William Ingram and the Grange Patrol

William Ingram's headstone

The brief inscription on my uncle’s headstone conveys nothing of his long and varied life:

"In loving memory of William Ingram, farmer, Greenbog, Grange, 1911 – 2001"

It is ironic that Willie acquired a reputation as a witty raconteur and consummate story teller, always ready to regale visitors to the Greenbog kitchen with humorous and original tales. Yet he was uncharacteristically reticent on the subject of his wartime activities.

As the eldest son of a Banffshire farmer he had left school at the age of 14 to work alongside his father, helping to support the rest of the family during the lean years of the Depression. Although his interests extended far beyond the world of agriculture, the farm routine kept him close to home and, as he worked the fields with the horses, he gained an intimate knowledge of the immediate locality where generations of his ancestors had laboured before him. He supplemented the family income by learning land surveying, a skill which brought him into frequent contact with farmers in the neighbourhood and increased his familiarity with the local landscape.

Willie never married, but continued to run the farm after his father’s death, while his sister Kate kept house at Greenbog. There was a constant stream of visitors, the favoured ones being invited to take a seat at the fireside and give an opinion on Willie’s latest bottle of malt (from which a generous dram was offered), while he recounted all kinds of weird and wonderful stories.

Having been brought up in England, I regret that my opportunities to visit Greenbog were few and far between, though they were the highlight of any trip to Banffshire. It was soon after moving to the Swindon area that I remember Willie mention having made a train journey to Swindon during the war, in order to attend a training course at Coleshill House near Highworth. At the time, few details were forthcoming, but not long afterwards I happened to see a TV programme which revealed the existence of the Auxiliary Units and it dawned on me that this was Willie’s untold tale. In the last years of his life he spoke a little more freely about his experiences, but in his normal unassuming way, he couldn’t really see why anyone should be interested in his own personal story.

Willie lived to the ripe old age of 89 without revealing more than a few snippets about his service with the Auxiliary Units. It was more than two years after his death that an old school register was discovered among the papers in his desk at Greenbog. It had been used to record the activities of the Auxiliary Units Grange Patrol, in which Willie held the rank of Sergeant, and it covered a period of almost 3 years, from November 1941 until August 1944. The local primary schoolmaster, George Fisher, had seen active service during WWI and, as Lieutenant of the Grange Patrol, may well have been the instigator of the log book. Its very existence would seem to be in direct contravention of official policy, but given the dearth of written material about the Auxiliary Units, we have every reason to be grateful to Lieutenant Fisher.

Grange Patrol Log Book

Each entry in the log book relates to a meeting of the Grange Patrol, recording its date and time, as well as a brief summary of the activities undertaken and a list of those present. Members were identified by surname alone, presumably as a concession to concerns regarding security. Nevertheless, it has been possible to identify each individual involved:

Lieutenant George Fisher: headmaster at Crossroads primary school, Grange

Sgt Willie Ingram, farmer at Greenbog, Crossroads. DOB: 9 Dec 1911

Cpl. Sandy Pirie, farmer’s son from Little Clerkseat, Grange. DOB 1919 approx

Pte. Donald Cruickshank, farmer at Starhill, Crossroads. DOB 1919 approx

Pte. John Irvine, farm worker at Stripeside, Grange. DOB 1920 approx

Pte. John Robertson, farm worker at Myrietown, Grange. DOB August 1921

Pte. Jimmy Munro, farm worker at Gordonstown, Grange. DOB 1922 approx

Pte. Jock Henderson, farm worker at Berrylees, Grange. DOB 1919 approx

Pte. Jock Reid, farm worker at Floors, Grange. DOB 1910 approx

I was thrilled to discover that of the two surviving members of the group, one – John Robertson - is still living close by and on learning of the existence of the log book, John very kindly agreed to pass on some of his own recollections.

John recounts that Willie Ingram would have been responsible for recruiting the patrol members, some of whom were already active in the Home Guard. Willie himself was almost certainly selected by George Fisher for his valuable knowledge of the local terrain and contacts in the farming community. John adds that, with his previous army background "George Fisher knew exactly how to get hold of any equipment or ammunition that was required" and the Grange Patrol were never short of materials for training.

On the occasion of Willie’s trip down to Coleshill, he was accompanied by John Robertson and Donald Cruickshank. John recalled that their training had taken place in March 1942, which is supported by the entries in the log book indicating their absence on 24th March. The exceptionally cold weather made a lasting impression, as John still hadn’t forgotten the chilly train journey sixty years later! To make matters worse, the trio were unable to get seats and were forced to stand for much of the way. However, they did have the opportunity for a few hours’ sightseeing in London, where they witnessed at first hand the devastation which followed the Blitz.

Whenever joint exercises took place with other local groups it was necessary to arrange transport for everyone, and it was John who acted as driver. However, the vehicle provided, a Ford 8, was not the most reliable: the engine had a tendency to fail, its top speed was no more than 30 mph and the lights were very poor, being powered by a 6 volt supply. One one occasion when they were required to attend an evening event at Blairmore (the local HQ near Huntly), Jock Reid had to sit in the passenger seat and use a torch to illuminate the road ahead, while John Robertson drove to Blairmore and back. Returning from another exercise at Darnaway, near Forres, John recalls that only the sidelamps were working and it was only by opening the windscreen that he was able to see the road clearly.

Training exercises were held in conjunction with the regular army at Aswanley, a short distance from the Blairmore HQ. During one of these weekend camps, John Robertson was given the job of preparing the fire for cooking but was unable to find any suitable kindling material. At the suggestion of Lt. Fisher, a paraffin incendiary was used - with predictably dramatic results!

Roehill OB entrance

John was able to give an approximate location for the site of the Operational Base used by the Grange patrol. The original base was on the north edge of the Gallowhill wood, but the structure deteriorated to such an extent that in late 1943 a second OB was constructed near Roehill. Both of these bases are described by John as ‘elephant shelters’, with a corrugated iron roof built into a hole in the ground. Entry was by means of a trap door consisting of a wooden box about 60cm square, camouflaged with earth and heather, with a ladder leading down into the body of the shelter. Inside were bunks for each member of the patrol and a small primus stove for cooking. Ventilation was poor and John remembers that patrol members were almost overcome by fumes on one occasion when the interior of the Roehill base was being painted. Concrete pipes about 60cm in diameter provided an exit from the base, emerging some distance away among whin bushes. According to John, the look-out post was rarely used and strangers would have stood no chance of detecting the whereabouts of the OB.

Roehill OB interior

Today there are no visible traces of the Gallowhill OB: trees have been felled in this area and a new farm access road has been built. However, we were fortunate in being able to pinpoint the Roehill OB and although part of the roof has given way (probably in the entrance area) it is quite unmistakable, with bunks still visible in the body of the shelter. Together with the scruffy school book which lay hidden in Willie Ingram’s desk, it holds the key to an almost forgotten episode in the history of Grange.

As a unique document, the Grange patrol log book manuscript has now been placed with the Museum of the British Resistance Organisation at Parham. However, a transcription of the log book is available on this website.

The Patrol



Donald Cruickshank

John Irvine


Sandy Pirie

John Robertson


Jimmy Munro


Willie Ingram




Capt. Gordon- Lennox

Capt. Cochrane


George. Fisher




With the exception of Capts. Gordon-Lennox & Cochrane, all named individuals belonged to Grange patrol.

Alison Smith



Alison has followed her discovery of the Grange Patrol Log Book with some more interesting documentation. She has kindly copied and transcribed a set of notes used to test Auxiliers on map and field work.

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