Aug 012016

Coleshill Fire 1This morning our Coleshill researcher Bill Ashby visited the site and spoke to the fire crew and National Trust site management.Coleshill Fire 2
Luckily the fire was held back and did not spread into the end house. By entering the Commandants Offices and making a hole in the ceiling of the Typists room the Fire service were able to pour water on the fire without causing any other damage. This meant the fire was kept to the section we know as the “Accommodation Block”.

The cause of the fire is still being examined.

Jul 312016

More than 50 firefighters and eight fire engines were called out to the blaze at GHQ Coleshill, at about 04:30 am this morning.

Crews were forced to work in “arduous conditions” but managed to stop the fire spreading to the rest of the building.

Group manager Kerry Blair said: “This severe fire has devastated a family-run business.”

He praised the “tireless” work of fire crews from Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and said they were working with police, paramedics, Southern Electric and the Environment Agency.

“Fire crews will be on scene all day damping down, and representatives from National Trust are already in attendance to manage the welfare of their tenants,” Mr Blair added.


CART Coleshill Office Corridor 2‘It is well known that the Admin offices which adjoin the building which burnt down are in a terrible state and largely full of junk (Left). It’s a credit to the fire service that they have managed to save these buildings which the National Trust hope to one day restore.’ says Tom Sykes, Founder and Webmaster of the British Resistance Archive.



stable yard from above-ts

The image above shows the main building that has been destroyed. The upstairs rooms were used by the Auxiliers to sleep in when they were training onsite. See a video of the inside the admin offices here. 

W-Coleshill_fire_Sot from ITV News Meridian on Vimeo.

Jul 192015

Today we filmed a unique event. 12 vintage fighter planes flying over GHQ Coleshill.

This was part of the centrepiece of the 2015 Royal International Air Tattoo and their official commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The planes billed to fly were,

Hurricane IIc PZ865
Hurricane LF363
Hurricane R4118
Hurricane llb BE505
Hurricane AE977

Spitfire II P7350
Spitfire IX MK356
Spitfire LF.XVI TE311
Spitfire Vb AB910
VS Spitfire XVI
VS Spitfire XVI
Spitfire PR.XIX
Spitfire IX MK912
Spitfire IX MH434
Spitfire 1 P9374
Spitfire 1 N3200

It is unclear exactly which ones flew over us.

Jul 142015

Margaret Jackson, who has died aged 96, was entrusted with many of Britain’s wartime secrets in her role as principal secretary to the first Commander of Aux Units & later Special Operations Executive (SOE), Brigadier (later Major-General Sir) Colin Gubbins.

Margaret JacksonIn 1940 Margaret Jackson was working for the Royal Institute of International Affairs when she was interviewed by Gubbins. He was looking for a French-speaking secretary and she joined him in Paris, where he headed the mission to liaise with resistance groups run by the Polish and Czech authorities in exile.

In Paris she was a secretary to No 4 Military Mission before being recruited to Military Intelligence Research (MIR), a small department of the War Office. After the German breakthrough, on June 17, with the French surrender imminent, she escaped from St Malo on a hospital ship and got back to England.

In London, having reported to MIR, she was told that Gubbins had been directed to form the Auxiliary Units, a clandestine civilian force which would operate behind German lines if Britain were invaded. She worked for him first in Whitehall and then at a country house in Wiltshire.

Promising recruits were found in the Home Guard and organised into patrols. They were trained in the use of explosives, including Molotov cocktails. Specially prepared hide-outs were found in woods and farm buildings, and Margaret Jackson personally took a hand in selecting these for members of the units.

In November, Gubbins was seconded to SOE, which had recently been established to wage guerrilla warfare in Nazi-occupied countries and, in Churchill’s words, to “set Europe ablaze”. Priority was given to cutting enemy communications and subverting their morale. After paramilitary training, students completed a parachute course at Ringway (now Manchester airport). Selected agents might then be sent to learn sabotage techniques or to be trained as radio operators. In early 1941 a group of so-called “finishing schools” was set up in the New Forest to provide general training in clandestine operations. SOE had its headquarters in Baker Street. Having outgrown two gloomy family flats in an apartment building, it moved to a modern office block. In the autumn of 1940 and the winter of 1940-41, everyone was working almost around the clock, and many of the staff slept in their offices. All had cover stories to match the work that they were doing, and the necessity to keep the organisation secret made it very difficult to take on new recruits.

