Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

Walls Hills "Mechach" Auxiliary Unit Patrol.

Thank you for selecting information on the Walls Hills "Mechach" Auxiliary Unit Patrol and Operational Base. The info and images below have been supplied by our internal archive and other sources.

This page was last updated at 9:54am ob 14/7/15

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.

Wall Hills is to the West of Ledbury.

Herefordshire formed part of area 19 which also included Worcestershire ( Groups 1a and 1b), 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.

Wall Hills “Mechach” Patrol was part of Herefordshire Group 2 which consisted of six Patrols: Letton (“Adam”), Leominster  (“Abednigo”), Bromyard (“Jacob”), Dinedor (“Caleb”) and Symonds Yat (“Shadrach”) patrols.

Area Group Commander was Captain Geoffrey S E Lacon of Bircher near Leominster
Group commander of these Patrols was Captain J.H.“Hughie” Hall  and Assistant C.Q.M.S. Albert Thomas Pettifer.

Herefordshire, Worcestershire 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. 

Currently unknown though thought to be the latter part of 1940.

Sergeant Martin C G Hooton of Cannon Frome, Ledbury              
Private later Corporal Geoffrey Griffiths of Bosbury
Private Edward G “Ted” Lewis of Ledbury
Private Alfred Harry “Fred” Mayo of Canon Frome. Ledbury
Private Ernest Frank Barnet of Wall Hills, Ledbury (land owner of OB site)
Private William “Roy” Robinson  of Ledbury
Private John Rhys-Thomas of Ledbury     
Private Percy “Dick”  Mayo of Ledbury discharged to join HM Forces.

Neston Capper from Ullingswick was also in the patrol according to Fred Mayo but he did not stay long.

The eldest patrol member was approx 30.

Mechach Auxiliary Unit Mechach Auxiliary Unit 1

Edward LEWIS, Fred MAYO, Ernie F BARNETT (from Wall Hills farm ), Martin C G HOOTON, Geoffrey GRIFFITHS, Roy ROBINSON, John RHYS-THOMAS

Hereford Auxiliers

Back Row - J F RYAN, J RHYS-THOMAS, J B SAINSBURY, W R ROBINSON, N D O CAPPER, G O SAINSBURY, J E POTTER, G MORGAN-JONES, V BEACH-THOMAS

Next Row - J F HARTWRIGHT, E LEWIS, E F BARNETT, L J HODELL, G GRIFFITHS, J TURNER, H E SAINSBURY, E C TISDALE, G P THOMAS, F J HANCORN, G H CHAMBERS

Next Row - D HOWARD-SMITH, A T PETTIFER, M G HOOTON, G S E LACON, J H HALL, F W GREEN, R E HOLFORD, A BECK

Front Row - D T WENT, J CLELAND, W F PUDGE, J THORNTON, E R PRICE, L EVANS, R G H BROOKS, F MAYO

Photograph by VIVIANS

Photos above c/o Brian JONES Collection Album 2 BJ59

[Source: http://www.old-ledbury.co.uk/Military.htm#mil2]

The Operational Base location is on PRIVATE LAND.

The Operational Base for the patrol was sited on the south side of Wall Hills, near the summit, and was accessed from the minor road from Ledbury to Little Marcie. Fred confirmed that the OB had been built by the Army (presumably the Royal Engineers) and was destroyed at the end of the war. The ammunition and explosives store was part of the OB but apparently the contents were "spread about" amongst the members of the patrol, presumably for security. The OB had been built on land owned by Ernie Barnet, who lived at Wall Hills Fann. Fred was not able to be precise about the location of the OB but his general directions equate with those given by his former Auxiliary Unit colleague Roy Robinson, who has been interviewed by Bernard Lowry. There was only the one hide for this patrol which was able to sleep all members at one time on a total of seven tiered bunks. It was well provisioned with tinned food and beer, although Fred could not remember any rum ration being provided. Cooking was undertaken with a primus stove, with lighting by Tilly Lamp.

A chemical toilet was provided. The hide was visited several times a week and they would stay in it for a week at a time during exercises.

Access into the OB was a well hidden metal cover. This was raised by a 'boy scout' mechanism of crank handle, spindle etc. The lid was covered by vegetation. A c.3 sewer pipe which Roy Robinson states led straight for 12 - 15 feet exited under an old yew tree provided the emergency exit.

The local Home Guard tried to find the OB on many occasions but failed. Fred Mayo remembers there being a lot of rivalry between the Home Guard and Aux patrols.

Observation Post: On top of the Hill Fort was an Observation Post linked by a field telephone to the OB.

