Read about CART's special event at Tottingon Manor here.
Tottington Manor, at Small Dole in West Sussex, is described as a typical Sussex country
manor house, and is currently used as a small hotel and
However, during the war, it was the regional headquarters for the Auxiliary Units in Sussex.
The Manor had booby traps all over it in case invading Germans took it over. Various ingenious
devices were used, such as hand grenades disguised as coal and left in the coal bucket by the fireplace, and
cut-down bottles with candles in them which were in fact an explosive charge, the wick being the fuse. Green glass
bottles were used so the charge could not be seen. Traps were attached to trip wires on cupboard doors and inside
The Commanding Officer (known as the Intelligence Officer) was based here. The first CO was Captain
J N W Gwynn. He remained in this position until October 1941. Then Captain CFG
Bond took over until July 1942. The next CO was Captain I J Benson; it
is unknown how long he remained in this post, but he was certainly there in February
Captain Benson talking in March 2011 at Tottington Manor.
Also based at Tottington, but not quartered there, were the two scout patrols. These were made up of regular
army personnel, one patrol to cover the east, and the other the west of the county. The scout patrol in the east
was led by Lieutenant William Ashby, with thirteen men
from die Queen's Royal Regiment under him. The western scout patrol was led by Lieutenant Roy Fazan, with thirteen
men from the Royal Sussex Regiment. These patrols were used to help organise and assist in the localised training
of each Auxiliary Unit patrol throughout the county. They remained at Tottington until February 1943, when they had
to leave the Auxiliary Units to rejoin their regiments.
Tottington had various other personnel based there, such as a couple of drivers, two RAF radio operators, a
full-time cook, Sergeant Heasman, who was a clerk in charge of the paperwork, and Sergeant Frank Mayston who was an
explosives expert in the Royal Engineers Auxiliary Unit.
Frank Mayston related his involvement as a Royal Engineer with the Auxiliary Units at Tottington. He was a
builder by trade, and became involved when he helped build the hideout underneath the so-called 'airship hole' in
Kings Wood near Bilting in Kent. He was part of the team of Royal Engineers which included sappers from Hastings
and Eastbourne. However, he never saw this hideout completed, as he was called back to Sussex halfway through its construction. This large
hideout was intended to be used as a communal meeting point for any patrol members in Kent who were on the run.
Compared to an ordinary patrol hideout, it was big, with enough room to sleep a hundred and twenty men, with food
and water stores as well.
On his return to Sussex, Frank Mayston was made a full-time member of the Royal Engineers Auxiliary Unit,
permanently based at Tottington. Initially, he and a few othermen started building, mostly by hand, the hideouts
for the Sussex patrols. They had very limited supplies of building materials, and usually used second-hand wood
from other buildings, besides cutting down trees close to where construction was taking place. He remembers
constructing the Ringmer and Cooksbridge Patrols'
hideouts as well as the latter's lookout.
Tottington Manor had its own underground hideout. This was built by Frank Mayston and a few of
his men, "in their spare time", as he puts it.
Entrance was gained by sliding part of the cellar floor under the foundations of one of its walls. This section
of the floor was, in fact, a piece of wood with the bricks that made up the floor cemented on top of it. After this
was moved, it revealed a three foot drop. Beyond this, a 12 foot long passage led into the main room of the
hideout. This room measured 12 feet by 12 feet and was 8 feet high. It would have contained the bunk beds, food
stores and ammunition. There was a smaller, adjoining L-shaped room which was used as an explosives store and
contained the Elsan chemical toilet. Leading off the main room, another passage carried along for about 12 feet,
then made a right turn and continued on for another 8 feet, terminating at the emergency exit which was in the form
of a 2 feet wide concrete tunnel.
This tunnel is 43 feet long and runs out under the Manor's garden, with its exit disguised as a drain cover. It
was built close to a row of existing drain covers, to help it blend in and disguise its true purpose. The hideout
had electric lights and a water supply. Both of these were tapped from the Manor above. A primus cooker was built
into one of the walls and had a wash basin next to it. In the event of an invasion, this hideout would have been
used by the men based at the Manor.
Take a tour of the Tottington OB with Stewart Angell
They would have received information about German troop movements around the Tottington Manor area from either
of the two underground lookouts which Frank Mayston and his men had dug on the Downs. One of the lookouts was half
a mile to the south of the Manor, and gave a good view of the Manor and its grounds. This lookout had a direct
telephone link with the hideout under Tottington. Laying the telephone wire was a major problem because of the
Poynings to Small Dole road. This was solved by running it along a ditch at the edge of the road and putting it
inside an existing pipe which ran under the road, to get it back to the Manor.
The other lookout was three miles to the east, and looked out onto the roads around Poynings. Both lookouts
measured approximately 8 feet by 6 feet and were dug directly into the chalk, then lined with wood. Each would have
had only one man positioned inside it, with a small amount of food and water. He would have noted down the details
of the German troops and their movements. The nearest lookout would telephone the information back to the men in
the hideout under Tottington. They in turn would have a good idea of targets they could sabotage at night, and what
sort of equipment, such as explosives and detonators, were needed. The men in the lookouts would have been replaced
every twenty four hours when possible, but it was thought that they could have been confined inside their small
holes for anything up to a week at a time.
Tottington Manor was used for weekend training of the Sussex patrols, and inter-patrol competitions were
regularly held there as well. Frank Mayston constructed an assault course in the grounds of the Manor for the
purpose of night-time training. This included such obstacles as trip-wires, a rope over a pond and a chalk cliff
hazard which had to be scaled. This course proved to be very popular with all the patrols. Although Frank Mayston
was initially in charge of constructing various hideouts, he later went on to become an expert in explosives, the
use of which he would teach to patrol members on training weekends.
He devised tests and compiled over 150 questions in the form of three quizzes, to help the men learn the many
different techniques for using plastic explosives. He is still in possession of the quiz papers, and his official training manual which was issued at Coleshill
House. This differed slightly from the 'Countryman's Diary' manual
issued to the patrol leaders. Its cover was green and only had 'Calender
1938' written on it. Inside, it had an additional seven pages, mainly covering several types of booby trap,
including the anti-personnel (AP) switch. The AP switch is described as being a "self-contained booby trap of
considerable nuisance value. When a man steps on it, a bullet passes through his foot and usually re-enters his
person. It will also puncture motor tyres". This device, although available, was never used. The major drawback
would have been recovering the unused switches. The preferred method of removal was to use a garden roller to fire
Frank Mayston would travel to Coleshill House every month to pick up fresh supplies of
explosives which he brought back to be stored at Tottington Manor. These he delivered all over Sussex to each
patrol as they were required. One use for the plastic explosive stored at the manor was for fishing! Apparently,
only a small piece about the size of a golf ball was needed. After the explosive was thrown into the water, the
shock waves from the explosion would stun the fish, which would rise to the surface and then would be fished out
with a net.
Read about CART's special event at Tottingon Manor here.
Stewart Angell is available to give talks in the Sussex area on 'The Secret Sussex
Resistance' covering the sabotage side and 'The Auxiliary Units - Special Duties Section' which covers the