When Gubbins and Margaret Jackson first arrived, there was not a single radio set operating in Occupied Europe. By the summer and autumn of 1941, however, more than 60 agents had been dispatched to north-west Europe, nearly half of them to France.

Gubbins was proving to be the linchpin of the organisation, and in November his responsibilities were widened: French, Belgian, Dutch, German and Austrian sections were added to the Polish and Czech sections for which he was already responsible.

Margaret Jackson’s already heavy workload increased correspondingly. Her role was to coordinate the work of the senior secretaries who had to wrestle with multiple carbon copies and manual typewriters. With large bundles of telegrams being the lifeblood of the organisation, she sifted and annotated them for Gubbins, who would read them and pass them on to section heads. Security was a priority. Posters on the wall warned against careless talk and the danger of informers. Every night papers had to be locked up or shredded, and diaries and blotters removed. In September 1943 Gubbins became executive head of SOE, and Margaret Jackson regarded him as a born leader. For his part, he was not afraid to delegate responsibility to her and to other members of his very competent staff; he would not countenance any form of discrimination against women.

SOE had to survive setbacks, mistakes, betrayals, intrigues and constant efforts to remove its independence. The battle with Whitehall for scarce resources was, at times, almost as fierce as the fight with the Germans. The “Baker Street Irregulars” were, however, buoyed up by an unshakeable conviction that eventually the war would be won.

Margaret Wallace Jackson was born in London to Scottish parents on January 15 1917 and was brought up in Argentina, where her father was in business. She was educated at home by a governess until the age of 13, when she was sent to a Methodist school in England, where the family returned to live after her father’s death in 1934.

When SOE was disbanded in 1946, Margaret Jackson was appointed MBE. She joined the Allied Commission for Austria in Vienna and took notes at the quadripartite meetings. She subsequently joined the Organisation of European Economic Co-operation in Paris and worked as its deputy secretary for about four years.

Margaret Jackson believed that many in Britain underestimated the miracle of Franco-German reconciliation. She was a passionate advocate of European unity and reconstruction, and regarded this period of her life as immensely satisfying.
She returned to England in 1952 and, having joined the Foreign Office, was posted to Melbourne in Australia as an information officer. There she became involved in Moral Re-Armament, a movement that was gaining traction among dockside workers at a time of considerable industrial strife.

When she was told to sever her association with MRA on the ground that she was dabbling in politics, she refused; the matter was dropped, but she subsequently resigned and returned to England. Back in London, she worked in a number of secretarial jobs, including nine years as PA to the secretary of the Malaysian Natural Rubber Producers’ Research Association. For eight years she served as a Conservative councillor for the London borough of Southwark.

She retired to a Methodist home at Croydon. The Imperial War Museum has a recording of an interview that she gave about her time with SOE.

Margaret Jackson was unmarried. One of her three sisters, Patricia, married Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador to the UN (1960-64) and to the United States (1965-69); another, Elisabeth, was the wife of Lord Roskill, the Law Lord.

Margaret Jackson, born January 15 1917, died June 2 2013

[Source: Telegraph]

Mar 232014

We are very sad to say that Ted Jefferies has passed away. He left us on Friday 21st March at his home in Highworth.

Ted was a Boy Scout during WW2. Too young to enlist, his war was spent in the rural market town of Highworth.

Ted was recruited to his role as a secret messenger for the Auxiliaries. Too young to sign the Official Secrets Act, he had to give the Scout’s oath as he was sworn to secrecy. As a Boy Scout, he was unlikely to attract suspicion or attention from the invading Nazis, but his uniform was easily identifiable by those agents who trained at Coleshill.

On 25.3.14 we spoke to BBC Wiltshire about Ted. Here the short interview here

Read about Ted’s amazing wartime role here

Mar 182014

Bob Millard  1923 – 2014

Bob Millard

It is with a very heavy heart that we have to report the death of Bob Millard, who died peacefully on Saturday.

