gained 10. This put them into third place. After the competition they were
introduced to Captain Bond's replacement Captain Benson.
On 31 July, 1942, there was a Patrol Leaders' meeting at Offham. This was the first to be
chaired by Captain Benson.
31 August, 1942 saw the FirIe Patrol moving their stores from their OB to the Bishopstone
patrol's OB. This was because the Canadian soldiers had broken into it yet again. Thereafter FirIe shared
Bishopstone's OB and their own hideout was abandoned.
On 20 September, 1942, a patrol meeting was held to work out the coming winter programme. Map
reading and patrol work took place in Firle Park.
A Patrol Leaders' meeting was held at Offham on 25 September, 1942, and the next month's
On 30 September, 1942 Captain Benson visited the Bishopstone Patrol. He was very impressed
with the OP (lookout) and OB. While Lionel Willett showed the Captain around, the rest of the Patrol, led by Bill
Webber, stalked and waylaid them.
12 October, 1942 saw both the Bishopstone and Firle patrols completing an explosives
practical. Both used a standard charge (80z of gelignite) and both charges went off successfully.
Bishopstone Patrol was visited on 29 October, 1942 by the Commander, Colonel F W R Douglas
from Coleshill House. The Commander later gave an address to Patrol Leaders at Hailsham.
On 22 November, 1942, a meeting of Patrol Leaders from all over Sussex was held at Tottington
Manor. Captain Benson laid down a training programme for greater efficiency
and to forestall any staleness that might be affecting the patrols.
On 1 December, 1942 the Firle Patrol had a lecture on the prismatic compass at Bishopstone.
After this lecture much more map and compass work was undertaken.
The Patrol were map reading around the Chailey and Burgess Hill area on 13 December. These
were strange surroundings which made the exercise much more difficult.
The patrol practised more compass work with the Scout Patrol on 17 December, 1942, during a
night time operation in Hailsham.
On 29 December, 1942 Bill Webber and John Willett (Lionel Willet's son) attempted to cross
the River Ouse in a rubber dinghy. Both men were thrown into the water when the craft suddenly turned over. They
were both in full kit and the water was very cold! The exercise took place between 1830 and 2100 hours.
A weekend training course took place at Coleshill House from 8 January to 10 January, 1943.
This was the second time Bill Webber had been to Coleshill. The first time was in 1940. He was accompanied by Tom
Smith, Jack Clark and Charlie Woolmer. Tom Smith and Bill Webber took part in a night operation around Coleshill
House. Bill Webber attained full marks for Mills bomb throwing, one of his favourite events.
The weekend 16/17 January, 1943 saw a Patrol Leaders' course at Tottington Manor. This was a very intensive course which
included such items as the right and wrong way to stalk, behavior in the OB, firing of the Sten gun, revolver and
rifle, lectures on the course of the War, first-aid, care of arms, and giving orders.
On 31 January, 1943, the Firle Patrol visited the Rodmell Patrol to see their OB and OP.
11 February, 1943 saw the patrol crossing the River Ouse at Durham Farm, near Tarring Neville, and walking down to
Brookside Farm just outside of Piddinghoe. They returned the same way. The patrol used a rubber dinghy, and both
river crossings were successful. This exercise took place between 1900 and 2300 hours.
On 16 February, 1943 there was a Patrol Leaders' meeting at Allington Farm with Captain Benson as chairman. They all heard that Lieutenant Ashby and the Scouts were
leaving the Auxiliary Units to return to their regiments. The reason given for this was that they had to prepare
and be available for the Normandy landings. Soon after this the Auxiliary Units were asked for volunteers to be
parachuted into France as a pre-invasion plan. This would entail two weeks of intensive parachute training which
the Auxiliary Units lacked. Both Bill Webber and Tom Smith volunteered from the Firle Patrol.
Entries in the diary are few and far between after this date. This was due to the threat of
German invasion passing and training becoming more relaxed. Even so the Firle Patrol continued to train as a patrol
until the stand down was ordered on 18 November, 1944. The last entry in the diary is 9 January, 1944 and mentions
a patrol course at Tottington Manor.
Our thanks to Jim from "28 days later" for
the images above.
Stewart Angell; Personal interview with former patrol members Bill Webber and Tom Smith.
Bill Webber’s diary. 'The Secret Sussex
If you can help with any info please