Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base.

This page was last updated at 10:00am on 23/10/13

Thank you for selecting information on the Gibbet Oak 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.

The Group Commander was Fenwick Luke although was the patrol was first formed Luke was the patrol leader. The Patrol Leader was Ray Smith. Fenwick Luke took over command of two of the Romney Marsh Patrols in 1943 after the Group Commander, Captain Allnatt, resigned due to defective eyesight. However, it may also have had something to do with the fact that Captain Allnatt’s wife, Miss Murray, a nurse, knew too much about the organisation because she was giving First Aid training to the patrol members. Coleshill heard about it and may have asked him to leave. As a result, control of Fungus (based at Court-at-Street on the escarpment overlooking Romney Marsh) was passed to a group north of them, possibly Carrot at Crundale. Truffle and Mushroom were controlled directly by the Intelligence Officer, Captain McNicholl, at The Garth, Bilting, for about six months. Control then passed to Fenwick Luke in July 1943. He became Group Commander responsible for Truffle, Mushroom, Tenterden and Rolvenden Patrols.

1940.

1940-1941

Group Leader for Tenterden area was Lt Fenwick Luke, he commanded the patrols in his area for the duration of the war. Until the end of 1941 the patrol consisted of the men listed below. After this period the set up was changed because another local patrol from nearby Rolvenden, Kent was stood down and the two patrols where merged.

Some members of the Rolvenden patrol believed that the patrol was stood down due to a lack of a credible threat of German invasion and because the patrol lost some men and was deemed nonoperational. HQ at the Garth did not tell anyone the real reason for the patrol being stood down.

Patrol Leader: Sgt Ray Smith
Louis Pugh (Left and joined forces end of 1941)
P.M. Sanderson
Gordon R. Orpin (Transferred to 2nd Battalion Kent Home Guard 01/04/43)
H.W. Bashford
Jack R. Reed

Louis Pugh

Louis Pugh

Louie Pugh worried about what would happen if the Germans did come and how he would handle the job of sabotage. He also worried about what might happen to his family. This was quite common across the patrols and a few Auxiliary expressed the same concerns.

1941 onwards
The following men are known to have been in the patrol in this era.
It is believed there were more involved although it remains a secret and has not been proven yet.

Patrol Leader Sgt Ray Smith
Jack Moss
Bill Hook
P.M. Sanderson
Jack R. Reed
H.W. Bashford

Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit 1

Jack Moss is far left. Bill Hook is second from left.

Fenwick Luke and Gordon Orpin were farmers, Ray Smith a garage manager. Louis Pugh owned the Kent Chemicals Company.

Auxiliary Units Jack Moss said the following.

“I was single living at home with my father and mother who knew nothing what so ever about it. That was something we had drilled into us from the word go. That your wife, sweetheart, employer, anyone was not to know about it at all.”
 
On being asked did you find it difficult to maintain Jack replied

“Not terribly no, you just said you were doing something different, special. The main thing was not to talk yourself, in other words people didn’t talk to you. In no way should you talk to them.”

 “I went down to Coleshill. My parents knew I was gone for the weekend. But I just said I was going for training.”

 “Before D-Day we were asked whether or not we would be prepared to drop into France. This was more of a feeler than a reality.”
 
 “The possibility of being captured if wounded was not talked about a lot. I think it was the decision of the patrol leader or the rest of the patrol to eliminate the people who could not get away.”

Kench Hill OB

The first operational base for the patrol was sited on the opposite side of the road from Gibbet Oak and used an old hollowed out oak tree as a trapdoor, unfortunately it did not last long because a courting couple in the throws of passion accidentally set the trap door off. The local group leader Lt Fenwick Luke had to think quickly to cover it up and decided to blow and few trees up in a near by orchard aswell as the old oak tree and the OB
 
When the local policeman came down the road to see what was going on Luke claimed it was a land mine that had gone off! With this problem solved Lt Fenwick Luke contacted HQ for Kent at the Garth and Captain Norman Field quickly arranged a new OB whilst all the stores from the old OB were taken to Louie Pugh’s house for storage until the new base was finished.

