Following the evacuation of the British army from France in 1940 it became very clear that Britain was Hitler’s next target. With the regular army in some disarray the need for civilians to help out in the defence of the country became paramount. Churchill was convinced that small groups of volunteers could cause havoc to the invading army’s supply chain, giving the regular forces time to regroup and counterattack. Acting on this Churchill gave the authority for a select number of specialist officers to start scouting the country for appropriate volunteers. From these the British Resistance was formed.
Officially known as the Auxiliary Units, these civilian volunteers were mainly made up of men whose jobs were considered too important for the war effort to be called up. Each group was made up of those that had an unsurpassed knowledge of their local area such as farmers, poachers or gamekeepers. Trained to the highest standards and often-receiving better equipment than the regulars, in the event of an invasion these men were to go to their operational bases, hidden underground throughout the British countryside, wait for the enemy to pass over them and then come out at night attacking strategic Nazi targets, hitting the supply chain and ‘dealing with collaborators’
Other civilians formed part of the Special Duties Branch, who would deliver secret messages giving information about enemy formations, transport and supplies, to volunteers in underground bases who would pass on details via radio to the regular forces.
The secrecy of both group’s missions meant that they could tell no one of their actions, not even their closest family and friends, and all had to sign the Official Secrets Act. The life expectancy of these volunteers was just two weeks after the invasion had started. Despite this remarkable dedication to their country most have gone to their grave keeping their secrets.
CART’s work to research and find out more about these volunteers and the locations of their operational bases has meant it now has a huge amount of information in the British Resistance Archive, as CART founder, Tom Sykes explains.
“Thanks to the fantastic efforts of our researchers, we now have a huge pool of information. We felt that the clearest way for the public to identify patrols of interest to them was to plot them onto an interactive map. The highly secret nature of the units means that it is highly unlikely that a map with this much detail has ever existed – so it really is a very special resource indeed.
“The map shows all those patrols we currently know about, but we are getting in new information all of the time. If anyone has further information about the identified patrols, or believes that there are some locations missing, then we would urge them to come forward! Also we would love for any remaining veterans to get in touch to hear their story.”
The launch of the map has been timed to coincide the first official recognition of the Auxiliary Units and Special Duties Branch. After a lobbying campaign the Royal British Legion has this year agreed for remaining veterans and surviving relatives to march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.
“After over 70 years of silence it is remarkable that next month will see the first official recognition of the Auxiliary Units,” commented Sykes. “To see the veterans and family members march past the Cenotaph will be an emotional day for all of us. Although the members of the British Resistance have never themselves asked or pushed for recognition, it is fantastic that the country gets the chance to say thank you for the ultimate sacrifice they were willing to make to ensure our freedom.”
You can find more the new interactive map here http://www.coleshillhouse.com/
And more about the Cenotaph march here (http://www.coleshillhouse.com/
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About CART & The British Resistance Archive.
The Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) publishes its findings on the British Resistance Archive (BRA) website.
CART also provides an internal network for serious and dedicated researchers who focus on the British Resistance and agree with CART's core value of making the research public.
· CART is made up of select volunteer historians and published writers known as County Information Officers (CIOS) and also public members.
· CART is not a business or an academic body of professional researchers.
· CART is non-profit making and has no financial support from any company or organisation. It is funded solely by donations and the revenue it makes from the sale of various items sold in the shop.
· Since CART's birth in June 2009 the website has seen over 110,000 unique visitors and has attracted TV, Radio and national press attention.
For further information about CART please go to this page http://www.coleshillhouse.com/