Malcolm Hancock MC, his time in The Auxiliary Units – Reel 12
Q: What was your next posting following the Holding Unit?
MEH: well the next posting I had was to an organisation called Auxiliary Units. Now that was a very big organisation and it was formed for the purpose of setting up a huge sabotage organisation in the event of a physical invasion of German troops. Now, the whole of the coastline of England and Scotland was divided up in to areas of roughly county size, the whole way round from Kent down to Land’s End to the north of Scotland and back down the east coast. All those coastal counties were divided up into separate units. The object of the whole things was that should an invading force land in England, we as the Auxiliary Units would carry out sabotage of some form or other to the best of our ability. Now the men who would do this would be local Home Guard forces in any of these areas. And all these Home Guard units are instructed and trained by us in the use of explosives with which they hope to cause a considerable amount of damage amongst ammunition dumps or units of the enemy which had landed in England and they would occupy underground dugouts, very, very carefully concealed during the day time so that no movement of any sort took place during the day. It was not their job to attack the enemy in the day time. At night they would come out, having located na enemy detachment, we’ll say had been located, they would then creep up to it in darkness, plant these, what do you call them, limpet bombs I think, on to any vehicles to cause as much damage as they possibly can by surprise attacks and then disappearing back to their dugouts.
The HQ of the organisation was at Coleshill House, a lovely old house near Highworth. The organisation Commandant was Colonel Frank Douglas, there were at HQ I suppose there would have been perhaps five or six of us. I was as DAQMG, in other words I was responsible for seeing that all these units all-round the whole of the coast were supplied with all their equipment, particularly with the explosives which they were to use and I had a very full time job there.
Q: This is as Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General.
MEH: That’s right. Then each of the separate county organisations was commanded by a Captain or a Major, he had with him an RE Officer for the explosives side and he had probably seven or eight Home Gurad patrols each having their own little dugout. It was a terrific organisation and I found it most interesting. Occasionally I had to go and visit some of these county positions and I made a tremendous lot of friends that way too. But of course the longer that went on then the threat of invasion disappeared, so the use of Auxiliary Units faded into the background.
Q: What date did you actually join the Auxiliary Units, can you remember?
MEH: That was late in 1943, it’d be about November 1943 I suppose.
Q: Did you ever visit on of these dugouts?
MEH: Oh yes.
Q: Could you describe a typical dugout, the size, what was in there?
MEH: Well it was merely a place for the Home Guard patrol, who were made up mostly of local gamekeepers for instance, farm hands and people who knew the country intimately, knew every inch of the country and could locate enemy units. Now each of these dugouts would be, I suppose, according to the strength of the patrol which would probably be about anything between ten and twenty men, that kind of thing. I suppose they be about sixteen feet square, that kind of area.
Q: Who constructed them? Did the men themselves dig them out?
MEH: Yes, they all constructed them themselves. They were constructed in such a way as the approach to them was, could hardly be distinguished at all, except by the people who knew where it was. And that was where the local knowledge came in so well, they were extreme clever at this and they infinite trouble to see that all traces of any path or anything like that were eliminated. I remember on was dug out under a haystack and it was the area of the stack and underneath there. I don’t think the local people knew about these things at all because all these Home Guard chaps knew how very important it was for security reasons that they should not be located and nobody knew what they were or what they’re job was .
Q: What sort of equipment, besides the explosives and limpet mines, what sort? Uniforms? Food?
MEH: Well they had their own Home Guard uniform, they had rifles, they did their ordinary Home Guard duties in addition to this particular thing with Auxiliary Units. We used to have parties of them come to HQ at Highworth. Every week we used to have a course for certain parties which needed to be trained in wood craft and in the use of explosives and so on. And we were kept very, very busy there indeed. It was a hive of industry and these were very interesting, very worthwhile days.
Q: How did you communicate with the units?
MEH: Well that was a separate organisation on its own called the signals side and the dugout parties were the operations side. Now each of the HQs in each of these county positions, say in Surrey, Hampshire or wherever, at that officer’s HQ he would have with him and explosives officer, and RE officer, who trained the local Home Guard in the use of their weapons and also there was a signals officer there, and they were all in direct communication with our HQ at Highworth so that communication was very rapid. That was quite an important part of the set up.
2 thoughts on “The Auxiliary Units”
A couple of quick comments
1. Weapons – quote “they had rifles” not quite correct each resistance Patrol had only one rifle a .22 caliber rifle with telescopic sight plus each man had a revolver thanks to a directive by Winston Churchill. They also had Tompson Sub-machine guns.
2. The Signals side of the organisation was called Special Duties Branch
For information on Auxiliary Units look at http://www.staybehinds.com
Thanks Bill, what you read is how Malcolm remembered it.