Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Highworth Old Post Office Panel Unveil    

This page was last updated at 12:17am on 29/8/13

On 20th August 2013 a panel detailing the history of the Aux Units and postmistress Mabel Stranks was unveiled at the old Post Office in Highworth.

The panel was unveiled by Justin Tomlinson, Swindon North MP and long time supporter of CART and now gives the public a real insight into the role that Mabel Stranks played and adds to the plaque that is already placed outside the former post office.

Justin Tomlinson MP and Bill Ashby

Bill Ashby & Justin Tomlinson MP by the new panel (©Justin Tomlinson)

CART is indebted to current owner of the old Post Office Matthew Walker who not only gave permission to place the panel on his property but helped with the cost and logistics as well. CART hope that the panel will act as a permanent reminder to the bravery of many ‘ordinary’ members of public during the Second World War.

CART's County Information Officer for Coleshill, Bill Ashby gave a short speech before handing over to Justin Tomlinson MP.

Swindonweb TV filmed the event. See their page on the event here

UNVEIL PICTURES

See the pictures here.

 Battlefield Design  Mabel panel being attached Ashley Heath BBC Wiltshire
Paul from Battlefield Design creating the panel. The building's owner Matthew Walker preparing the wall. Ashley Heath from BBC Radio Wiltshire about to go live on the story  

UNVEIL PRESS

Britain at War Magazine - August. Mabel panel unveiling. Read it here

BBC Points West News - 19th August.

Swindon Advertiser - 19th August. Story about the panel. Read it here.

Swindon Advertiser - 21st August. Unveiling image and story. Read it here

BBC Wiltshire produced various radio broadcasts on the day. You can listen to Ashley Heath's excellent reports below. Thanks to BBC Wiltshire for such comprehensive coverage.

Ashley's main piece for BBC Wiltshire

The LIVE interview on the for BBC Wiltshire breakfast show with our founder.

A BBC Wiltshire interview with Bill Ashby in the Coleshill bunker.

A BBC Wiltshire interview with Auxilier Bob Millard who trained at Coleshill and met Mabel Stranks.

THE BACKGROUND

Highworth Post Office in 2013

Highworth Post Office in 2012.

In order to get the level of skill needed within Aux Units a training camp was required and Coleshill House, less than three miles from Highworth was selected as the perfect location. All of those that volunteered signed the Official Secrets Act and had to be properly vetted before being allowed near Coleshill.

To maintain this secrecy and to ensure that those who had not been selected and vetted did not get through to the camp, recruits were ordered to arrive at Highworth and report to Mabel Stranks.

 Mabel Stranks

Mabel Stranks

The post office was the perfect ‘go-between’ with strangers visiting all the time and the postmistress known for her unassuming nature and discretion. When they arrived the recruits would ask for Mrs Mabel Stranks, give a password and be told to wait. Mabel would then go into her office and make a series of phone calls. A car would then arrive and those ‘screened’ as official by Mrs Stranks were driven to Coleshill House by the most indirect route. Those suspected as being unofficial by Mabel were taken elsewhere. The Highworth post office proved to be such an effective tool that it was aptly given the name the ‘Auxiliary Gateway’.

After arriving at Coleshill volunteers would be trained to do everything from blowing up bridges to slitting throats. They were even taught how to booby trap toilets in the grand country houses that the German hierarchy would no doubt have taken over had they invaded.

RELATED CONTENT

Read more about Mabel here

Read more about the Post Office here

Take a tour of nearby GHQ Coleshill here

'The Postmistress Who Was A Spy.' It was part of the BBC's 'History Mysteries' series and was aired on BBC2 on the 24/12006.