DETAILS of the existence of small groups of dedicated men who fought in secret during the Second World War across South Devon are being revealed for the first time.
Despite the Auxiliary Units being stood down in 1944, it was only last year when for the first time representatives were invited to the principal Remembrance Day parade in London.
The Auxiliary Units were secret 'guerrilla' cells who were chosen for their specialist expertise, who
diligently and in complete secrecy, prepared for the
nightmare possibility of an enemy invasion and
occupation of Britain, and came from all walks of life.
One such example was the father and uncle of current Torbay Councillor Neil Bent.
Cllr Bent's father Jim and his brother Bill were Group Commanders of a unit in Taunton.
"My father was in a reserved occupation. He and
my uncle were quarry owners, skilled in explosives for the excavation of materials essential for the rebuilding of roads and runways. It was for those skills with explosives that my father was covertly recruited whilst serving in the Home Guard. My mother, who was herself a volunteer in the WRVS, knew nothing of this until after the end of the war.
"Their task in the event of enemy occupation would be to make life as difficult as they could for the German forces in any way possible. They were essentially the
equivalent of the French resistance," added Cllr Bent.
The majority of units were located on the south coast, where the possibility of an invasion spearhead was most likely, and units like that of Cllr Bent's father were located at Marldon, Galmpton, Brixham, Newton Abbot and Harberton. From early on in the war, these units were busy selecting locations to create underground bunkers where they would hole up at the outset of any invasion. They were equipped with lighting, a telephone, bunks and a variety of sabotage weapons such as phosphorous bottles, 'sticky' bombs, grenades and Browning and Enfield rifles. In addition, weapons caches were 'squirreled away' in a variety of other locations.
The Auxiliary Units were finally stood down in 1944 and the Auxiliers went back to their daily occupations. So complete was the information blackout surrounding Churchill's 'secret army' that their existence remained hidden after the close of the war and, in fact, it has taken 70 years for their work to receive its rightful recognition. At that time, of course, 'careless talk cost lives'.
Part of the reason for this long obscurity is the soldiers' own dedication to their secrecy and their reluctance to boast about their roles.
"My father lived until he was 98 but never really shared his experiences with me until after my mother died," added Cllr Bent.
"Like many people of that time, he was very modest
about his work in the unit. We don't think about it because the invasion, thankfully, never happened, but the reality is that if it had, we were prepared for it."