Notes on the Bath Patrols
Bob .Millard. 1940
ContentsIntroductionLocal Auxiliary UnitsAdmiralty Patrols Colonel Colin Gubbins was placed in charge (1).
The units in this organisation were called Auxiliary Units, a term used within the armed forces but having no specific connotation. The country was divided into three administrative battalions, 201 covering the North of England and Scotland, 202 East Anglia and the South East and 203 covering the West Country and Wales. Within these areas patrols of between three and six men were recruited from people with a good knowledge of the area. Before being approached individuals were carefully vetted and, on acceptance, had to sign the Official Secrets Act. Each member received training in guerrilla tactics and the use of explosives at Coleshill Manor, Highworth, near Swindon (2).
Each patrol had designated targets and was to operate from a specially prepared hideout. Owing to the secret nature of this organisation few factual records appear to exist but current estimates give the numbers of guerrillas trained as being between three and five thousand.
As well as the operational units a clandestine signals network was also set up with the aid of the Royal Signals (3). Many operators were women. Hearsay evidence from an A.U. reunion suggests that it is possible one centre was in Queen’s Square, Bath.
Captain Ian Fenwick commanded Somerset Auxiliary Units from 28, Monmouth Street, Bridgewater. This H.Q. later moved to The Lodge, Bishop’s Lydeard, near Taunton. Stores were held at Bishop’s Lydeard. Further organisational details can be found in Donald Brown’s book, “Somerset versus Hitler” (4).Brigadier Major compiled the following figures from his personal diaries and they give an indication of the extent of the operational side of the Somersetshire Auxiliary Units in 1942. Figures taken from "The Last Ditch" (2).
Although the Auxiliary Units had no operational connection with the Home Guard this document lists names under the local Home Guard battalion numbers, possibly for security reasons so that Auxiliary Units would not be separately identified. Bath had two groups; a City group listed under 5th. Bath City Bn. and an Admiralty group listed under 6th. Bath Admiralty Bn.
Swainswick PatrolThis patrol had its hideout in the south comer of Bare Wood just below the Gloucester Road (GR753695). John Shackell, patrol member and nephew of M.T.Shackell, confirms this location. The major objective for the patrol was Colerne airfield. The following are known members of the patrol:-
Cyril James CryerHenry George Davis
George Henry PowWooley
Malcolm Thomas Shackell, CaptMoved from Down Farm to Manor Farm, Swainswick, 1941
John Campbell TaylorCharmydown Farm
Bathampton PatrolThis patrol had its hideout in one of the stone mines on Hampton Rocks (GR778651). Although the adjacent area has changed through collapse the original entrance can still be distinguished (2005). This was just large enough for a person to squeeze through before it opened up into a cavern and was camouflaged by a stone slab. The objectives for this patrol were the railway junction at Bathampton and Claverton Manor, if occupied by the Germans. Secondary areas for possible sabotage were the engine sheds at Green Park station and Colerne airfield. The following are known members of the patrol :-
Anthony Bentley Hunt"Santa Maria" Beckford Villas, Bathwick. Joined 1940
John DenningKensington. Joined 1940
Arthur Jac Giles, SgtTadwick. Sgt after J Wyld. Joined 1941
Arthur C. C. HannahWidecombe Hill, Joined late in 1941
Gordon JamesFirst Avenue, Oldfield Park. Joined 1942
John Michael Jonesayesfield Place, Bear Flat. Joined 1940
Robert Winckworth Millard17, Rockffe Avenue, Bathwick. Joined1940
John Garnet Wyld, Sgt42,Bathwick Street. Original Patrol Sergeant who formed the patrol and located its hideout
Besides its hideout the patrol had an arms/explosives dump in what had been the explosives store of a disused quarry on the edge of Claverton Down, near the top of Widcombe Hill (GR769639). This store was damaged in the raid of 26 April 1942 and its contents were then transferred to Manor Farm, Swainswick.
This patrol had its hideout at the north end of a field called Long Pear Tree that is near Weston village, Bath. The grid reference is GR716670. This has been confirmed by John Osborne of Lansdown Grange who remembers being out shooting with his father in 1941 and seeing two men emerge from a hole in a bank. The following are known members of the patrol:John Goddard
Nurseryman/Market gardener, Lansdown Vale, Dean Hill Lane, Weston.Maurice Chubb
Manor Farm, Weston.John Shelley
Possible members are,
(As a point of interest I played rugby in the H.G. team with John Goddard but never knew he was an Auxilier! RWM)
Englishcombe PatrolThis patrol had its hideout in Kilkenny Wood (Middle Wood), Englishcombe. It was an Elephant Shelter buried in the bottom right hand corner of Middle Wood (GR 727617) close to Kilkenny Cottages. Today (2003) the O.B. is partially collapsed, overgrown with thorn bushes and contains a badger set. The following are known members of the patrol: -
Robert Samuel LaneFarm worker for Don Wyatt at Woodlouse and Manor Farm, Englishcombe.