Bob was a member of the Bathampton Patrol in Bath and had a huge influence on the campaign to get Auxiliary Unit veterans the public recognition they so richly deserved. He helped to shape and inspire the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) and all it’s researchers.

Bob’s route into the Auxiliary Units started at the outbreak of war, when he reported to the local fire station in September as a messenger before, in the summer of 1940 joining what was then called the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), which soon became the Home Guard. It was during his time in the Home Guard that Bob had his first experience of the Auxiliary Units, but on this occasion he was on the receiving end, when a member of an existing unit ‘blew up’ a sentry hut Bob was guarding!

It was through a friend, Anthony Bentley-Hunt, that Bob became part of the Auxiliary Units, when Anthony asked him whether he wanted “…to join something which is a bit more exciting than the Home Guard”. Following a meeting in a house in Bathwick Street, Bath, in which he was asked all about his family, knowledge of the local neighbourhood, his expertise of weapons (which included putting together striped Baretta), he was invited to join.

It was explained exactly what his role would be, the associated dangers and was made to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Bob then began the intensive training to become a highly effective and deadly guerrilla soldier, which included trips to Coleshill House in Wiltshire, the headquarters and main training facility of the Auxiliary Units. There he was taught everything from explosives, sabotage and assassination techniques to map reading and night exercises.

Back in Bath, Bob’s patrol would regularly practice what they had been taught at Coleshill as well as identifying possible targets to attack in the event of a German invasion (including the main London-Bristol railway line and Claverton Manor – a local manor house that was a likely candidate for a local German HQ).

One particular exercise saw Bob and the rest of the Bathampton Patrol attempt to undertake an ‘attack’ against the airfield at Colerne. This night attack was designed to test the skills of the Auxiliary Unit as well as the defences of the RAF Regiment that guarded the airfield. During the exercise the patrol’s Sergeant was taken captive, only to be later ‘rescued’ by Bob and the remaining members of the patrol. They also captured a captain and flight sergeant and placed dummy explosives on the target planes before getting away. The exercise proved the potential value the units would have had had the German army invaded and started to utilise the existing airfields and facilities.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 01.18.40 pm

The unit’s underground operational base (OB) from which they would operate in the event of an invasion was located in some old stone mines on Hampton Rocks, whilst their arms and explosives dump was somewhat appropriately located in an old explosives store in a disused quarry. These were later moved to a as the bombing from the Baedeker Raids got too near the dump

By 1942 the immediate threat of invasion had diminished and so members of the Bob’s unit were allowed to volunteer out and Bob joined the Fleet Air Arm as aircrew, later to be involved in anti-submarine patrols, attacks on The Tirpitz off Norway, and then eventually with the British Pacific Fleet working the Pacific with the Americans in their campaign against the Japanese mainland.

It wasn’t until the reunion on the fiftieth anniversary of the stand-down of the Auxiliary Units in 1994, that Bob begun to realise just how wide an organisation the Auxiliary Units were. At that reunion Bob met someone that he used to play rugby with in 1941, and didn’t know that he was an Auxiliary Unit member himself despite knowing him all those years.

Bob summed up the typical Auxiliary Unit member. A normal young man, who when his country was in mortal danger answered the call, prepared to face almost certain death to protect all that he loved. Like most of the veterans he lived most of his life keeping his secret, and only when called upon in his later years did the full remarkable tale of his time in the Auxiliary Units come out.

Bob Millard with a keen re-enactor 2012

Bob Millard with a keen re-enactor 2012

He would later be a main spokesperson for CART helping to educate the public about this unknown group of volunteers. He opened the replica operational base at Coleshill House in 2012 (appropriately cutting the ribbon with the Fairburn Sykes knife – the main killing weapon of the Auxiliary Units).

He represented everything that was great about his generation and will be sadly missed by all associated with the Auxiliary Units.


Some comments from those who knew him.

