History of the Ledbury Home Guard, Auxiliary Unit


Herefordshire Patrols


The Auxiliary Units of the British Resistance Organisation were set up as secret resistance units trained for action in response to the threat of German invasion at the start of World War 2. This organisation was the brain-child of Brigadier Colin Gubbins M.C. who was one of the formative number in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1940, and later became its Executive Officer.

In Herefordshire there were six units: ‘Adam’ at Credenhill, ‘Caleb’ at Dinedor Hill south of Hereford, ‘Jacob’ at Warren Wood above Bromyard, ‘Shadrach’ at Coppet Hill near Ross, ‘Meshach’ at Ledbury and ‘Abednego’ at Dinmore Hill north of Hereford as shown on the map above. The Group Leader, covering Adam, Jacob and Meshach patrols, was Captain John ‘Hughie’ Hall fron Holmer Grange.

In Ledbury the local unit, the Meshach Patrol, was based at a hidden underground Operational Base on Wall Hills just west of Ledbury town. The eight man team consisted of Corporal Geoffrey Griffiths from Bosbury, Sergeant Martin Hooton, Ernest (Ernie) Barnett who owned the Wall Hills land, William (Roy) Robinson, Fred Mayo, John Rhys-Thomas, Edward (Ted) Lewis, and Richard (Dick) Mayo.

They took time out from ordinary Home Guard duties to go for special training at Coleshill House near Swindon where their instructions were to report to the local post office in Highworth with a half crown coin and ask to buy five three-ha’penny stamps. The postmistress would ’phone the house to report new trainees to be collected.

They were trained in sabotage techniques the idea being that as German troops spread across the country the Auxiliaries would hole up in the underground hideouts and emerge behind the enemy to harass and generally cause as much trouble as possible. They could handle explosives and anti-personnel mines and learnt techniques for killing by stealth and moving unseen around their patch after dark. It is said that they also had orders to assassinate potential collaborators, people in important positions who might have been used to set up a puppet government under Nazi rule. The names of the people on the lists have, for obvious reasons, never been revealed. The realistic time the Auxiliary Units would be able to keep out of trouble was only expected to be a matter of weeks and they could expect to be shot once captured. Secrecy was absolute even from family and friends and, if invasion had come, they would have quietly slipped away probably never to be seen alive again.

The Home Guard were issued with a manual as part of their training. This was a booklet disguised as HIGHWORTH’S FERTILISERS to resemble an agricultural catalogue. The innocent title covered a handbook on explosives, timing devices and suitable sabotage targets.

Booklet

The Home Guard and Auxiliary Units were provided with British and American weapons.

Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife

Every individual was issued with a Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife. The design was developed by Captains W.E.Fairbairn and E.A.Sykes serving with the Shanghai Police before the war. In November 1940 they made plans with the Wilkinson Sword Company in Sheffield for its mass production. This is the 2nd Pattern design made between 12 August 1941 and the end of 1943.

Enfield Rifle

.30 M1917 (P17) Enfield Rifle
This was an American-modified version of the British .303 calibre Pattern 14 (P14) rifle as used during the First World War. Winchester and Remington produced over half a million weapons each. The magazine held six rimless 30-06 rounds and a red stripe was painted around the stock to remind the user not to load the rimmed .303 Calibre British Service cartridge. Some units were later issued with the:

Winchester Rifle

.22 Winchester Model 74 Semi-automatic Rifle with
Enfield telescopic sight and Parker-Hale silencer
It was to be used as a sniper's rifle and holds up to 20 rounds which are fed from a tube magazine in the stock. This was a popular weapon and many millions were produced.


Tommy gun

.45 Thompson M1928A1 sub-machine gun (Tommy gun)
designed by John T. Thompson who began work on a "trench broom" for
close quarter combat shortly after his retirement from the Army in 1918.


Sten gun

9mm Mark 2 Sten Machine Carbine replaced the Tommy Gun in 1942.
It was produced by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, England
and named by using the initials of its designers, Major R.V.Sheffield
and Mr H.J.Turpin, and adding them to the first two letters of the
factory location. It took 9mm Parabellum ammunition, the same as
that used in German pistols. "Parabellum" was the cable address of
Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken who developed the cartridge.


S&W revolver

Smith & Wesson Model 10, Victory model
.38in calibre 6 shot service issue Revolver.


Mills Grenade
No.36M Grenade (Mills Bomb)
A fragmentation grenade fitted with a 4-second fuse.
The No.5 was patented by William Mills in 1915
and the No.36M was used during World War 2.


The end of the story. In November 1944 General Franklyn, CIC of GHQ Home Forces gave the order to stand down the Auxiliary Units.


Acknowledgments:

Information drawn from the following sources:

Bernard Lowry and Mick Wilks The Mercian Maquis. Logaston Press 2002. ISBN 1 873827 97 0.
http://www.rifleman.org.uk/Winchester_Auto_and_Winder_%20rifles.htm
http://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/sarms.html
http://www.millsgrenades.co.uk/
O.Janson, Gothia Arms Historical Society http://gotavapen.se/index_english.htm

All website links checked 18/06/2009.

© B S Sharples, Bosbury, Herefordshire June 2009