Frederick R.H.MeddickFarm worker for George Date. Lived at Kilkenn Cottages, Englishcombe.
Frederick PeachFarm worker/shepherd for Don Wyatt at Woodleaze and Manor Farms, Englishcombe.
William Donald Wyatt, SgtFarmer of Woodleaze and Manor Farms, Englishcombe.
Possible member.William Burton
Lived in Coronation Avenue, Bath and was very Active in H.G. activities involving Don Wyatt.Tim Wray, Researcher into Somerset A.U.s, who obtained it from Mr. L.Wyatt, Manor Farm, Englishcombe, supplied this information.
Southstoke PatrolAlthough Donald Brown (4) attributes the Southstoke hideout to an Admiralty patrol it would appear to have been used by a patrol under the command of Captain M.Shackell. In an article by Jacqueline Williams in the Star July 12 2000 she refers to a Len Marsh as a patrol member. A Leonard Richard Marsh appears in the PRO File WO 199/3390 under the 5th Bath City Bn. Research by Tim Wray has located the patrol hideout at the bottom of Rowley Valley in Hoshill Wood, GR 744607. This has been confirmed by patrol member L.K.Weeks.. The following are known to be members of the patrol:
Henry Arthur Brown, Sgt.Head gardener at Sulis Manor, Odd Down. Lived at Rose Cottage, Southstoke.
P.ChambersStudent, Monkton Combe College.
Leonard Richard MarshFarm labourer/manager. In charge of dairy business at Manor Farm, Southstoke.
Lionel Kenneth.Weeks Cpl.Edward Weeks
Donald Brown (4) mentions a possible base in Milsom Street, Bath. Conversations with Mevyn Powney, Midsomer Norton Patrol, who visited premises in Milsom Street, suggest that this was not an OB but a meeting place for patrols under Captain Shackell’s command. This venue has been identified as a shop known at the time as Mary’s Gown Shop. This is supported by the fact that Sgt. J Giles of the Bathampton Patrol, who lived in Tadwick (the village next to Swainswick where Captain Shackell lived), married the daughter of the owner.
Personal notes on the Bathampton PatrolOne weekend in September 1940 the Bathampton H.G. Platoon was put on standby at its post near the Dry Arch on the Warminster Road because of the fear of an imminent invasion. It was during the stand to that I had my first experience of Auxiliary Units. Late in the Saturday evening a small explosion occurred in the wood behind the post and a person in H.G. uniform, who was talking to the officer in charge, remarked that the sentries were not much good as he had just blown up the post. This was my first encounter with the time pencil, a delayed action fuse with which I later became very familiar. A week or so later I was approached by Anthony Bentley Hunt, another member of the platoon, who asked me whether I would like to join something more lively than the Home Guard. I agreed and he took me to meet a John Garnet Wyld who lived at 42, Bathwick Street. I was questioned thoroughly about myself, my relatives and my geographical knowledge of the area and then told to come back in a week. When I returned I was sworn to secrecy and told about the Auxiliary Units. J.G.Wyld was the initial patrol sergeant with J.W.Denning, J.M.Jones, A.Bentley Hunt and myself being the other members. A.C.Hannah and G.James joined later. I never knew how A.Bentley Hunt was contacted by the A.U.s. JG.Wyld was replaced as sergeant by J.Giles from Tadwick in mid-1941.
The patrol would meet two evenings a week and at weekends for training and construction work on the operational base (O.B.). Initially meetings were more frequent to get the O.B. into a habitable condition. Training took two forms, familiarisation with the area and practice with explosives and sabotage devices. Familiarisation involved walking the area time and time again until each gap in the hedge, barn, and possibly hiding places became familiar. It also involved the urban area to find where each alley lead or where a short cut might be taken.During these excursions we were delighted to discover the O.B.s of two Admiralty patrols, one in the wood above the Warminster Road and the other in Prior Park. We also familiarised ourselves with the old stone mines under Combe Down. Other exercises were to lie up in the grounds of Claverton Manor to observe the movements of the military and to thoroughly explore the local railway to determine where demolition charges might be placed. Explosives training took place in the remoter areas of the woods lining the Limpleystoke Valley. This was limited because of the noise and to conserve stocks. J.G.Wyld was, I believe, a quarryman; in any case he was very knowledgeable in the use of explosive and the construction of basic charges. We were supplied with plastic explosive and gelignite together with delay fuses (time pencils) and pull and pressure switches to construct booby traps (5). We also received training from the army at Coleshill Manor near Swindon, the A.U.s’ H.Q., where we were instructed in field craft, explosives and booby traps. I went there twice. Instructions would be received to report to the postmistress at Highworth and on arrival she would examine your orders and then telephone Coleshill who sent transport for you, thus keeping the exact location of the base secret.
