Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Snargate 'Mushroom' Auxiliary Unit Patrol

This page was last updated at 11:29am on 5/9/15

Thank you for selecting information on the Snargate 'Mushroom' Auxiliary Unit Patrol and their Operational Base in Kent. The info and images below have been supplied by CART CIO for Kent, Phil Evans.

Based at Snargate they used the code name Mushroom.

The first I.O for Kent was Grenadier Guards Captain Peter Fleming. He was the man responsible for setting up the Units in Kent under the name of the XII corps Observation Unit. In late 1940 he left and a Royal Fusilier Captain Norman Field then took over as I.O. At some point in Normans command he split Kent in two. West Kent came under the command of Captain George MacNicholl and Norman commanded East Kent. In late 1941 Norman was taken away from the Units and George MacNicholl took over as I.O. for the whole of Kent for the rest of the war.

Beginning half of 1941

DickBody-Mushroom-Fungus-toadstool-men-web

Image supplied by The Dymchurch and District Heritage Group

Patrol Leader  - Dick Body
George Elvy
Bill Brotherwood
Percy Town
Frederick Cottington
Alfred Jemison
Henry Ovenden
Vic Cripps (joined the Patrol later on in the war)

In 1941 Mr Dick Body of Snargate on Romney Marsh was approached by a Captain Allnatt who, like him, had been released from the 468 Searchlight Company, T.A. to resume his civilian occupation. Captain Allnatt said that he could offer Mr Body a job: he couldn't tell him anything about it, but could Mr Body find six more men who had good local knowledge. Mr Body could, and did, and was asked to take his men to The Garth at Bilting, near Wye. After reading and signing;the Official Secrets Act they were told what they had "let themselves in for".

Romney Marsh had three Auxiliary Unit patrols, with a fourth near Court at Street on the chalk escarpment above and to the north of the Marsh. Because of the very high water table on the Marsh, their operational bases (OBs) were built of reinforced concrete, fined with bitumen, by a civil contractor, Corben's of Maidstone, for £300 each.

Each had two entry/exit shafts, in one of which an Elsan closet could be placed; two three-tier bunk beds; bench seats with shelves above and lockers below; a 50-gallon water tank; and a table.

Today this OB remains structurally sound but is completely flooded. It measures 20 foot x 8 foot x 8 foot.

Snargate Auxiliary Unit bunker

(Above - A drawing of the Snargate Auxiliary Unit bunker, which shows the general layout when it was operational. Drawn by Jeremy Cole.)

Norman Field chose the locations for the three O.B’s on the Marsh but only ever saw the one at Snargate being built as he was taken away from the units and Captain George McNicholl took over as Intelligence Officer. Whilst digging the hole to build the O.B. Norman noted that at 7 foot down they came across well preserved compressed braken and a blackened Oak tree lying on its side which he found fascinating being it was from another time long ago!

'The three Operational Bases, designed by Captain Field and built by Corbens of Maidstone, were identical in size, being 20 ft long, 8 ft wide and 8 ft high. The external walls were of reinforced concrete lined with bitumen, and white bricks were used on the inside, with a ventilating downpipe in each corner and three air outlets along the centre of the chamber. There was an entrance at either end, with dwarf walls at the bottom in case the enemy should drop a grenade into the entrance shaft. Iron bars were let into the shaft brickwork to form steps. The entrances had camouflaged wooden covers.'

The Mushroom Patrol at Snargate, with its OB close to the village, was led by Dick Body, a Marsh farmer, who recalls how he came to be involved.

In 1941 I was approached by Capt Allnat, who, like me, had been released from 468 Searchlight Company Territorials to resume civil occupation. He asked me if I was in the Home Guard. On being told yes, he replied 'That does not matter.' He wanted to know.

We would practise with live ammunition, firing against a thick bank, and on one occasion the bank was so hard the bullets ricocheted over the top and a farmworker in the next field shouted 'Oi! These bullets are flying around everywhere!' We also made up a target like a man's head on a string, lay in the dik, and one man would pull on the string so that the head came up and you would use a revolver to fire at it. We would all take it in turns. That was our training with the revolver on a moving target. After a while we were quite good at it.

