Feb 272012

‘War Secrets Must Not Die With Us’ – A strong and clear message from Yorkshire Auxilier Claude Varley.

Some time ago CART invite the Hull Daily Mail along to see an Operational Base at Rise used by the Auxiliary Units.

After the trip Andy Gwynne, CART’s Yorkshire CIO, introduced the journalist to Claude Varley, and Auxilier with Bewholme Patrol.

Today the Hull Daily Mail have run a massive story on CART’s work and Claude’s memories. Not only did they run the story on the front cover but also a double page spread and quarter page making it the most largest single printed exposure CART has been luck enough to get to date.

The online version of the article can be seen here as well as a video. The printed article can be seen here.

A full audio interview with Claude will follow on the Bewholme patrol report page in the next few weeks.

Our thanks to Andy Gwynne for his ongoing research and Emma Wright at the Hull Daily Mail.

Nov 262011

Robert Hardman writes a great article about the British Resistance in today’s Daily Mail.

He interviewed our Welsh researcher, Sallie Mogford at the Langstone Patrol’s OB and also went to the reconstructed OB at Usk castle for the images in the piece.He also talks about the film ‘Resistance‘ which was released in selected cinemas yesterday.

You can read his full article in the paper today or an online version here

Apr 072011


The ongoing project at Coleshill, known as Coleshill Uncovered has now been featured in the Swedish history magazine Altom Historia.
Roughly translated, the article reads:
“In the woods a few miles off London was one of Winston Churchill’s most secret facilities. Here, in Coleshill House trained guerrillas during World War II. Their task was to fight the Germans on the invaded Britain. The men and women would operate in smaller units in different parts of the country. The name used was an Auxiliary Unit, Reserve unit, but had even named a key role in the defense. It was Churchill himself who gave the order to the secret army was organized. After the evacuation from Dunkirk 1940 was prime minister convinced that a German invasion was to be expected.

“Now the archaeological excavations started on the spot. The aim is to see if you can do findings – or find the whole bases – that is to tie resistance movement.

“Surprisingly little is known on the device, perhaps because of its top-secret mission. Many of the volunteers were young people. They were trained, among other things in blowing up railways and fight it against it. Upon arrival at the camp had they know that they were not expected to live longer than fifteen days when the Germans landed in England.”

Nov 132009

Image kindly supplied by the Swindon Advertiser.

You can download the full article by clicking on the image above or an electronic version of the article can be seen below. This was published in today’s Advertiser.

History: Training camp for Britain’s secret army

10:50pm Thursday 12th November 2009

By Barrie Hudson

IF Hitler had pulled off a successful invasion of Britain – a scenario often speculated about by alternate history buffs – Coleshill might well have been spoken of these days as a former terrorist training camp.

Coleshill, the Nazi history books would say, was where British enemies of the Reich learned their murderous trade.

Now that I think about it, though, this site in the tranquil Wiltshire-Oxfordshire border country probably wouldn’t be spoken of at all these days. The Nazis would almost certainly have erased this seat of British resistance from the landscape and from history as soon as possible.

By 2009 in this hellish alternate Britain, the Reich’s slick spin doctors would greet press inquiries about Coleshill’s role in World War Two by raising their eyebrows quizzically, chuckling something about urban legends – and then arranging for the journalist in question to undergo a little “retraining” in a soundproofed basement somewhere.

The old Coleshill estate, you see, was where Churchill ordered that a secret army be trained in guerrilla warfare tactics to be used if the Nazis managed to land and advance in Britain. This nationwide army was called the Auxiliary Unit. Based in small groups in underground bunkers, its job would be to terrorise, demoralise, sabotage and inconvenience an occupying enemy.

With Remembrance Day just gone and British troops still sacrificing their lives overseas, it’s impossible to think of this place and its work without being moved.

A leading expert on wartime events at Coleshill is Tom Sykes, a freelance marketing manager from Highworth who has his own company, Goldeneye Creative. He has put together an extensive website – www.coleshillhouse.com – with first hand accounts, official information, video footage, photographs, drawings and a growing community of interested people.

He agreed to talk to me about the history of the place and show me some of the few remaining traces of that history.

Tom said: “The idea of the Auxiliary Unit was that they would never see the enemy. It used to be said that if they ever did see the enemy, they’d have had it. The strategy was that they would come out of their bunkers at night, attack secretly and return to the bunkers. They’d keep that going for as long as possible and do as much damage as possible.”

The aim was to disrupt the occupying forces until reinforcements from British and Empire personnel overseas could be brought back to join the fight.

Once activated, perhaps by a pre-arranged signal rung on church bells, resistance groups the length and breadth of the country, all of them trained at Coleshill, would do all they could to wreck the invasion until their food, their luck or both ran out.

And then? Death in battle or at the hands of the Gestapo was all but certain.

Between 1940 and 1944, when the Allied offensive in mainland Europe reduced the threat of Britain being invaded to nil, some 5,000 people were trained in the grounds of Coleshill House, a mansion near Highworth. The house was demolished in 1952 following a fire, and a hedge and garden now mark its footprint.

The saboteurs were ordered to keep their doomsday status from friends and loved ones, and many carried their secret to the grave.

Tom said: “If you were, say, a member of a Swindon unit and had an uncle in a Highworth unit, you’d each have no idea about the other.”

Training included work with explosives, surveillance, sabotage, moving silently, living silently and killing silently.

Volunteers would be asked to report to Highworth Post Office. Postmistress Mabel Stranks, who has a road in Highworth named after her in tribute to her role, would alert Coleshill by telephone.

The volunteers would be picked up in an army truck and driven to the training ground.

Tom said: “The route would be deliberately confusing, so the volunteers didn’t know exactly where they were.”

Apart from the hedge marking the footprint of the house, little remains of the sights the volunteers would have known. Remaining traces include a blocky, deserted building on the approach road to the estate from Highworth, which Tom strongly believes was a gatehouse.

The buildings surrounding the old stable yard, used during the war as billets and training facilities, are owned, like the rest of the estate, by the National Trust, and are rented to tenants.

(This is why Tom requests that people with an interest in Coleshill’s secret history check out his website rather than traipsing around the area themselves.) The most atmospheric relic by far, though, is an old underground training bunker that lies beneath woodland in a location Tom asked me not to reveal.

A claustrophobic concrete and corrugated iron semi-cylinder about the size of a large van, it was used to demonstrate to volunteers how to build and use such bunkers in their own areas. There would once have been six fold-down bunk beds, a stash of weapons and a meagre stove whose chimney came out above ground and was hidden by a fake tree.

The entrance shaft is screened by a zig zag of stout brick walls.

“They were designed to protect the occupants from hand grenades,” he said. “And a German soldier would have had to take some of his equipment off to get inside.”

And there, beneath the ground in Swindon, Southampton, Carlisle, Chester or wherever, that soldier and his comrades would have been met by the Auxiliary Unit, ordinary people ready to fight to the death and trained at Coleshill.


Aug 132009

Once again Coleshill House is going to be discussed on the BBC.

This time it will be on TV on BBC Oxford’s Evening News tomorrow night (Friday 14th August) between 6:30pm and 7pm.

I am going to be talking about the project and although we have been given a tiny window we may appear on another programme later in the year.

If you live outside of the Oxford area and have SKY you can watch it on sky channel 985.

We will try to get a copy of it on the site over the next week.

Tom Sykes