Gibbet Oak OB

An OB was built at Gibbet Oak Farm. It was sited at the edge of a wood on land owned by Lt Fenwick Luke. The Patrol built its own hideout and used a summerhouse as cover. The hide had a hydraulic system for opening and closing the entrance which was installed by Ray Smith, the local garage owner. It was a home-made design consisting of steel girders supporting corrugated iron roofing sheets covered with soil. The escape tunnel led to a small wooded gulley.

Arms and explosives were, initially, hidden in a dry (usually) water course in Finchbourne Wood. When Norman Field took over from Peter Fleming he decided it was prudent to make better arrangements!

Jack Moss remembered having a fry up of steak and onions in the OB towards the end of the war. 

Jack Moss said “You didnt go to the OB Very often, there was no point. As long as you knew where it was, we would go maybe once every couple of months.”



 Currently unknown

Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit 2

A dummy Grenade used by the patrol

Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit 3

Some more pieces of equipment used by the patrol.
Top: Pull Switch
Bottom right: Pressure Switch
Bottom Left: A brass tube with mirror placed at a 45 degree angle for looking round corners

The patrol initially trained at the Garth which was the main HQ for the units in Kent but Intelligence Officer Captain Norman Field decided to set up another training facility at the gamekeeper's cottage at Angley Wood, near Cranbrook. The patrol also trained here and eventually in 1943 a second headquarters was established at Wenman’s Cottage, on the edge of Angley Wood, near Cranbrook, Kent to serve all the patrols in area around Tenterden.

Certain patrol members were also sent to the main HQ for Auxiliary Units at Coleshill near Swindon for more intensive training than they got locally which they would then take back and teach to their patrol team members. They were often shown a mock operations base OB at Coleshill while they were there.
Jack Reed told Louie Pugh's son about an exercise the patrol did one night.

“The exercise was against a local army base around Folkstone. The man in charge of the base was a hundred per cent sure that the patrol could not get in and mark targets without being spotted by his guards. They proved him wrong by breaking in and leaving markers all over the vehicles to say they had been there, then escaping without one of them being caught!”

The Garth in 2011.

Jack Moss “We went to The Garth once a month on a Sunday and also trained at Coleshill and at Keepers Cottage at Angley Wood near Glassenbury. There was a local patrol in the area, but we never met them. We had lectures, grenade throwing, explosives practice, unarmed combat, shooting and how to crawl through barbed wire without cutting it so as not to leave any evidence. We were not to engage the Germans but to destroy their supplies. Our weapons were for defence not attack.We were taught to carry our Thompsons on fully automatic but to only fire one shot. You had to press and release the trigger very quickly. We sometimes saw people at Angley Wood, from other patrols, we recognised. We never asked them any questions for security reasons.”

Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit 4

Gamekeepers Cottage, Angley Wood

Jack Moss “We were not to actively engage the Germans. We were to operate at night and it was sabotage. The knife was to be used to get rid of a sentry so you could place explosives but we were not to fire a pistol at them."

 Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit 5  Gibbet Oak Auxiliary Unit 6

The photos above show two of the training manuals given to Gibbet Oak patrol. These were given to patrols and were filled with all sorts of details on sabotage. The covers were designed to look like ordinary books so anyone seeing them would think nothing of them and would hopefully not look inside. Copies of these diaries can be bought in our shop.

Jack Moss “Our weapons i.e. the tommy gun and the revolver and the knife really, were only for defence, not attack.”

In October 1944 the Auxiliary Units were officially disbanded.They received no recognition due to the secrecy surrounding the units and the fact that every man involved was made to sign the official secrets act. The only things ever given out were a lapel Badge which not all Auxiliers would have received, less than 1000 were issued.

Jack Moss “We got no recognition at all. It was just a relief it was all over and you didn't have to deceive your parents or anybody that you knew. Having said that, one never talked about it to anyone afterwards for a long, long time.”


Thanks go to Stephen Sutton for letting us use his interview with Jack Moss, Other information comes from my Phil Evan's own research into the Patrol and the late Lt Col. Norman  Field.

Also thanks go to the late David Pugh son of Auxilier Louis Pugh and his family who have also been a great help.

If you can help with any info please contact us.