Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Broadheath 'Samson' Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 10:29am on 12/7/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Samson Auxiliary Unit Patrol in Worcestershire. The info below have been supplied by our internal archive.

The patrol was located at Broadheath, Nr Worcester.

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

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Worcestershire (Groups 1a and 1b) formed part of area 19 which also included Herefordshire, Monmouthshire (Group 3) and latterly from 1943 part of Glamorganshire (Groups 4a and 4b).

The first intelligence officer was Captain John Ellerman Todd who had been a London stockbroker before the war. Known to be a character but dressed as the country gent it is believed he lived at Llanfihangel Crucorny in Monmouthshire. Recruited to SOE, Todd was replaced by Captain Christopher Sandford and the area headquarters became Eye Manor near Leominster. A later Intelligence Officer included Captain Lloyd Bucknell RA.

Worcestershire Group 1a consisted of three Patrols: Bishampton (“David”) Patrol, Overbury Patrol and Alfrick (“Jehu”) Patrol.

Area Commander for both groups in Worcestershire was Captain Lewis E Van Moppes.
Group commander of 1a Patrols was his brother Lt Edmund M van Moppes.

It is thought that stores were held at Wolverton Hall, the home of Company Quartermaster Sergeant Thomas Dawe.

Many Auxiliers recall Sergeant Thurston Holland-Martin of Overbury Patrol as having a roll in recruiting and training.

Worcestershire,  Herefordshire and Monmouthshire Patrols were given Biblical code names. It is assumed this was an initiative of Todd to prevent the use of patrols locations names. 

Believed to be the first patrol formed for the Midlands.

Sergeant Geoff Devereux
Later  Sergeant Rupert Valentine “Val”Clines (original 2nd in command) – Upper Broadheath
Rob Boaz – Nr Cotheridge
Archibald V Clines – Upper Broadheath
W A “Peter” King – Lower Broadheath
Joe King (cousin of Val Clines)
Ron Seymour – Mecoworks LDV/HG to Aux 1940 – Left 1942
Peter P Wright (later member) Broadmore Heath, Worcs
John Frederick Boaz (later member, joined Aug 1941.) Near Cotheridge
Arthur Leighton Allen – Dynes Green, Lower Broadheath

Geoff left the patrol in 1941 to join other forces along with Rob Boaz and Joe King who left for the army. Ron Seymour left in 1942.  John Boaz, Peter King and Peter Wright were recruited in 1941 to replace those that had left.

John Boaz in 2013.

The OB was located in woodland north of A44 between Cotheridge and Broadwas.  Now demolished and the woodland has been cleared and cultivated.  It did stand for a while after the war and was found by children. 

The OB was on level ground in the wood with a deep gulley about 30 yards away. Patrol members were shown how to enter the hide which involved the sergeant putting his hand into a rabbit hole under the stump of an old tree, pulling a lever which moved a further piece of wood which then allowed the stump to be moved sideways, revealing beneath a round entrance hole. This had a chamfered edge into which the tree stump dropped, the stump just covering the hole with sufficient overlap so that when it was in position nothing could be seen. The patrol did not use this access very much in order to avoid treading down the surrounding undergrowth. Not long after John had joined Samson Patrol, it was decided that they needed a second escape route and the army supplied something like galvanised pit props for the purpose. The five members of the patrol then spent every night of that summer, digging a six foot deep trench into the nearby gulley, covered it with tin and camouflaging it. It was apparently never used
although it was there if they had needed it. The original escape route, dug by the army, was lined with an 18" sewer pipe and was only about 3 or 4 yards long, while their own self-dug escape tunnel was about 30 yards long and a "marvellous" structure.

Inside the hide was the usual Nissen hut type structure with a store room at one end, built out of breeze blocks. Their second escape tunnel was constructed out of the back end ofstore room.

The OB was divided into three sections. The living section had some camp chairs, a paraffin heater, a paraffin camp cooker, pressure light, camp table and shelves, washbasin and chemical toilet. The floor was concrete with coconut matting on top. In the sleeping section were four 2 tier bunks and the store section was subĀ­divided into food store and arsenal. They had sufficient provisions for one month and a water tank.

Geoff Devereux's main worry was that the enemy would be able to find the O.B. using tracker dogs. His father trained gun dogs at home and he had seen many instances where a dog could follow the scent of a human after several hours. They had lookout posts round the O.B. where they could pick off tracker dogs with the .22 if necessary. They also planned to use rabbit as bait with strychnine if tracker dogs were encountered.
The patrol amused themselves by entering guarded factories etc. at night and chalking rude remarks at strategic points and retreating without being detected.

