Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Grange Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 10:00am on 3/7/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Grange Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Scotland.

Research into this patrol and its training is ongoing. The information below is published from various sources and is by no means conclusive. If information is not listed below it does not necessarily mean the information is not out there but normally means CART researchers have not found it yet.

If you have any information on this patrol or can help with research in this area please do contact us.

Pending.

Currently unknown.

The patrol was formed under the command of George Fisher as Lieutenant, schoolmaster at the Crossroads and a veteran of WW1. The members were:

 Willie Ingram of Greenbog (Sergeant)
 Sandy Pirie (Little Clerkseat)
 Donald Cruickshank (Farmer at Starhill)
 Jock Henderson (Farm worker at Berrylees)
 John Irvine (Farm worker at Stripeside)
 Jimmy Munro (From Fortrie Croft, fee’d at Gordonston)
 Jock Reid (Farm worker at Floors)
 John Robertson (Farmer at Myrieton)

Grange Auxiliary Unit, Scotland

 

   

Donald Cruickshank

John Irvine

 

Sandy Pirie

John Robertson

   

 Norman Tait 

   

Jimmy Munro

     
     

Willie Ingram

   

 Jack Reid

 David Low

   

 

 

 Lt. J.L Low

 David Trevor (Later Buchan)

Capt. Gordon- Lennox

Capt. Cochrane

Lt. Alexander Fraser 

George Fisher

 Lt. A H Bonar Budge

 Tom Catto

 

               

 James Low

Shortly after the log book was discovered, a surviving member of the Grange Patrol, John Robertson, was kind enough to pass on some of his own recollections. He recounts that Willie Ingram would have been responsible for recruiting the patrol members, some of whom were already active in the Home Guard. Willie himself was almost certainly selected by George Fisher for his valuable knowledge of the local terrain and contacts in the farming community. John adds that, with his previous army background "George Fisher knew exactly how to get hold of any equipment or ammunition that was required" and the Grange Patrol were never short of materials for training.

The OB was first built on the edge of the Gallowhill wood close to Gordonston, but this seems to have deteriorated rather quickly and it’s impossible to pinpoint its position. In late 1943 a second OB was established at Roehill - this one is still visible today.

Roe Hill.

The two "holes" in the middle of the picture above is the collapsed OB and the collapsed entrance area.

Although it was intended that each unit should operate in isolation, there were many occasions when neighbouring patrols took part in joint exercises. One of these took place late at night on 21st November 1942 when members of Grange and Deskford units defended an OB at Muldearie against attackers from Clochan. In fact, there are quite a number of unofficial reports of the Grange patrol operating not only in conjunction with Deskford and Clochan, but in areas covered by other patrols, so it’s quite clear that there was good communication between each unit.

John was able to give an approximate location for the site of the Operational Base used by the Grange patrol. The original base was on the north edge of the Gallowhill wood, but the structure deteriorated to such an extent that in late 1943 a second OB was constructed near Roehill. Both of these bases are described by John as ‘elephant shelters’, with a corrugated iron roof built into a hole in the ground. Entry was by means of a trap door consisting of a wooden box about 60cm square, camouflaged with earth and heather, with a ladder leading down into the body of the shelter. Inside were bunks for each member of the patrol and a small primus stove for cooking. Ventilation was poor and John remembers that patrol members were almost overcome by fumes on one occasion when the interior of the Roehill base was being painted. Concrete pipes about 60cm in diameter provided an exit from the base, emerging some distance away among whin bushes. According to John, the look-out post was rarely used and strangers would have stood no chance of detecting the whereabouts of the OB.

 Not confirmed.

Occasionally weekend camps were organised at Blairmore House, the local HQ in Glass. Given the secret nature of the Auxiliary Units, it’s rather surprising that a group photo was taken at one of the camps. Most members of the Grange patrol can be identified, as well as senior officers Capt. Gordon-Lennox and Capt. Cochrane. From the spring of 1942 the Grange patrol met twice each week, usually on Tuesday evenings and Sundays, and in different locations depending on the training activity. The Gallowhill quarry was a favoured place for “demolitions” and “booby traps”, with Burnend quarry also being used occasionally. Detailed descriptions on training can be read in the log book below.

