GHQ Coleshill Site Selection
|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.
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ESTABLISHING A HEADQUARTERS - THE BEGINING
On 2nd July 1940 Colonel Gubbins was directed to form a British resistance organisation in advance of a pending
German invasion. It was given the nondescript name of Auxiliary Units. Two rooms in the War Office at
No 7 Whitehall Place became his Headquarters.
Whitehall Place, London
He immediately began by selecting Officers to lead the organisation. Captain Donald Hamilton-Hall
describes in his book “SOE – Assignment” that first meeting:
While twelve Officers went off to establish the resistance patrols in coastal areas, three moved
out to temporary Officers in Berkshire.
In August 1940 some of the AUX HQ Officers moved out of London into temporary offices in North Gate
House No. 38 London Street, Faringdon. This was also the HQ of No.1 Arm’d Brigade Coy. RASC.
Immediately Orders were placed for men, material and all manner of equipment to be delivered to an ‘as yet unknown’
destination. Meetings were held in a nearby public house ‘The Crown’
As the letter below shows Southern Command were processing ‘Requests for Stores’ but as the GHQ
Auxiliary Units was without the necessary establishment even transport was being borrowed from other units.
THE HUNT FOR A PERMANENT HEADQUARTERS
Major M.T. Henderson was tasked
with finding a site that was suitable for guerrilla training. It needed a main building to accommodate the GHQ ,
Out-buildings to house not only the permanent staff but also Auxiliers attending training courses, and ample
grounds for training purposes.
Major Henderson’s brother Lord Faringdon lived on the Buscott Estate. His neighbours, the
Pleydell-Bouverie family owned the Coleshill Estate which had all of the facilities he sought.
GENERAL HEADQUARTERS - COLESHILL
The War Department set to work and quickly negotiated with the two Pleydell-Bouverie Sisters
‘Molly’ & ‘Bina’ to requisition the whole estate but it was agreed that the sisters would remain in residence
in the Main House. On the 20th August the first load of stores were delivered to the new GHQ.
THE COLESHILL ESTATE
The small village of Coleshill is located on the Wiltshire/ Oxfordshire border but it was Berkshire
until 1974. Faringdon is 4 miles to the East and Highworth is 3 miles to the West. It was very quiet and
consisted of about fifty houses, a church, school and shop. No bus served the village making it isolated
ideal for a secret headquarters.
Most of the village inhabitants were employed by the Pleydell-Bouverie family on the Estate either
on the farms or as groundsmen or domestic staff
Coleshill House was requisitioned in August 1940
and became Auxiliary Units GHQ.