Were key roads West of Worcester A4103, A44 and A443 but most importantly the railway. Tank laager sites – one area in particular would have been Broad Green.

Geoff was sent to Coleshill and learnt about plastic explosives, sticky bombs, phosphorous grenades, booby traps and field craft.  The patrol lived in the OB at weekends and occasionally during the week.  They carried out practise night attacks.  They had Home Guard uniforms and told locals they were part of a Boy Scout unit.  On another occasion at Coleshill, Samson Patrol were involved in an exercise to cross a lake with a temporary raft made of oil drums and John remembers being about halfway across when the officers exploded a bomb and pitched them into the lake. A straw dummy was built for dagger practise. Peter Price – Local army instructor was responsible for training and combat. 

Meetings took place in the local scout hut. Apparently the Home Guard, who had been using the Church Hall, wanted the Scout Hut and John was compelled to give up the key. John says that the Auxiliers were all "mad devils" in those days and come the day that they were to give up the hut, they put a trip wire from the door down under the steps where they laid a booby trap. When the Home Guard Sergeant opened the door, the trap went off with a bang causing him to drop and damage his rifle. There was hell to pay as a result but later apparently, the Home Guard became used to their antics.

After leaving the Scout Hut, Samson Patrol moved their HQ down to Middle Lightwood Farm, near Cotheridge which belonged to John's father, and they stored all their explosives and ammunition in the cellar.

The Commando officers who trained the Auxiliers were "quite gruesome" and explained to these civilian volunteers that they were not simply to kill the Germans silently, as they had been trained to do, but to "open them up and spread their intestines about" to upset the morale of the other troops.

As a farmers son, John Boaz was expected to work all hours during the day and then would do night training with the patrol until about midnight. This normally entailed crawling about the countryside on their stomachs, carrying a piece of grass in one hand, in order to feel for trip wires which would be just above them. They apparently went for miles and miles on these sorts of night exercises and this was the primary training for their role. He remembers the van Moppes phoning up on one occasion to say that some officers were coming up from Coleshill and could Samson Patrol participate in a daytime exercise to demonstrate their skills at reaching, unseen, a target in their own area. The target was to consist of a pile of five gallon petrol cans set in the centre of a field somewhere, John recalls, in the Knightwick area and to place magnets on them. The patrol were told before hand where the target would be and the officers wanted to observe their progress from the nearby road and presumably measure their performance. The start point was about a mile away. The Sergeant suggested that the patrol should attempt to surprise the officers in some way and John proposed that they borrow a big old Austin car and what he describes as an old fashioned farm trailer from his uncle, who lived at a farm nearby.

This they did and then placed wooden slats across the top of the solid side boards of the trailer and covered this with straw. The patrol climbed into the trailer and hid in the space created beneath, while John donned a farm smock, a hat and some glasses. He placed the magnets in his top pocket and drove the car to the field containing their target, past the officers waiting on the roadside, who acknowledged his wave as he went by. On entering the field, John could see that the farmer had put cattle in there after the target had been set up. However John was able to use this to his advantage because he was able to walk slowly up to the drums with the cattle, which had predictably become excited galloping up behind. During the ensuing melee, John was able to drop the magnets out of his pocket and kick then up against the drums. After completing this part of the exercise he returned to the car and drove back to the start, again waving to the waiting officers. On returning to the start, their sergeant proposed that the should now "do the exercise properly". The patrol put on their denims and proceeded to work towards the target, crawling where necessary. They could see the officer still on the roadside observing and the patrol got within a couple of hundred yards of the target before the officers came into the field and congratulated the patrol on their progress.

Their sergeant was able to say to the officers that this was in fact the second time they had visited the target. Naturally the officers would not believe them until they all walked up to the petrol cans and the magnets could be seen. Suitably impressed, the officers, who were about to go to the Talbot Hotel at Knightwick, invited the patrol to join them for a drink. First the car and trailer had to be collected from the start point where the patrol again climbed into the trailer and John donned his disguise. On reaching the Talbot John could see the officers standing outside, waiting for them to arrive but again they did not recognise him when he drew up outside. Not until the back of the trailer was dropped and the patrol climbed out did the officers realise what had occurred earlier, at which point they declared that the patrol deserved two pints each!