On the occasion of Willie’s trip down to Coleshill, he was accompanied by John Robertson and Donald Cruickshank. John recalled that their training had taken place in March 1942, which is supported by the entries in the log book indicating their absence on 24th March. The exceptionally cold weather made a lasting impression, as John still hadn’t forgotten the chilly train journey sixty years later! To make matters worse, the trio were unable to get seats and were forced to stand for much of the way. However, they did have the opportunity for a few hours’ sightseeing in London, where they witnessed at first hand the devastation which followed the Blitz.

Whenever joint exercises took place with other local groups it was necessary to arrange transport for everyone, and it was John who acted as driver. However, the vehicle provided, a Ford 8, was not the most reliable: the engine had a tendency to fail, its top speed was no more than 30 mph and the lights were very poor, being powered by a 6 volt supply. One one occasion when they were required to attend an evening event at Blairmore (the local HQ near Huntly), Jock Reid had to sit in the passenger seat and use a torch to illuminate the road ahead, while John Robertson drove to Blairmore and back. Returning from another exercise at Darnaway, near Forres, John recalls that only the sidelamps were working and it was only by opening the windscreen that he was able to see the road clearly.

Training exercises were held in conjunction with the regular army at Aswanley, a short distance from the Blairmore HQ. During one of these weekend camps, John Robertson was given the job of preparing the fire for cooking but was unable to find any suitable kindling material. At the suggestion of Lt. Fisher, a paraffin incendiary was used - with predictably dramatic results!

THE GRANGE PATROL LOG BOOK

Despite the official policy of secrecy, however, detailed information about local patrols came to light just a few years ago, in the form of a log book recording all the meetings of the Grange patrol from November 1941 until August 1944. It’s impossible to be certain who was responsible for this unauthorised record: the prime suspect is George Fisher, who commanded the patrol. Although it was found amongst paperwork in the dusty recesses of Willie Ingram’s desk at Greenbog, there’s some doubt as to the handwriting. Each entry in the log book relates to a meeting of the Grange Patrol, recording its date and time, as well as a summary of the activities undertaken and a list of those present, identified by surname alone, perhaps as a concession to concerns over security.

Since the original log book is a unique historical document, it was sent for safe keeping to the Museum of the British Resistance at Parham in Suffolk, where it’s accessible to anyone interested in the history of the Auxiliary Units. However, a full transcription was made and this is now available to download here. You can also see their map reading training programme here.

The first entry is dated 4th November 1941 (a Tuesday), when George Fisher, Willie Ingram, Sandy Pirie, Jock Reid and Donald Cruickshank met at 7.30pm for training on the Browning machine gun mechanism. The entry for the following week records that a lecture on patrol was delivered by Lt. Cochrane (commander of the Spey Bay patrol), who was accompanied by Sgt. Morrison. By 18th November there were two additional members: John Robertson and Jimmy Munro, and the evening was devoted to patrol exercises from 7.30pm until 10.45pm. A couple of weeks later the unit had their first training in “demolitions – method, practice” and on 16th December were introduced to “thuggery practice” – otherwise known as unarmed combat, silent killing and similar activities not normally expected of country gentlemen. Their first experience of “grenade throwing” came just a week later, and on 22nd February 1942 they had progressed to using live grenades. The final members, Jimmy Irvine and Jock Henderson joined the patrol on 10th March and 7th April respectively.

The log book indicates that it was rare for any of the members to miss training sessions, but on 24th March 1942 there were three absentees: Willie Ingram, Donald Cruickshank and John Robertson. Both Willie and John later mentioned the occasion when these three made a journey to the Auxiliary Units training centre at Coleshill and although John had forgotten exactly when this took place, he did remember the exceptionally cold weather (a bit like this March, in fact!). Perhaps that’s what they were up to on 24th March?

From the spring of 1942 the Grange patrol met twice each week, usually on Tuesday evenings and Sundays, and in different locations depending on the training activity. The Gallowhill quarry was a favoured place for “demolitions” and “booby traps”, with Burnend quarry also being used occasionally. Mill of Paithnick seems to have been the most popular location for “grenade throwing”. Indoor meetings, usually for training in map-reading, were held either at Crossroads School or at the West Church Hall at Gallowhill. Their first “away” exercise was recorded on Saturday 28th March 1942 at Strathmill in Keith. There is no detail given as to the nature of the exercise, which lasted from 9pm until 1.30am the next morning.