Bob was my primary inspiration for forming CART. He regularly contributed information, had a passion for spreading the word and informing the young and most importantly of all, was my friend. Bob was warm, funny, kind and a true hero. He will be sorely missed by my family and the whole Aux researching community. His last words to me were ‘KBO mate’, (Churchill’s phrase, Keep Buggering On) I am sure he knew when he said it that it would be our last conversation. I will miss you so much mate. RIP.Tom Sykes (CART Founder and Webmaster)

I spoke to Bob many times and helped to update his short history of the Bath City and Admiralty Auxiliary Units. He was always happy to help even when his wife became ill and he had to spend most of his time looking after her. A very nice and friendly man, he will be missed by CART and no doubt the “Goldfish Club” that he was a member of having been shot down in the Indian Ocean. Rest in Peace Bob. – Stephen Lewins (CART CIO For Northumberland)

I last met Bob at Parham Airfield, the site of the BRO Museum, in July 2004 with the late Geoffrey Bradford, his fellow Auxilier. Nearly a decade later, during the preparation for my book, Churchill’s Secret Defence Army, across numerous telephone conversations, Bob and I renewed our acquaintanceship . His memory was as sharp as a pin and his vitality an inspiration. During the brief period I knew him Bob made a great and positive impression upon me. It was an honour and a privilege to have known this fine gentleman. – Arthur Ward.

He was a great guy and will be missed by many people. Please pass my condolences on to the family.Roger Green (National Trust Volunteer, Coleshill)

Although I never met him in person I felt I knew him through the tremendous contribution he made to CART. Clearly, he inspired many and carried forward through the years, the extraordinary clandestine story of Auxiliary Units. Not only that, but also he expressed the sense of duty and the bravery of the men who unstintedly served to safeguard our Country. He was one of them. We missed him marching with us at the Cenotaph last November due to his ill health but knew he was with us then on that memorable and very proud occasion. A tribute to all Auxiliary Units. Bob will be sorely missed by everyone. – Richard Field (Son of Lt Col Norman Field OBE)

I am very sorry to hear the news that Bob has left us. Meeting him was always something I looked forward to as I held him in high regard for both his BRO service but also his later service in World War II. But this was only part of the story as Bob was also a wonderful guy and a pleasure to be around, even when he was using me to demonstrate silent killing (a role that was repeated in South Wales I seem to remember). I will miss him greatly and wish all his friends and family my sincere condolences. RIP / KBO, Bob – Peter Antill (CART Sealion CIO)

Though I did not know Bob very well he was always very patient with my questions and requests for help. A kind man who always seemed to manage an encouraging word with good humour. I have the greatest of repect for all his work in ensuring his fellow Auxiliers were not just forgotten but recorded, respected and remembered for generations to come. I hope we can continue that work in his honour. He was very much missed at the Cenotaph last November but he was in all our thoughts. My thoughts go to all in the family. – Nina Hannaford (CART CIO for Devon)

I never met him personally, and only spoke to him once on the telephone, but his e-mails were invaluable. I shall miss his patience and his humour. Rest In Peace, Bob, and thanks for all your help. – Jim Warren (

Sad to hear of Bob’s passing. Like Jim, I traded emails with Bob and appreciated his selfless contribution. He’ll definitely be missed.David Waller (

So sad to hear that Bob has passed away. I feel privileged to have known him and having enjoyed his friendship and company. He attended two of the “Secret War” events that I host and on the opening evening of one of them he managed to drink me under the table with Talisker Whisky! He will be missed by many, but his memory will long live on. Rest in peace Bob.Clive Bassett

It was a pleasure and an honour to meet Bob. He was encouraging and inspiring while full of comradeship and bonhomie. Thank you Bob.Gerry Sutcliff

Thank you for passing on the sad news about Bob. He represented all that was good about the Old Brigade and what’s more, he recorded it for posterity. It’s up to the family, but I hope the Penrith RBL is suitably briefed to turn out at the funeral. Thank you for representing those of us who are too decrepit to get there. – Don Brown (Author of Somerset V Hitler)

