Newton Poppleford Auxiliary Unit Patrol
was last updated at 6:35pm on 1/8/14
Thank you for selecting information on
the Newton Poppleford Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by
CART's Devon CIO Nina Hannaford. firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Newton Poppleford is a village on the (present) A3052 on the west of the River Otter in East Devon.
From the very first meeting in Whitehall in July 1940 the Intelligence Officer for Devon and Cornwall (named
Auxiliary Units SW Area) was Captain (later Major, then Colonel) J W Stuart Edmundson, an officer in the Royal
Engineers. He liaised with the regular army and received supplies and equipment and formed all the Patrols. He was
assisted by Lieutenant (later Captain) John “Jack” Dingley who became IO for Cornwall in 1943 though he may have
assumed the roll before that.
In November 1943 Devon and Cornwall were separated and Edmundson was succeeded in Cornwall by Captain John
Dingley and in Devon by Major W W “Bill” Harston who would remain
in command until near stand down. At the end of Harston's command he would cover “No 4 Region” being the whole of
the South West Peninsular and Wales.
The IOs were being withdrawn from around August 1944 leaving the Area and Group Commanders.
After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some patrols within a demographic area would train together
under more local command.
At Stand Down, Devon is recorded as area16 and Newton Poppleford is part of group 6 along with nine other
patrols, including Sidbury, Branscombe, Beer, Bovey and Seaton.
The East Devon Area Commander was Captain Leonard Howes of Colyford. The Group 6 Commanders were Captain S B
Wood of Seaton and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur W Pope of Newton Poppleford.
Sergeant Percy Retter
Jack B Pyle
Arthur T Rose
Reginald J Stone
F H Haslam who was awarded the Defence Medal
George W Cross who was awarded the Defence Medal
Albert Garnsworthy who was transferred to 2nd Clyst Battalion Home Guard April 1943
The Patrol was ideally placed to cause havoc to supply routes from the coast to inland areas and so routes north
and east to the rest of the country.
The highest ground in the area is open heathland so building the OB below the highest points gave the Patrol far
Public lanes allowed the Auxiliers very easy access from their homes to the OB attracting very little
The OB is located on the edge of a thinly planted Hazel copse. The nearby bank and hedge contains larger and
more mature trees.
The entrance shaft drops down to a small passage with a small alcove or chamber leading off to the right. At
only 3ft x 2ft it could have been a storage or toilet area.
The floor then drops down 3 feet into the main chamber. Two wooden lintels support the passage roof as it steps
down and the concrete block between has been rounded off to a smooth curve. The Auxiliers must have learnt that
this was a place to constantly bang a head against !
In the entrance passage looking into the main chamber
The main body of the chamber
Ladder showing the entrance shaft. Small chamber is on the left.
The main chamber is approximatively 15 x 8 feet. A concrete floor supported a 9 inch block surround topped with
wood. Fixed to this is the curved “Nissen” structure creating the main chamber. Four ventilation pipes meet in a
square at the highest point in the ceiling and there are various ventilation pipes within the concrete block end
walls. There is also at least two “soakaways” in the floor.
Four ventilation pipes meeting in the ceiling of the OB
Two half height block walls are present at the far end of the chamber separating off the last 3 feet. These do
not appear to ever have been full height and one has been partially knocked down post war.
At the far end wall is the blocked in “exit” where a wire enters the chamber.
Some people appear to have used the OB to dump more modern day rubbish which is sad to see. There was however
the wooden remains of what could have been a chair which may have been original to the OB.
Remains of a chair which maybe original to the OB
A rectangular entrance shaft approximately 2 x 2 ½ feet built with concrete block and concrete lintel drops down
approximately 7 feet. There is no evidence of any rungs or ladder so it is suspected this may have been
At the opposing end of the OB to the entrance shaft is a matching square void in the block wall. A wooden lintel
implies it was built as an entrance or exit. This has been blocked up and the work appears contemporary with the
build of the OB.
End wall of main chamber showing blocked up exit.
This may have meant to lead through to a second chamber and / or an escape route but for some reason the plan
was altered during construction. This could have been due to the geology of the site or the lay of the land.
This left the OB without an escape route.
At some time post war, someone has tried to search for further remains by knocking a hole in the in filled block
work. This has only revealed natural infill behind implying no further structure was built.
From the surface the OB is still completely concealed.
Looking over the top of the OB. Entrance shaft concealed to left of Hazel coppiced
Observation Post: Currently unknown, though a wire leading from the wooden lintel on the far
end wall of the OB could have been used to communicate with an Observation post located near the bank surrounding
the copse. This would have allowed observation of the main coast road and almost to the shoreline.
View from the bank near the OB and an ideal place for an Observation Post.
Other physical remains nearby: Alongside the entrance is metalwork that could have been part of
the hatch opening mechanism. Slightly further away is a water tank that again could have originated in the OB as
there is no surrounding pasture land.
Maybe part of hatch
In the 1940s Newton Poppleford stretched the A35, the main road from the city of Exeter along the coast to
Sidmouth. It is assumed this and the nearby railway line would have been important supply routes from the coast to
Exeter and beyond.
Damage to bridges crossing the River Otter would have slowed progress from the coast.
Newton Poppleford is within easy travelling distance of Thorverton where the Devon Scout Section trained Auxiliers on weekend courses from all over
Devon. The proximity may have meant that Newton Poppleford Patrol trained here quite regularly.
Unknown, but it is assumed that they had the standard weapons and explosives issued to all patrols.
Sgt Retter, Jack Pyle and F Haslam are all very near neighbours from Hillside, Burrow.
The wartime deception of a decoy airfield was constructed at the nearby Aylesbeare Common. This was intended to
attract bombing raids aiming for the nearby Exeter airport.
TNA ref WO199/3390
Hancock data held at B.R.A
The kind help of Noel Thornton and Mike Barber and Mark Taylor
If you can help
with any info please contact Nina by emailing email@example.com