On 2 July 1940 Winston Churchill
“The regular defences require
supplementing with guerrilla type troops, who will allow
themselves to be overrun and who thereafter will be
responsible for hitting the enemy in the comparatively
soft spots behind zones of concentrated attack”
Winston Churchill to Anthony Eden,
25th September 1940 wrote:
“I have been following with
much interest the growth and development of the new
Guerrilla formations…...known as ‘Auxiliary Units’. From
what I hear these units are being organised with
thoroughness and imagination and should, in the event of
invasion, prove a useful addition to the regular forces”.
Following the evacuation of British
Army (BEF) land troops from Dunkirk, it became obvious
that Britain had been rendered almost defenceless. Given
the rapid advances of the Germans through France, it
became abundantly clear that Great Britain was under great
Hasty plans were therefore drawn up to resist any such
The British High Command quickly
analysed enemy's tactics, appreciating that the only way
to overcome them was to deny mobility of the attacker and
to disrupt his vital supply lines.
The guerrilla type troops Churchill
described became known as the GHQ Auxiliary Units or
British Resistance Organisation.
Colonel Colin McVean Gubbins
(Commanding Officer Royal Artillery), was selected to
establish a network of civilian saboteurs to attack
invading German forces from behind their lines.
The Auxiliary Units were the first
such organisation of its kind in existence in Europe. The
formation of the units was executed using utmost secrecy.
This secrecy would be fiercely protected during the
existence of the Units and after stand down in 1944.
The high command HQ was located at
near Swindon and this is where intensive
The Auxiliary Units were specially
trained highly secret units created with the aim of
resisting the expected invasion of the British Isles by
Nazi Germany during World War II.
Operational Patrols consisted of
between 4 and 8 men, often farmers or landowners and
usually recruited from the most able members of the Home
Guard, who also needed an excellent local knowledge and
the ability to live off the land. As cover, the men were
allocated to "Home Guard" battalions 201 (Scotland), 202
(northern England), or 203 (southern England) and provided
with Home Guard uniforms, though they were not actually
Home Guard units.
Around 3,500 such men were trained
on weekend courses at Coleshill.
The mission of the units was to
attack invading forces from behind their own lines while
conventional forces fell back to the last-ditch GHQ Line.
Aircraft, fuel dumps, railway lines, and depots were high
on the list of targets, as were senior German officers.
The Auxiliary Units were kept in
being long after any immediate Nazi threat had passed and
were only stood down in 1944. Several of the members were
released to join the Special Air Service Regiments, which
were recruiting hard, in readiness for their role during
the forthcoming invasion. Many men saw action in the
vicious campaign in France in late 1944.
The units' existence did not
generally become known by the public until the 1990s,
on the subject was published in 1968.
The Coleshill Auxiliary Research
Team (CART) provide an
internal network for serious and dedicated researchers who
focus on the British Resistance. Its members believe this
history should be made public, so its findings are
published on the British Resistance Archive (BRA) website.
The team are always looking for new
volunteers and researchers to help expand their knowledge
and resources. If you have enjoyed reading this then why
and offer your support?
Read the story of
Mr. Walter Denslow, an Auxiliary in the Axe
Valley unit in East Devonshire, elsewhere within this