History of The Auxiliary Units

So who were these bands of mysterious men who not only prowled the Countryside of East Yorkshire but every seaside County from the North of Scotland all the way down the East Side of the UK to Cornwall. East Yorkshire had 34 Patrols ranging from 6 to 8 men fully trained in all aspects of Unarmed Combat, Demolition, and Assassination. 

We have to go way back to see that both Winston Churchill in his early days and Colonel then Major Gubbins (later on of SOE fame) had seen first hand that small teams of well equipped saboteurs could keep bands of soldiers pinned down at little to no cost. Thus the idea of a highly secretive anti invasion force was born and that it would be a Civilian Force. 

The bland name of Auxiliary Units was chosen as it did not conjure up any ideas of defense, offence or guerrilla type tendencies and Patrols were equally not likely to arouse suspicion. Major Gubbins was promoted and given the task of raising a Civilian Secret Army under GHQ Home Forces Rule. Colonel Gubbins searched out the finest Officers he could find to head up each County, these were to be known as Intelligence Officers or IO’s and East Yorkshire and North Yorkshire for a time was our very own Captain Peter Hollis the Son of Canon Hollis of Hornsea. 


Captain Peter Hollis. The Intelligence Officer or IO of East Yorkshire

Colonel Colin McVean Gubbins KCMG, DSO, MC

And so they were born, an elite band of Farmers, Poachers, Gamekeepers, just about from all walks of life that were tasked with attacking a German invasion force not head on, but from behind, assasinating high ranking German Officers, blowing supply vehicles up, anything that would slow down, harass and generally be a pain in the rear end for the Germans enabling our Army and Air force to bring to bear their full might and send them back into the sea.

The training would be carried out at a House in the Wiltshire Countryside called Coleshill House just outside Highworth in Wiltshire today a National Trust Property. The House sadly no longer is around but the stable blocks and various structures tell its story from its wartime past.

Coleshill House in its Day

The Clock Tower on the Stable Block still standing and with hidden Gems inside.

Within the grounds is an underground bunker which were called Operational Bases (OB) where a Patrol would hide out and get some rest and food and plot their next moves. (When I met with Mr Claude Varley of the Bewholme Patrol he told me that they never went in their OB as it was damp and dirty). All Training was carried out at Coleshill House, even getting there was hush hush.

Patrol Members were told to report to Highworth Post Office and ask for a specific item. The Post Mistress, Mabel Stranks would then make a call presumably to Coleshill House and the Chap was asked to wait. After a while a Army Vehicle would pull up and they would be put in the back and usually driven around to utterly confuse them so they hadn’t a clue where they were. In the next pages we will look at every Patrol in the East Ridings Battalion numbered 202.

There was a darker side to the Auxiliary Units, members of the local community were to be “taken care of” in the event of an Invasion. One Auxilier told me that the Local School Teacher would as he said “Get It” and when  I asked surprisingly why, he just said because he was always inquiring what we were up to, always in our faces so we made the decision as a group that he would be silenced. A list was made up of the People that were to be silenced, it could not be accepted that Men or Women who knew of the Units would be silenced so the men of the Patrol would be safe. 

When the Units were disbanded in 1944 some Auxiliers received the Home Defence Medal where as many did not,  simply because they were members of a Secret Unit and could not prove their Military Service. All they recieved was a letter of thanks and a Lapel Badge as seen below. Many coveted this and today is a rare object indeed.



The Auxiliary Unit Lapel Badge showing the three Battalion 210, 202 and 203. East Yorkshire was a member of the 202 Battalion.

A plaque on the then Post Office Frontage.

Highworth Post Office today.

Post Mistresss Mabel Stranks

Photographs of Coleshill House grounds as they are now.

These large door hid a kind of NAAFI for the chaps when training.

The Stable blocks with doors in the upper areas with signs still written on them.

The Courtyard Water Pump

The Entrance to the underground Bunker known as a Operations Base (OB)

A Tree Plaque in memory of all who served in the East Riding Auxiliary Units

The insignia of East Ridings Auxiliary Battalion ER202. Just like a normal Home Guard badge but considerable y different