Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Shipton Gorge Auxiliary Unit Patrol

Thank you for selecting information on the Shipton Gorge Auxiliary Unit and Operational Base. The info below have been supplied by our Dorset CIO Dr Will Ward.

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.

 

The patrol was part of Group 6 under Capt LO Brown and Lt J Woodward.

 

Not currently known.

Name Date of Birth  Occupation  Notes Died 
Sgt. Stanley Robert Wordley Axford  27/3/1897      1951
Pte. Albert Edwin Thomas Hansford  8/1/1920  Farmer   2002
Pte. William Frank Battershell  9/9/1899  Farmer   1987
Pte. Harold Norman Axford  14/8/1923   Joined HM Forces May 1943   1980
Pte. Harold H Hansford     5/10/1917   1947
Pte. Arthur George Thorner    2/6/1905    1966 
Pte. Thomas James Roper   4/3/1903   left change of employment July 1943 1961
Pte. W J Northover   
Pte. Joseph Henry Cheney  26/3/1903     left change of employment May 1943   1985
Pte. Leslie Robert Alner   19/7/1921 Farm worker     1990
Pte. Geoffrey G Randall  12/4/1923     discharged June 1943 services no longer required  

Stanley Axford, the patrol leader, was known as 'Pop' to his family, was a veteran of the British expeditionary Force in France. He served with the Royal Engineers between 1914 and 1918, reaching the rank of Lance Corporal.

Albert Hansford was known as Albie and farmed, despite living at the Mason's Arms, the local pub in Shipton Gorge, which his family had occupied since the 1920s. He was the last surviving patrol member and it was only in the last couple of years before his death that the story became more widely known.

William Battershell is listed under the Dorset in the Auxiliary Units nominal roll, despite an address in Thames Ditton in Surrey. Apparently he moved to Shipton Gorge in 1942 and set up Shipton Hill Farm. He didn’t mix much with the villagers, which makes his membership of the patrol all the more surprising. Perhaps he was involved with the early “stay behind” parties organised by MI6 and asked to stay involved on moving to Dorset? There are several examples of Auxiliers moving county but remaining involved within Aux Units.

Leslie Alner, who came from nearby Puncknowle was listed as joining in March 1942 shortly after Harold Axford, who left the patrol for the services just over a year later. Another young man with a similarly short service with the patrol was Geoffrey Randell, though he is simply listed as “Services No Longer Required” after June 1943.

W J Northover was listed on the earliest patrol members list, but doesn’t appear in the handwritten nominal roll ledgers, apparently having died by 1943, though it is not clear if this was the result of confusion with George Northover from Wrackleford Patrol who died in September 1943.

The operational base is reported to have been in Cathole Copse by several correspondents. Members of the Axford family were aware that Stanley went regularly to Cathole Copse late at night for Home Guard duties. Huw Humphries was taken there in the 1980s by a friend to visit a bunker. This had an entrance shaft and an intact chamber, though it is thought this has subsequently collapsed. Reportedly there was another, larger, bunker nearby and actually in Cathole Copse. However a careful search at the time could not locate it. His friend's father had fallen into this second structure as a small boy. It is thought that this may have started out as a stone quarry.

Observation Post/s: Currently unknown. 

This was one of a series of patrols based either side of the A35, then as now, one of the main roads out of the southwest. Presumably the intention was to ambush and delay any German troops landing either on the Dorset coast or further southwest.

There were relatively few military targets otherwise in the area. The closest airfields were some distance away. Shipton Gorge is based on a narrow steep road leading from potential landing beaches at Burton Bradstock up to the main road. It seems likely that demolitions to close this road would have been part of the patrol's tasks.

The patrol would have attended training sessions at the Dorset headquarters at Duntish Court. The Dorset Scout Section would have provided training to the patrol as well.

Geoff Axford recalls that, according to various family members, his grandfather kept explosives at the bottom of the garden. It is likely that the patrol were issued with the standard weapons.

After the war, Stanley Axford was a road foreman for Dorset County Council. He never spoke about his time in Auxiliary Units to his family. He didn’t keep any of his papers or his stand down badge.

National Archives WO 199/3390, 199/3391
Correspondence with Huw Humphries and Geoff Axford, grandson of patrol leader Sgt Stanley Axford
www.dorsetecho.co.uk/announcements/bmdarchive/3316323.HANSFORD/?ref=arc
www.opcdorset.org/ShiptonGorgeFiles/ShiptonGorgeMI.htm
www.geni.com/people/Leslie-Robert-Alner/4526336156540021109
https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X8HP-ZQG
Additional names and dates of death from Ancestry.co.uk

If you can help with any please contact us.