Researchers uncover Branscombe’s ‘secret war’

13:00 27 July 2014

Phil Selway, from an interview with the Herald on the 60th anniversary of VE Day in 2005.

Phil Selway, from an interview with the Herald on the 60th anniversary of VE Day in 2005.

Archant

Researchers have uncovered the secret stories of the fearless Branscombe villagers who would have fought off German invaders during World War Two.

Sergeant Morgan Selley, from an interview with the Herald on the 60th anniversary of VE Day in 2005.Sergeant Morgan Selley, from an interview with the Herald on the 60th anniversary of VE Day in 2005.

The team behind the British Resistance Archive has been researching the role of the Auxiliary Units, small groups of civilians recruited to cause havoc until the regular forces launched a counterattack.

They were formed after the evacuation of British forces from France in 1940, when Britain was facing the full onslaught of a previously undefeated German military machine.

Churchill gave the authority for a select number of specialist officers to start scouting the country for appropriate volunteers – mainly 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 the latest equipment before 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 transport and ‘dealing with collaborators’.

The secrecy of the group’s mission 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.

Devon of course was considered to be a key target for any invading force having a huge coastline.

The number of Auxiliary Patrols that are believed to have existed in this part of the world backs this up, with some nine patrols just in East Devon.

One of these was based at Branscombe.

The patrol’s operational base (OB) was located in Castle Down wood, and like so many of the bases around the UK it remains in existence.

The patrol was made up of farm workers, a carpenter and a gardener all from local area.

After the invasion the patrol would have entered the OB and come out, mainly at night, to do their work.

Potential targets would have included RAF Branscombe Chain Home Radar at Kings Down Tail, blocking the roads coming up from the beach at Branscombe Mouth, which would have slowed supply routes, a munitions factory and possibly individuals such as Lucy Temple Cotton who lived in the area and who was a known associate of British Fascist Oswald Mosely.

The British Resistance Archive’s County Information Officer for Devon, Nina Hannaford said: “This is a great example of the extraordinarily brave individuals who were willing to sacrifice everything for their country.

“Devon’s huge coastal line meant that it was a vulnerable area of the country and to have so many patrols in this one, comparatively small area is telling.

“The men of the Branscombe patrol would have carried on with their reserved occupation all the while training at any spare moment and preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the country in its hour of need.

“Their families would not have known what they were up to and had the invasion come they would have only known that their loved ones had simply disappeared.

“Many of the Auxiliers took their secret to the grave, taking their signature on the Official Secrets Act so seriously, and therefore not getting the recognition they so richly deserved.

“The work we undertake here at the British Resistance Archive I hope goes someway to rectifying that.”

Nina’s research was greatly assisted by the members of the Branscombe Project, a group set up in 1994 by locals aiming to record Branscombe’s past.

As, sadly, all the members of the unit have now passed away, the interviews the Branscombe Project members undertook were really useful.

A history of Branscombe’s wartime activities, including the Auxiliary Unit can be found in Sue Dymond’s book Branscombe’s War 1939-1945, which was published as part of the project.

The members of Branscombe’s unit were Sergeant Basil ‘Dick’ Tedbury, who left the area and was listed as ‘untraceable’ in October 1944, Sergeant Morgan Selley, a farmer who succeeded Tedbury, Philip Selway, another farmer, farm workers Walter Hutchings, Arthur Irish and Francis “Frank” Coles, who also worked as a trapper, gardener Edward Collins and Stanley Dunn, a carpenter.

The Branscombe patrol was part of a group led by a Captain SB Wood, who also had volunteers in Sidbury, Beer, Newton Poppleford, Bovey, Axminster, Aylesbeare, Whitford and Seaton.

2 comments

  • If you can help our research with any information please contact cartdevon@gmail.com

    Report this comment

    Nina

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

  • If you can help our research with any information please contact cartdevon@gmail.com

    Report this comment

    Nina

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Other News Stories

ITV STUDIOS PRODUCTION

SURPRISE SURPRISE on Sunday 26th July 2015

**Under embargo until 00.01 Tuesday 21st July
Show 6

Picture shows: HOLLY, NAOMI and GRAHAM THOMAS. with NICK MOCK.

Surprise Surprise returns for a fourth series hosted by Holly Willoughby, who will be rewarding some of the countryÕs most deserving people with spectacular surprises.

The hard work of a terminally ill mum, who set up a charity to help others with life-limiting illnesses get married, was recognised on national television.

Read more
18:31
Debbie Scadding throwing at Exmouth Ceramic Group's workshop.

It’s official – clay is cool! With BBC Two’s Great Pottery Throwdown due to hit our screens this autumn, the ceramic arts are poised to enjoy a new surge in popularity.

Read more
Sidmouth college textile students in the window at the Devon air ambulance shop with Debbie Collingwood. Ref shs 1484-30-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Unwanted items in two charity shops were given a much-needed makeover as textiles students put their skills to the test.

Read more
Ralph Leadbetter with his wife Evi, children Harry and Malika and their dog Bella.  Ref shs 5720-31-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Dad-of-two Ralph Leadbetter has been waiting for this family photo for almost a year because of a long-running immigration battle.

Read more
Yesterday, 12:23
Alfington residents are calling for traffic controls in their village, the group is pictured alongside a 30mph sign that was hit by a lorry travelling through the village recently. Ref sho 5885-30-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Ongoing problems with speeding on Ottery’s outskirts have prompted residents to call for action - ‘before there is a fatality’.

Read more
Yesterday, 11:31
A car crashed into a house in Ladymead, Sidmouth

Man, 21, arrested in relation to Ladymead incident

Read more
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Reverend Mac Dick present prizes to the runners-up in Ottery Station logo competition

It is full steam ahead for Ottery’s community hub as its success is reflected in more than 100 competition entries to design a new logo.

Read more
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Beer primary school leavers with headteacher Martin O'Mahony. Ref shb 1500-30-15TI Picture: Terry Ife

Beer Primary School ‘is in safe hands’, says its outgoing headteacher.

Read more
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Kat and John Lort of The Loft with staff Karl Main and Dave Legg celebrate making the top 100 of the best restaurants outside London. Ref shs 5681-31-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

The owners of a popular Sidmouth restaurant say they are ‘going out on a high’ after it was named one of the best places to eat at in the country.

Read more
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Catherine and Lex Cochrane ran the Ottery St Mary 10km to raise more than £350 for the Devon Freewheelers

A couple who embarked on a whirlwind two-year mission of marathon running and mountain climbing have donated their latest fundraising efforts to the Devon Freewheelers.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 18°C

min temp: 13°C

Most Read News

Great British Life


Great British Life

Family notices
Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Submit a Story
Buy Photos
Competitions
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus Page
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Sidmouth Herald e-edition today E-edition


Devon's trusted business finder