The site of our operational based had been chosen by J.G.Wyld and was in one of the old stone mines on Hampton Rocks and, as we discovered later, close to the site of an Admiralty patrol’s O.B. Although the terrain has changed considerably since 1940 through collapse and weathering the site can still be identified (see illustrations and map). The entrance to the O.B. was a narrow opening just large enough to wriggle through and about six or eight feet long. The entrance opened onto a scree slope and a large cavern with side tunnels. A stone slab cut so that it could be positioned either from the inside or outside and which blended in with the rock fall camouflaged the entrance. A living area was partitioned off using the copious fallen stone in a way that simulated the sloping scree of previous collapses. Once the entrance and interior had been organised the O.B. was only visited occasionally to ensure it had not been discovered and to avoid making tracks. Tell tale markers were left to indicate if anything had been disturbed. In those days rabbits were plentiful and we would collect fresh droppings to scatter about to disguise any route taken. We had a few weekends living in the O.B. to check our ability to obtain water from a nearby spring and to see if cooking smells were detectable. A few heavy items such as Mills bombs were wrapped in tarpaulin and buried in the O.B., detonators were not left with them.We operated on the assumption that we would get a few hours notice of the need to assemble at the O.B.; a code phrase, “the sun is rising” would be the signal. We all had personal knapsacks packed ready, access to a small van that was rarely used and a gallon of petrol. The plan was that when the alert was received two of the patrol would collect the van and travel via Widcombe Hill to the top of Bathwick Hill. From Bathwick Hill a bridle track ran to a small copse near the reservoir on Hampton Down, a few minutes from the O.B. Here the patrol would rendezvous, the others having made their way on foot to the O.B., checked it out and dumped their personal kit. A couple of dry runs showed that this worked all right.
As far as weapons were concerned we started with two .30 06 Springfield rifles and in early 1941 a Thompson sub-machine gun was issued together with a personal pistol and Fairburn fighting knife. I had a 5” barrel .38 calibre Smith and Wesson pistol. We also made “punch knives” which we carried in the slot intended for a cleaning rod on the webbing holster. (See illustration). I recall going a couple of times to a military firing range, possibly near Warminster, for range practice.
An Exercise against Colerne airfieldIn the autumn of 1941 (as far as I can remember) we were instructed to undertake a sabotage exercise against aircraft parked near the perimeter of R.A.F. Colerne. We were given no further briefing except that it was to take place in the early hours of Sunday morning. Four of the patrol took part and as we had previously reconnoitred this area in the vicinity of the Vineyards we thought we had a good idea of the lie of the land. Our plan was to approach the target area as a patrol and then work in pairs. A signal was prearranged for identification, the Morse letter X (dah dit dit dah), as it could be whispered, tapped or flashed on the pencil torches we carried. We made our rendezvous at the Three Shire Stones on the Bannerdown Road and with John Giles in the lead we skirted Westwood Farm into a small valley and then followed a brook up the rising ground towards the road. On reaching the high hedgerow John signalled us to stop and crawled ahead. However, unknown to us a Lewis gun emplacement had been built below the road and John was spotted. There was a loud shout, “We’ve got one of them” and the sound of a noisy struggle from John. We lay doggo until the noise moved up to the road then crept cautiously forward and discovered a sand-bagged gun pit which, to our surprise, was empty except for a Lewis gun and a couple of magazines As John was creating confusion on the road we were able to remove the gun and leave in its place a ten minute delay fuse and detonator. We then crawled along under the hedge to a cart track leading to the road from where we could see several people standing in the road and also a small truck. We set up the gun to cover the road and contemplated how best to cross to gain access to the airfield perimeter. In the event it was made easy for us, as there was a shout, ”The bloody gun’s gone.” which distracted the group on the road and, briefly afterwards, the detonator went off. The ensuing confusion allowed us to roll across the road into the garden of the Vineyards but unfortunately we had to leave our trophy behind. In the garden cover was provided by a runner bean fence and as we lay there we observed a person approach the door of the Vineyards, knock, pause, and then enter. Later two figures emerged, one of which was John, still protesting, and the other who appeared to be an unarmed escort. They entered an outbuilding and as when the door was opened no light showed we assumed they were the only occupants. As there was no one in the garden area it was simple to move up to the door and knock the Morse letter X on it to alert John. The escort opened the door and was bowled over by us onto a bunk bed. Under the bed we discovered two boxes of Mills grenades so we took a couple each. Leaving one to watch the escort three of us moved towards the door of the Vineyards, again quite easy, as there was no one in the vicinity. Having previously observed someone knock, pause and enter we tried the same tactic and were greeted with a loud “Come” which we did in a mad rush. Inside were a captain, a flight sergeant and an officer with a white umpire’s armband on. We claimed to have overwhelmed the office an as we had coshes, fighting knives and the stolen Mills bombs the umpire agreed. Almost at once there was a knock on the door. John signalled to us to stand either side of the door and then shouted, “Come” and flung the door open. In stepped a corporal who said,” Escort for the prisoners, sir” and then we jumped him. The umpire asked what we would do now. We showed him the Mills bombs and said we would lob these at the escort and onto the road, leave onto the airfield by the rear door after damaging the telephone and leaving a bomb to explode in the office. He agreed we had a chance of getting onto the airfield so we told them where the Lewis gun was and, leaving the bombs on the desk, began our five-mile walk home. (For the consequences of this incident see R.W. Bennet's letter.)
