One of our main aims for the new website was to get as much information on individuals was possible, including images. A good example is that of Airlie Abinda Campbell a member of the Special Duties ATS.
One of the most remarkable stories associated with Airlie, is how she met her husband, George Gascoyne (https://www.staybehinds.com/george-archibald-clive-gascoyne) an Auxiliary who accidentally stumbled across Airlie’s wireless bunker, descended down the ladder and was confronted by her pointing a revolver at his head (photo attached of their wedding day)!
If anyone has any images of any other ‘Secret Sweeties’ (what the members of the Special Duties ATS unit were, rather politically incorrectly called), we would love to see them.
Indeed, if anyone has any information on the Special Duties branch we would love to hear from you!
After having presented some large scale projects, its time to recognise that not every archaeological excavation needs to be on this scale. The two projects described here are on a smaller scale, but produced very useful findings.
In Herefordshire, the Bromyard Downs Project undertook an investigation of two possible Auxiliary Units hides identified from oral accounts. One consisted of nothing more than a depression in the ground. The other was only approximately located. Metal detecting revealed a possible locaiton for the latter and the presence of some concrete blocks.
The findings confirmed the oral history of the area. In this project we saw that even the history of the site from the 1970s and 1980s had been lost. One OB had been intentionally destroyed. However, with only the entrance shaft excavated, it is not impossible that some significant part of the main structure remains. A number of sites have been found where the entrance shaft was lowered and filled in, while leaving the main chamber of the structure intact.
CART undertook a small excavation on private land near Puddletown Forest, near Dorchester in Dorset. The location of the Operational Base had been identified by the landowner, who invited CART to investigate, though there were few visible remnants to see at the start. This excavation identified a section of brick wall, at the entrance to the OB. In other areas there was little apparent, but careful excavation revealed the remains of corrugated iron sheeting placed vertically. Groups of nails were found in clusters with occasional fragments of wood preserved where the iron had leached into the wood from the nails, slowing its decay. The original wooden framework had rotted away, as had the majority of the corrugated iron. Changes in colour and texture were all that identified the edges of the structure and where the corrugated iron walls had been.
Nearby in a large hollow, a number of .45 calibre cartridge cases and bullets were found. Possibly from a Thompson Sub-Machine gun, these might have been the result of practice by the Auxiliary Units men. However, the US Army also trained in the area and used the same weapon, so could also have fired this weapon here. The presence of 1942 dated .300 rifle rounds supported the latter interpretation.
Excavations are not complete at this site, but current findings suggest that the structure was a box like underground hide built with a wooden frame. When the area was planted as forest, after the war, the weight of the trees above the OB appear to have caused it to collapse.
We have a small gallery of this excavation for you to view.
Tomorrow we look at Sussex and the work of Chichester and District Archaeology Society there.
We have been working tirelessly for the past few years on a new website, and are now in a position to launch. The official date is the 9th of July, but as email subscribers you get a sneak preview from the 7th July: www.staybehinds.com
While it’s not quite the finished article, we have compiled more Auxiliers in one place than has ever been achieved anywhere before (we’re quite proud of that). We have over 6000 names, and if you know someone we’ve left off, please get in touch.
We’ll be adding information over the coming months, including photographs, info on the Special Duties Branch, Coleshill House & Estate and Auxiliary Unit links with the SAS and SOE. If you notice any errors on the new site please contact us.
A huge shout out of thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years, and continues to support us. It really is appreciated – CART is a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation run by just a handful of enthusiasts. Thank you one and all.
To whet your appetite, here’s a brand new video brought to you by CART highlighting some of the archaeological projects we have been involved with:https://youtu.be/WCJjan8CWLo
We’ve chosen our new website launch to coincide with the digital Festival Of Archaeology running from the 11th to the 19th July, hosted by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA): https://festival.archaeologyuk.org
We had the great pleasure of talking to the Sid Vale Association yesterday afternoon, in one of the more glamorous venues we get to talk in!
Many thanks to the people of Sidmouth who turned out to listen. We picked up a few leads of patrols in and around the area, so we’ll make sure that we keep you updated on anything that comes from them.
Just as a reminder we have another talk for the Colyton History Society coming up in February. Wednesday 26th February 7.30pm at Colyford Village Hall. It would be great to see you there!
We were very sad to hear about the passing of Sheila Trevaskis (nee Harrington), very likely to be the final member of the Aux Units ATS and maybe the final member of the Special Duties group as a whole.
September: Coleshill WW2 weekend, Coleshill, Oxfordshire WATCH THIS SPACE – this is going to be a BIG event: Coleshill House is where the Aux Units underwent their specialist training 1940 – 1944
The whole of the Granary will be filled by CART, The Scallywags, BROM (British Resistance Organisation Museum) and The Bob Millard (Aux Patrol member) Collection, marking 75 years since the Auxiliary Units were officially stood down… more information to follow…
. . . Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born.
In the early summer of 1940 Churchill would instigate the formation of the secret ‘Auxiliary Units’ due to the threat of a German invasion. ‘Irregular warfare’ was already being researched and what existed was amalgamated into a civilian network of Operational Patrols (guerillas & saboteurs) and a Special Duties Branch consisting of spies, messengers & wireless radio-operators should invasion and occupation have taken place.
Born into a well-connected family in Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Churchill would go on to have a contentious political and military career. He escaped from a Boer War POW camp, lectured around the world, was an artist and published historian. As an MP he held many important ministerial positions. He served in WW1 before going back to politics.
On 10th May 1940, the same day that Hitler invaded the Low Countries, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.
Churchill’s secret ‘Auxiliary Units’ were stood-down in 1944.