It’s hard to believe that the quiet village of Langton Matravers in Purbeck was once a centre for Britain’s secret resistance force. During the Second World War, local men formed a highly trained unit of ‘Auxiliers’
On Saturday 27 October, 12 noon, a ceremony is being held to commemorate the seven members of the Langton Matravers Auxiliary Unit. A memorial stone will be unveiled by Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, Lord Lieutenant of Dorset.
The campaign to recognise these unsung heroes has been spearheaded by Peter White, Chair of Langton Matravers Parish Council. His father, Fred White, was Sergeant of the Langton Auxiliers.
Peter says: ‘The Auxiliers’ activities were so secret that often even their families didn’t know about them. This could make it very difficult, especially for their children. My brother and I had a hard time at school, because other children thought my father wasn’t doing his bit for the war effort.’
In fact, the Auxiliers were prepared to sacrifice everything for their country. In the early 1940s, a German invasion was seen as a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. The Auxiliers were trained and equipped to spy, sabotage and kill – such a dangerous task that their life expectancy after an invasion was only two weeks.
The Auxiliers operated from hidden underground bunkers, equipped with food supplies, explosives, guns and other weapons. The Langton bunker was hidden in woodland between Langton and Harman’s Cross.
Find out more about this patrol here http://www.coleshillhouse.com/
NOTES FOR EDITORS
• Following the swift defeat of France in 1940, and the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, a German invasion seemed certain. So the British intelligence service was tasked with creating a secret army to operate as a resistance movement. It was called the Auxiliary Units, a name that was deliberately vague. All Auxiliers had to sign the Official Secrets Act, and as cover, they were given Home Guard uniforms.
• By 1941, there were 3,500 men in the Auxiliers, organised in patrols of 6-8 men. There were about 40 units in Dorset, two of which were in Purbeck – Langton Matravers and Creech. Training took place locally at Duntish Court, Buckland Newton, involving self defence, map reading, night operations and camouflage.
• The most sought after recruits were former Boy Scouts, gamekeepers and foresters – people who knew their local area and had good survival skills. Some women worked as radio operators and medics.
• The Auxiliers were issued with sub-machine guns, hand guns and the Fairbairn Sykes double edged dagger. Their explosives were to be used for attacking enemy transport and supply lines. The Auxiliers primed explosives beneath key bridges and railway lines to be detonated if necessary.
• Underground bunkers, called Operational Bases, were built countrywide, stocked with food and ammunition. It is thought that there were around 1,000 by 1944.
FURTHER INFORMATION, FILMING AND INTERVIEWS
Saturday 27 October, from 11.45:
• Memorial stone being unveiled by Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, Lord Lieutenant of Dorset.
• Stone being blessed by Padre Keith Barry, Garrison Chaplain at the Armour Centre, Bovington.
Interviews can be arranged with:
• Peter and Tony White or Martyn Dallenger, relatives of the Langton Auxiliers
• Will Ward, Dorset representative from the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART)
• Tom Sykes, Founder of the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART)
• Men from the Langton Matravers Auxiliers Unit
• The Langton underground bunker (taken in 2003 before it flooded).
In Advance of the event please contact:
Cathy Lewis on 01929 439027
Or Peter White on 01929 423684
On the day of the event
Tom Sykes from CART on 07843 254957
To learn more about the Auxiliers go to www.coleshillhouse.com