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Public urged to help locate hidden wartime 'Scallywag' bunkers

From the Daily Telegraph:

Hundreds of the underground hideouts built by the British Auxiliary Units are scattered throughout the countryside

ByMartin Evans3 January 2021 • 8:00pm
Members of  British Auxiliary Unit team in an underground bunker


In the summer of 1940 following the retreat from Dunkirk, the British nation braced itself for a German Invasion.
With Hitler expected to sweep across the Channel at any moment, Sir Winston Churchill ordered the formation of a secret resistance movement.
Made up of a shadowy band of armed saboteurs known as scallywags, and operating out of hundreds of underground bunkers hidden throughout the countryside, the British Auxiliary Units were intended as a last line of defence.
Now a fascinating project to find and excavate these bunkers has been launched and researchers are asking for the public's help to locate them before they are lost forever.
Researchers recently excavated a bunker in Suffolk

Researchers recently excavated a bunker in Suffolk
Andy Chatterton from the British Resistance Archive, which is helping to coordinate the study, said: "Most people think they know the story of Britain in 1940. That we were a country on our knees waiting for the German invasion, but in actual fact there was a huge amount going on.
"The aim of the auxiliers, as they were known, was to slow the German advance and to do this in an extremely ruthless and frankly not very British way. They were trained to blow up bridges and railways and important buildings.
"But they would have also been expected to assassinate key figures and not just Nazis. We know that some had orders to kill British officials, such as local police chiefs, who might have given away secrets under torture.
"Far from the hapless Dad's Army image of the Home Guard, the auxiliers, or scallywags as they were later to be named, were trained to be the deadliest of assassins.
"Because they were required to sign the Official Secrets Act many never spoke about their activities after the war and so what we are doing is trying to fill in some of the gaps."
Hundreds of bunkers are scattered through the countryside of Britain

Hundreds of bunkers are scattered through the countryside of Britain
Professor Peter Doyle, a military historian at South Bank University, who is involved in the study, said the bunkers represented a fascinating window into a world of which little was known.
He said: "The British Auxiliary Units recruited people who knew the land, poachers, gamekeepers and farmers.
"If the Germans had invaded they would have hidden out in the underground bunkers which were stocked with arms and supplies and the plan was that they they would steal out and attack at the heart of the Nazi operation.
"It was deemed to be so dangerous that they were warned they would only have a life expectancy of 12 days.
"Because of the secrecy they had no military status, no uniforms and there are very few official records of their activities.
“The public is very familiar with the Home Guard but will probably not know very much about the existence of the scallywags.”
The secretive units were trained to be ruthless killers

The secretive units were trained to be ruthless killers CREDIT: British Resistance Archive
There were estimated to be around 4,500 volunteers, with between six and eight men per unit.
Experts therefore estimate that there could be more than 600 bunkers scattered throughout the countryside.
The first structures were built in the south east, where it was feared the Nazi invaders would land, but then they stretched across the country to south Wales and all the way up the east as far as the Outer Hebrides.
When the scallywags were stood down in 1944 many of the bunkers were filled in or demolished, but scores remained intact, hidden in undergrowth in fields, woods and forests.
The bunkers offer a window into the hidden world of the scallywags

The bunkers offer a window into the hidden world of the scallywags
Professor Doyle said: "Thankfully the bunkers were never needed but lots of them were stocked with supplies and ready for action. Even after 80-years lots of them will still be well preserved. We recently excavated one in Suffolk and found a heating stove and a lamp."
The research team also includes Dr Jamie Pringle from Keele University, a senior lecturer in Geosciences, whose job it is to help identify and excavate the bunkers using the latest ground penetrating technology.
He said: "What we need is for people to be our eyes and ears in the countryside and let us know if they think they have spotted one of these structures.
"Perhaps they walk their dog everyday past a strange bump in the ground in the woods and have always wondered what it is. We have various techniques we can employ to establish whether it is a Second World War bunker, so we are really keen to hear from people."
'Scallywag' bunkers were scattered throughout the country

'Scallywag' bunkers were scattered throughout the country CREDIT: British Resistance Archive
Professor Doyle added: "There will not be anyone left alive now who was recruited as a scallywag, but there will perhaps be children or grandchildren, who remember a loved one talking about their experiences. We would also like to hear from these people so we can help build up as full a picture as possible of what went on."
Mr Chatterton said: "These were remarkable men who have had very little public recognition. When they were stood down in 1944 they got a letter saying 'thanks for your service, but you won't be getting any public recognition'. Often the lapel badge is the only evidence remaining of their activities.
A British Auxiliary Unit lapel badge