Walls Hills Fort

Wall Hills Fort
© Copyright Philip Pankhurst and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Walls Hills Fort from the South

Wall Hills fort from the South
© Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Thought to be Ledbury railway tunnel and viaduct.

The patrol trained solely at night and spent much of their exercise time patrolling around the Herefordshire countryside, apparently as far afield as Hereford itself. This was done in pairs and one of his regular partners for this work was Roy Robinson. He was not aware of the patrol having any particular observation points although they would look across the countryside from high points. However Wall Hill itself provides a good vantage point overlooking the main A438 Hereford to Ledbury road to the north and the A449 Trunk Road from Ross on Wye to Ledbury to th south. He confirmed that they also patrolled the Hereford to Ledbury railway line and the around the Ledbury Tunnel, which suggests that these road and rail links from the west towards the West Midlands would have been their operational target areas had there been an invasion.

“Mechach” Patrol held an exercise with the local Home Guard where Ledbury railway station was successfully captured using thunderflashes. They were also taught how to immobilise aircraft by placing explosives on the tail or wing roots.

A local training exercise on Ted Lewis's land saw a large tree blown to pieces. The explosion could be heard at Dick Mayo's coal depot three miles away. A German bomb was blamed.

Hereford Patrols trained at Holmer Grange, the home of Captain“Hughie” Hall. Auxiliers had memories of a large lake with a pontoon bridge over. An exercise was to run over the pontoon with all their equipment, missing the part of the bridge that was primed to collapse. If they didn't fall in, the instructors pushed them in anyway. A stuffed dummy mounted in a doorway was used for silent killing practice.

A competition between all six patrols took place at a farm at Holmer. Each Patrol had to place a magnet with the Patrols name attached on some farm equipment stored in a yard. Getting in and out without being spotted the victor was”Jacob” Patrol. The Patrol trained at Coleshill. Roy Robinson says at Coleshill they slept in a huge barn-like place and was told not to smoke as a million rounds of ammo were below them.

Fred remembers that they had "all sorts", pistols, grenades, a service rifle and explosives. While Fred could not remember any of the munitions being used in practice near Ledbury because it would give their presence away to others, he confirmed that he did attend Coleshill for training in the use of all their equipment. Unlike some of the other Auxiliers in this area he does not recall being issued with or having training in the use of a fighting knife or being instructed in the gruesome practice of disembowelling the enemy! He did however remember driving up to near Newcastle for training, taking Roy Robinson with him in Fred's old Ford car.

Although Fred himself had practiced shooting on a private rifle range in the grounds of Canon Frome Court, it was not used by the Auxiliary Patrol. The property was owned by Colonel Hopton who had shot at Bisley and had his own 1500 yard range at Canon Frome. The Colonel must have thought a lot of his range because apparently Fred had the task of burying him there later!

The Patrol were also issued with dog repellent powder to use against sniffer dogs.

Sergeant Martin Hooton was a schoolmaster who had been evacuated with Felstead School. It was recalled that the atmosphere within the Patrol was very informal and democratic.

Fred Mayo was approached by Mr Hooton to see if he would join the patrol. Fred thought that it was his intimate knowledge of the countryside and the local footpaths which had resulted in him being chosen. Fred's father was the gamekeeper at Canon Frome Court.

“Fred” Mayo was the head groundsman on an estate.
“Dick” Mayo worked for a coal delivery firm but was only in the Patrol a short time as was called up to HM Forces and ended up a tank driver. All the other Auxiliers were farmers.

It was at Coleshill that Corporal Geoff Griffiths managed to get hold of a rooster at 3 o'clock in the morning. Throwing it into the Sergeant's Nissen hut it caused quite a commotion which Griffiths denied all knowledge of.

The Patrol rarely visited the OB, it is thought they only went around once a month. Even so, the local Home Guard were curious as to what the patrol were up to and tried to find the OB without success.

Along with other patrols from around the country some of “Mechach” Patrol were recruited to defend the Isle of Wight in June 1944 during the time of D-Day. They provided a night guard for a military site, although Fred could not remember what the facility was. The guard duty was in pairs, with Fred being paired with either Roy Robinson or Ted Lewis. The patrol travelled down to the coast by coach, before crossing to the Isle of Wight. Fred was not asked to do duty in France.

Here is a story of others experience of D-Day on the Isle of Wight.

Herefordshire patrols had their first reunion dinner on 26th January 1945 at Booth Hall in Hereford.

TNA WO199/3389 & transcripts from Stephen Lewins. Hancock data held at B.R.A. The Mercian Maquis by Bernard Lowry & Mick Wilks, Interview with Fred Mayo & Roy Robinson in 1999 by Mick Wilks, Dr Will Ward.

If you can help with any info please contact us.