CART welcomed new researcher for East Hampshire, Jon Radcliffe to the stand at the Southwick Revival event. His local knowledge was invaluable as we spoke to a number of local residents with information about Auxiliary Units sites. Two visitors had played in the Southwick Operational Base as children and were able to describe it in detail, mentioning a previously unknown escape tunnel. Others gave accounts of the patrol members they had remembered from their youth. There was also a location provided for an Operational Base near Clanfield, though this might also relate to the Lovedean Patrol.
We also had some excellent information regarding an Base in Dorset and an oral history account from Sussex previously unknown to us.
Displaying in the middle of Southwick, Coleshill expert Bill Ashby went knocking on doors using the wartime addresses of patrol members and found relatives at one of these. They are looking out some photos of the patrol members for us which we hope to be able to add to the site in due course. We also heard a great deal about the area during wartime, as many of the wooded areas hosted allied troops in the run up to D-Day and remains still exist in a number of these.
Particularly interesting was a series of Tommy gun bullets which had been extracted from a felled tree. Eye witness accounts confirm that Generals Monty and Eisenhower fired Tommy guns at the tree one evening after dinner. Nobody had believed the story at the time, but decades later, the bullets were found in the timber when the tree was being cut up and kept by a local forestry worker. It isn’t often you know who fired a particular bullet, and even less often they are so famous!
It was impressive to see how many people had made the effort to appear in wartime dress, with many impressive wartime hairstyles and at least two vintage prams for young children. Periodically the military vehicles drove through the streets in convoy, past houses with taped windows and bunting.
The Aux Units part of the village’s history came as a surprise to some, with the D-Day map room and HQ being perhaps more famous. We’ve been asked back again next year…
(Report by Dr Will Ward – CART Dorset) Images by the team.