Romney Marsh Auxiliary Unit & OB

Ammo Dumps, Fuels Dumps, Vehicles

Took place at The Garth at weekends. The Patrol also trained in the area around Snargate and practiced with local military units on the odd occasion.

George Elvy and Dick Body at one of the two entrances to their auxiliary unit bunker at Snargate, 1994.'Dick Body remembers his role as patrol leader in great detail:
Soon the patrols were kitted out and training began at The Garth. Most of the practical work with explosives was done under Capt Field and a Royal Engineer corporal, and for weapon training, field craft, etc. under a Sgt MacDonald and Cpl MacKenzie of the Lovat Scouts. At times we handled captured German weapons so that we had a certain working knowledge of them. We were expected to practise in our own areas what we had learnt at The Garth.

For the first year no importance was put on dress and drill. Various members of patrols went on a weekend course at Coleshill. There everything was intensive, with the first lecture taking place during the Friday evening meal. The officers running the HQ had all their meals with us; at the first meal the colonel sat himself next to me. On the Saturday, lectures and practice went on all day with a night scheme that finished about 1 a.m., more lectures and demonstrations on the Sunday morning: unarmed combat with men from the Army Physical Training Corps, etc. After a quick meal we were trucked to the station and train back.

Every patrol which went to The Garth was marked for competence with explosives, weapon drill, cleanliness of weapons, firing and grenade throwing. After the first selecting round, patrols were graded A, B and C. Mushroom found themselves in C and something had to be done. So all weapons spent Saturday evening on the kitchen table being cleaned before going up to The Garth. As only five points were awarded for full turnout, and twenty for drill and turnout, there were occasional absentees. As a result of gamesmanship, Mushroom climbed by two steps from C to No. 4 in A.

(Image Above - George Elvy and Dick Body at one of the two entrances to their auxiliary unit bunker at Snargate, 1994.)

'Soon we were operational and were issued with quite a lot of material, which we took home so that we could practise and familiarize ourselves with it. The first time or two we handled gelignite very gingerly but soon learnt that all was safe so long as the basic rules were obeyed. We learnt the best places to immobilize tanks, vehicles, destroy stores, interrupt communications and set the various devices off by delay mechanisms, trip wires, etc., one of the important points being to do so in such a way that sabotage would not be too obvious.'

'Each member of the patrol had a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver and a knife as his personal weapons. Each patrol had as well a Thompson machine gun. two .300 Springfield rifles and a .22 Winchester magazine rifle with silencer and telescopic sight. This .22 was particularly for use against guard dogs and perhaps sentries. In 1944 our Thompson gun was withdrawn to send to Denmark and every man was issued with a Sten gun, a weapon they did not think much of; when you squeezed the trigger you did not know how many rounds you might fire.'

Arms per Section (of 7 men)
1 Thompson machine gun
2 Rifles Springfield
2 Bayonets
7 Revolvers
7 Knives (Fighting) & Sheath
48 Grenades
48 A.W. Bombs
3 Rubber Truncheons
2 prs Knuckledusters
15 S.T. Grenades
7 Sten guns (issued later)

Explosives

4 small Aux. Each contained (sealed) in G.S. Tins
2 Fog Signals
12 2 3/4” lengths of match ended Bickford
1 Crimping Tool
6 Striker Boards
2 Boxes non-flaming fuses
1 tube Vaseline
30 Copper Tube Ignitors
6 Spools Trip Wire .032”
6 Spools Trip Wire .014”
1 Coil Adhesive Tape
4 Large Magnets
36 Paraffin Incendiaries
18 1 lb Incendiaries
60 Time Pencils
48 Time Bickford Fuse
30 Time Instantanious Fuse
25 Time Cordtex
22 detonators (2 magazines)
15 lbs Polar Gelignite
12 Sandbags

Nothing Currently.



The quotes on the page are from Edward Carpenters “Romney Marsh at War”. Other info has come direct from Norman Field, Dick Body and the Pillbox Study Group.

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