There were five Admiralty patrols, No.1 Kelston Park, Kelston, No.2 Langidge, No.3 Warminster Road, No. 4 Prior Park and No.5 Newton Park, Newton St.loe. They were commanded by Captain Leonard Arthur Aves with Lt.Jeffery George Spearman and 2nd Lts. George Richard Hutchings and Ivor MacG Phillips as the other officers. (Lt. Spearrman was later promoted to Captain and Sgt. Frank Bradbury to 2nd. Lt.).
Kelston Park. This was the base for No.1 Patrol and, according to W.H. Leigh, a member of this patrol; the O.B. was situated in the Ice House at the top of the stone steps leading down into the wood, GR701662. Known members of the patrol are,J.G. Cutler Sgt.
Replaced by F.BradburyFrank Bradbury Sgt.
D.F.Stevenson L/Cpl.William H. Leigh
William HailstoneNorman Williams
Edward BamseyDouglas Owen
Later promoted Sergeant of No.2 Patrol.N.J.James
Langidge. This was the base for No2 Patrol, confirmed by patrol member G.R.Hatchard. Royal Engineers completed the base in 1943, G.R.738688. The following are known members of the patrol:C.A.Trowell Sgt.
Replaced by D.L.Owen.DouglasL.Owen Sgt.
Patrick John BarrettKenneth P Cleary
George Richard M. HatchardW.F.Emmerson
Warminster Road. This was the base for No.3 Patrol, and was located near the point where a stream descending from Hampton Rocks meets the bridle track from the Warminster Road to Claverton Manor, G.R. 780652. Water was supplied from the stream by a beer pump purchased from Bowlers in Bath. Location confirmed by W.J.G.Dennis. Known patrol members are :
Eric Roscola L/Cpl
Walter John D.DennisNormanW.S.Baker
Prior Park. The icehouse in the grounds of Prior Park was the base for No.4 Patrol, G.R.761635. R.W.Bennet who was the sergeant of this patrol refers this to in his notes on the Admiralty patrols (see later) H.Banham also confirms this location. It can be identified from the path by the proximity of a Yew tree. The following are known members of the patrol:Robert William Bennet Sgt.
The BEM was awarded for duties during the Blitz on Bath 26 April 1942Harry Banham
Newton Park. This was the base for No.5 Patrol, G.R.687641, before this the patrol used the old mineshaft at Pennyquick, G.R.714645, but this tended to flood. This location is confimed by Stanley F.Phillips, a patrol member. For transport the patrol acquired a large Canadian Essex Terraplane car that couls accommodate seven persons. S.F.Phillips was its custodian/driver. The following are confirmed members of this patrol:Leonard Arthur Aves Captain
Ivor MacG Phillips Sgt.Later promoted to 2nd Lt. Awarded the BEM for duties during the blitz on Bath, 26 April 1942.
Norman E Shepherd L/Cpl.Promoted to Sergeant following I.M.Phillips’ promotion.
Stanley F.Phillips L/Cpl.Edwin A.Steane
A. N. Armstrong *
The names of the Bath patrol members have been confirmed by surviving patrol members, The membership of the Admiralty patrols comes from surviving patrol members and a list giving the results of a pistol competition. The apparently large number of members of a patrol is due to the fact that the majority were young and called up (Ken Cleary joined the Marines in 1942) whilst others were transferred within the Admiralty and replaced with new members (W.H.Leigh was sent to Gibraltar in 1942).
In addition to the operational bases listed above the Admiralty patrols had one central explosives/arms store. This was situated in an out building of the Royal School, Lansdown Road, GR745665. According to Harry Banham a second store was built into the bank of the car park on the Ensleigh establishment.
* Arthur Noel Armstrong, information provided by his daughter Val Newman, Oct 2023Previous / Next
Return to Auxunit News