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.
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
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)
Gordon R. Orpin (Transferred to 2nd Battalion Kent Home Guard 01/04/43)
Jack R. Reed
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.
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 R. Reed
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
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
“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
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.”
A dummy Grenade used by the patrol
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.”
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
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
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
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,
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
If you can help with any info please contact us.