The Home Guard
Once it became clear that France would be occupied by enemy forces the planners in Britain were forced to consider the possibility of a continued German advance across the English Channel. It was obvious that one of the key reasons that defence in France had crumbled was the ease with which the Germans were able to race on to each objective. There was perhaps as much active collaboration behind the German front as resistance and the German infantry, unimpressed by ambush or sabotage, were able to press on with confidence.
To prevent the same calamity from overcoming British resistance it was decided to form "stay behind units" which could attack the invasion force from the rear should they- form a bridgehead. The covert operations of these very special forces are one of the most intriguing aspects of the home front.
Without attracting any attention the various military intelligence organisations set about creating a network of Auxiliary Units, as they were called, designed to create as much havoc as possible behind the enemy lines.
In great secrecy and with little fuss "recruiters" using the Home Guard as a cover approached potential candidates considered best equipped for the risky- and thankless task ahead. Those best suited for the job included gamekeepers, miners, woodsmen, fishermen and especially poachers. Once enrolled the "auxiliaries" were schooled in the art of sabotage and survival. A handbook was produced, labelled The Countryman's Diary 1939, which contained a catalogue of ideas for killing, maiming, blowing up or incapacitating whatever or whoever came the way of its well-versed owner.
If invasion took place the Auxiliary Units, scattered in forests and woodlands all over Britain, would retire to prepared positions in hides, underground bolt-holes or remote cave systems. With only ten days' supply of food and water issued they were expected to live off the land until the moment when, in response to enemy presence, they leapt into action and ambushed troop concentrations or penetrated enemy headquarters. Many hideouts were constructed in the grounds of some of Britain's grander homes, as experience in France had shown that German generals selected lavish accommodation for their command centres. In a variety of ingenious ways an underground network was extended until some 20 Auxiliary Unit centres were established, each commanding an unspecified number of irregulars. Tunnel entrances were built under cover of faked bombing raids, and to avoid suspicion the excess soil was scattered among the freshly made bomb craters.
If Germany had invaded, there is no little doubt that once captured the brave Auxiliaries would have faced the firing squad, for posters already prepared by German printers spelt out the penalty British saboteurs would receive. Three special Home Guard battalions were created to provide a cover for the Auxiliary Unit's activities; the 203rd in the South of England, 202nd in the north and 201st in Scotland. However the Auxiliaries' names were never officially recorded and it is likely that if questioned the official Home Guard would have denied their existence. To this day most of what occurred concerning the development and implementation of the Auxiliary Units is still classified. The men who spent the invasion summer in damp underground hideouts were probably mostly middle-aged in 1940 and therefore the secret of their activities is unlikely to ever be fully revealed or understood.
Copyright © 2002 Peter