A British Auxiliary Unit lapel badge
“We have heard of lots of cases of people finding the lapel badges among their relative’s possessions but not having a clue what it signified.
"These were a ruthless, highly trained group of men who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the country and we want the public to help us understand more about this fascinating aspect of wartime Britain."
:: Anyone who can help the research project is asked to contact Andy Chatterton at the British Resistance Archive on cartpress@gmail.com


 

Sabretooth

War Hero
Growing up there were hundreds of Bunkers used as play areas in farmland throughout the UK. try looking where there used to be an aerodrome or airfield,
 

Teeblerone

War Hero
Growing up there were hundreds of Bunkers used as play areas in farmland throughout the UK. try looking where there used to be an aerodrome or airfield,
These are very different structures: have a read and think again. Unsurprisingly, these were designed and sited to be very UNobvious
 
Too late! Some old boy I had as a neighbour at our last house reckoned he knew the location of two dumps they used for HG stores. He also mentioned that Mr Churchill had told him no to tell anyone where they were.I actually think he did it to get drinks from people in the pub.
He died just before Christmas.
 
I wonder if a house in Broadstone, Dorset was used like that it had priest hole made into the walls that were made around that time, and had an underground bunker with tunnels out into local woodland

From the outside it looked like a normal country house, nothing stood out as unusual, but there was more space underground than visible

It had been used as some kind of HQ at some point during the war, but would they have normally have built escape routes into houses like that?
 

Daxx

MIA
Book Reviewer
I'm sure this bollocks is very important in a pandemic.....
 

Poppy

LE
they have a facebook page British Resistance Archive- Churchill's Auxiliary Units
 
I wonder if a house in Broadstone, Dorset was used like that it had priest hole made into the walls that were made around that time, and had an underground bunker with tunnels out into local woodland

From the outside it looked like a normal country house, nothing stood out as unusual, but there was more space underground than visible

It had been used as some kind of HQ at some point during the war, but would they have normally have built escape routes into houses like that?

Just down the road in Coombe Keynes, Dorset there was a hidey-hole for a radio set in the upstairs corridor above a cupboard.
My Gran would go out from the house to a drop box up the lane every now and then to check for messages.
Once every few weeks she would go to a pub west of Wareham to report to a person she never actually saw, behind a curtain.
My Grandfather suspected an affair- but didnt know the reality until years later.

I have all the paperwork recognising her efforts in the Auxiliaries - when Dorset , Hampshire, Sussex and Kent were the frontline of the expected invasion.
 

TamH70

MIA
Just down the road in Coombe Keynes, Dorset there was a hidey-hole for a radio set in the upstairs corridor above a cupboard.
My Gran would go out from the house to a drop box up the lane every now and then to check for messages.
Once every few weeks she would go to a pub west of Wareham to report to a person she never actually saw, behind a curtain.
My Grandfather suspected an affair- but didnt know the reality until years later.

I have all the paperwork recognising her efforts in the Auxiliaries - when Dorset , Hampshire, Sussex and Kent were the frontline of the expected invasion.
Your Gran sounds nails!
 

QRK2

LE
Stories about the Auxiliary Units seem to come up with increasing frequency.


When they were stood down a number of their members moved on to the wartime SAS, which presumably explains the chap foreground left of the title cartoon.
 
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Growing up there were hundreds of Bunkers used as play areas in farmland throughout the UK. try looking where there used to be an aerodrome or airfield,
Most of them are documented.... it's the "Dads Army" not on the maps ones they are after.
 
Your Gran sounds nails!
Played Hockey for Wareham until she was 78, swam almost everyday of the year, gave birth to nine kids, ran a farm while Grandfather was guarding the Fleet at Scapa Flow, ran the local WI , ran the local Unit mentioned above and scared the crap out of numerous people in public office she encountered.

And the most loving, fun Grandmother you could wish for.

A real gem.
 

Yokel

LE
I cannot see any of the pictures in the original post - what do these things look like? Were they spread through Britain or were they mostly confined to the south coast?

It amazes me that there is still World War Two history to be discovered.
 

QRK2

LE
I cannot see any of the pictures in the original post - what do these things look like? Were they spread through Britain or were they mostly confined to the south coast?

It amazes me that there is still World War Two history to be discovered.

See link in my #15
 
I cannot see any of the pictures in the original post - what do these things look like? Were they spread through Britain or were they mostly confined to the south coast?

It amazes me that there is still World War Two history to be discovered.
Not type 22/24 pillboxes.... these were manhole covers into a military cellar/basement.... the idea was to re-emerge after the frontline had swept past and attack the rear echelon..... to be found where nobody goes.
 
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