Other entries are frustratingly vague, such as the one for Monday 25th May 1942, which simply states “Scheme at Kinloss”, beginning at 8pm and lasting until 6 the next morning. The outcome isn’t reported in the log book, but years after the war, Grange patrol members spoke with pride of their success in penetrating airfield defences and they chalked swastika marks on aircraft tyres as evidence of their achievement. Only a few days later the log book records a “Scheme at Cullen” which almost certainly involved the Deskford patrol and possibly others from the area.

As the months went by the members of the Grange patrol gradually increased the range of their specialist skills. In addition to those already mentioned, their activities included “message sending & decoding”, “pistol practice” “stripping & reassembling grenades”, “tree felling”, “rifle firing” “target practice”, “telephone wire sabotage” “fitting booby traps”, “daylight movement” “ambushes and camouflage”, “switch setting”.

Although they were largely confined to the immediate area during the winter, their activities could take them much further afield in the warmer months. On April 3rd 1943 they made a foray over the border to Deskford, where they carried out an attack on parked vehicles. The Deskford patrol usually seemed to come off worse against Grange, as on 20th May 1944 when the Grange patrol reported 100% success on their part, and again on 9th June when they successfully resisted an attack by their Deskford counterparts.

During the summer weekend camps were arranged and the usual meetings were suspended on these occasions, as most patrol members were at camp, e.g. on 19th July 1942 and again on 2nd August. A series of exercises in daylight movement in the spring of 1942 took them to Darnaway, Spey Bay and Banff and two field days were held in June of the same year at Marnoch – which suggests the existence of another patrol with its base there. A further field day is recorded at Rothiemay in April 1944.

It’s not clear from the log book when their first Operational Base was constructed at the Gallowhill. There’s certainly no record of patrol members being involved in building it, so this may well have been done by army personnel. The first time it’s mentioned in the log book is in the entry for 5th May 1942, when the patrol were engaged in “stripping wood in O.B.” During the second half of August that year there were several sessions of “drying and painting O.B.”, after which no further maintenance is recorded that year. A number of exercises involved attacks on the OB, so perhaps these contributed to its deterioration. There were 2 instances of “work on OB” recorded in August 1943, which may refer to the original Gallowhill hideout, but the log book entry for 3rd October is the first of many indicating a long period of “OB construction” which was almost certainly at the new Roehill site. Work continued regularly throughout the winter, almost to the exclusion of other activities. On 27th December the patrol took advantage of John Robertson’s tractor to help with shifting materials for the new OB, which seems to have been more or less complete by 16th May 1944, when the tractor again proved useful for “transport of operational stores to OB”. Nevertheless, the log book entries indicate that construction work at Roehill continued almost until the end of July.

The dedication of this hardy little bunch is something that stands out from reading the log book. They met for training in all seasons and all weathers, with very few exceptions. The entry for 21st September 1943 reveals that – for the members of the Grange patrol at least - resisting the Nazis wasn’t first on their list of priorities – “no parade owing to harvest”. Snow prevented them meeting on 27th February and 5th March 1944, and may also have been the “bad weather” which prevented work on the OB on the 12th December 1943. Unspecified “weather conditions” were responsible for the usual meeting being abandoned on 8th August 1944. The second Tuesday in August was the customary date for Keith Show, which apparently continued even during the war years. With D-day some 2 months past, the Grange patrol members had probably concluded that there would be no risk to national security if they were to interrupt their routine for a day at Keith Show.

The final entry in the log book is for 17th August 1944, when all members of the patrol were present at the West Church for “revolver firing”.

Whoever kept the Grange Patrol log book made an immeasurably valuable contribution to preserving their memory.

The patrol were issued with all the normal equipment.

Nothing currently.

Most of the info above has been provided by Alison Smith at http://www.genegenie-scotland.co.uk/ , John Robertson.

If you are investigating this site or area please do share your findings with us. You can email us here.