Bob was truly one of the good guys. Not only did he step forward to do his bit with the Home Guard and Bath(City) Auxiliary Units in 1940 and later with the Fleet Air Arm, but as you say he continued to play a huge role in both unravelling the history and publicising Auxiliary Units, with his many fine TV appearances much later in life. Certainly in Somerset, without Bob’s fine memory and willingness to help out, we would be much the poorer I feel. I think it was such a disappointment that he did not make it to the start-line for the Remembrance Day Parade in London…Tim Wray

It has been a pleasure to have known Bob over the past few years. He was such a character and I loved how he embraced technology, especially Skype!! I am really going to miss hearing his voice in our house. He has been a huge support to Tom and the CART team and his passion for Aux has been such an inspiration to everybody. We miss you Bob xxxPaula Sykes

I too am deeply saddened to hear that Bob has been lost to us but has rejoined his ‘comrades in arms’. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Bob but I know from my conversations with others that have like Clive Bassett & Richard Ashley that he was an enormous resource for those researching The Auxiliary Unit’s history. Likewise I know that he will be sorely missed. “We will remember them”. – Brian Moyse. (The Essex boy in Texas)

I’m so very sad to hear this about Bob. My dad Harry and I never met Bob in person but he became a good friend due to his kindness and generosity he showed my father through his e-mails and letter correspondence regarding the auxiliaries. My father passed away a year ago and I’m so thankful to Bob and CART for everything they did for him in his last few years. Whenever dad received one of those letters or e-mails from Bob it would make his day and we would spend hours discussing it together. Please give Bobs family our heartfelt condolences. – Steve Banham and family. (Son of Auxilier Harry Banham)

I first met him at one of the special Parham Open Days back in the 2000’s, but he was a patient and helpful man, no doubt explaining the same things to many people over the years always with courtesy and interest. May I add my condolences to his family at this time. I well remember that lovely afternoon chatting with him in the sunny garden at the back of the pub in Coleshill Village at the NT event. A great treat, and one no doubt repeated at other times with other people, he enriched those history buffs amongst us with his real life tales. It is Sad news indeed. A real gentleman, as he himself said, he was ready when called, he wasn’t called and thank goodness. – Matt Gibbs

I was most sorry to learn of the sad demise of Bob whom I’d known for some 20 years having first met him during the ’Reunion’ at Coleshill back in 1994. I had the pleasure and great honour to meet him on a number of occasions. We had many associations in common as my grandparents had lived in Bath and I knew the areas of Bobs Aux activities well. Bob was one of life’s gentlemen always cheery with a highly developed sense of humour and a fount of knowledge about the Auxiliary Units. Bob was always willing to share his knowledge of the weaponry, practices and activities but one knew there were certain areas he would not talk about. Bob represented a direct line to a body of people who would undoubtedly have sold their lives very dearly if the enemy had come. RIP Bob you will be sorely missed.Bill King

Find out more about Bob’s amazing wartime life here


‘Dockyard Dandy’ (Navy News) Read it here

The Times – Read it here

Telegraph – Read it here

Bath Chronicle – Read it here

Western Daily Press – Read it here

Telegraph Obit Podcast – Featured on ‘The Deadline’. Listen here


If you have something you would like to add please do email and we will add it here or you can comment below and we will add it above.

KBO Bob. x

Mar 082014

Aux Memorial web

National Trust volunteers, Bob Marchant, John Driskell and Roger Green have created this amazing mosaic memorial next to the replica Operational Base at GHQ Coleshill.

Bob created the mosaic which is really impressive.

Under the main Aux badge are the initials of all those that have been involved in the build of the new OB.

A great effort and a fitting tribute to the men and women of the British Resistance.

Aug 302013

Swindon Heritage Magazine

This month Graham Carter from Swindon Heritage Magazine has written a great article about Coleshill and the Swindon connection to Auxiliary Units.

The two page spread features images of the new replica Operational Base at Coleshill and Graham was guided around by dedicated National Trust researcher Roger Green.

A hard copy of the article can be seen here.

Jun 092013

Coleshill House From The AirWe recently updated the GHQ Coleshill pages on the site and simplified the navigation of the site tour.

New content has also been added on the replica Operational Base, the tunnels and mines under the house and why the site was selected and used for training.

Well worth a new look here.

Thanks to Bill Ashby, our CIO for Coleshill, for all the info.