John is convinced that had this exercise been for real, the patrol could have blown up the target and got away without being caught.

Patrol member Ron can remember only once using a standard hand grenade in practice, and this was
thrown into the River Teme, near Bransford Bridge, where it apparently killed many fish!

One exercise that Ron recalls, involved making a night-time approach to "Bubble Brook Bridge" on the western edge of Worcester. The intention was to set dummy charges under the bridge, which was being guarded by the Meco Home Guard. Explosives were, incidentally, carried in their pockets rather than in a satchel. The Patrol apparently got quite close to their objective before being discovered. Bubble Brook is the local name for Laugherne Brook and the bridge involved is that carrying the A44 road over the brook.

The patrol was supplied with a Thompson sub-machine gun and 50 drum magazines.  At least one .300 P17 rifle.  Each member had a Smith and Wesson revolver and a Fairbairn-Sykes dagger and 2 knuckle dusters.

Geoff did not like to store ammo in the OB so instead kept phosphorous grenades and sticky bombs in water proof containers on the edge of the wood near the A44.  He assumes they were cleared away at the end of the war when the OB was decommissioned. They were stored in the cellar at Middle Lightwood Farm, near Cotheridge which belonged to John's father. There are apparently four cellars under Middle Lightwood Farmhouse, where in those days the family used to store wood, potatoes, cider barrels and so on. The explosives were stored near the centre of the cellars, where the steps \Vent down, and where it was particularly dark. They were hidden under old drain pipes and corrugated iron and John recalls that there was boxes and boxes of the stuff, including booby traps, tripwire, timers, etc ...

John remembers they were also issued with knuckle-dusters as well as the revolver and the Fairbairn-Sykes knife. The latter was provided with a sheath and what their patrol did was to cut a slit in their trouser leg so that the sheath could be strapped to their leg. This enabled them to draw their knife much more easily.

Although the normal size of a patrol was seven, the Broadheath patrol was apparently never more than five. John says that the biggest enemy of this patrol was in fact the local Home Guard, who were mostly First World War soldiers in their forties and all "spit and polish". When John left the Home Guard, he used black enamel to paint all the brass buckles and buttons on his uniform, in keeping with his new role, which must have annoyed his former colleagues no end!

The van Moppes supplied a car for use by the patrol. This was a little old Morris 8 which had apparently belonged to one of their wives and onto which all five members of the patrol would be squeezed. Most Sundays, after they had been training, the patrol would go up to the local pub for a drink and there would be the Home Guard who had been on parade and all polished up. The Samson Patrol would turn up in their rubber boots and denims, plastered with clay but according to John, the Home Guard never did find out much about them, although they apparently tried. The rubber boots which John refers to were issued to the Auxiliary Units. He describes them as being really good lace-up boots, which were totally waterproof.

Apparently the van Moppes held post-war reunions of the Worcestershire patrol members at the Shuthonger Hotel, near Tewkesbury.

John remembers going down to the Isle of Wight as a voluntary duty, with the van Moppes brothers. They were supplied with Sten guns, which he remembers as being very temperamental. The volunteer Auxiliers assembled at Bulmers cider factory in Hereford, who were something to do with the organisation. They slept in one of the factory
buildings until 4.00 in the morning when they were picked up in an army lorry and transported to the Isle of Wight.

Here they were accommodated in a Bell tented camp where they slept during the day and then did all-night guard duty. On one occasion they were patrolling a road, at night, with the van Moppes, when they could hear footsteps in the distance and coming towards them. One of the van Moppes brothers said that they must do the job properly, get down in the ditch and when the approaching people came up, he would get up and shout "halt" at which point the rest of the patrol should be ready for action. The two approaching shadowy figures were duly challenged and in the course of jumping out of the ditch, one of the Auxiliers unfortunately slipped, dropped the butt of his Sten gun on to the road surface and the whole magazine was uncontrollably fired off. Nobody was hurt, but the the result was two very frightened soldiers, who had apparently been out of camp visiting local girls. John says that he had never seen anything like the Isle of Wight, where there were dumps of munitions all over the island.



The Mercian Maquis by Bernard Lowry & Mick Wilks, TNA WO199/3389, Hancock data held at B.R.A, Interview with John Boaz & Geoff Devereuxby Mick Wilks in 2000, Dr Will Ward Letters.

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