Tyne and Wear HER(5504): Hetton-le-Hole, Rough Dene, Auxiliary Unit Operational Base - Details
Hetton-le-Hole, Rough Dene, Auxiliary Unit Operational Base
Auxiliary Unit Site
Auxiliary Unit Operational Base
Operational Base (underground structure intended for use by members of the British Resistance Organisation in the event of invasion). Built by the 184th Tunnelling Co. Royal Engineers. The OB was manned by the Hetton-le-Hole Auxiliary Unit Patrol. GHQ (General Headquarters) Auxiliary Units were specially trained secret units. Winston Churchill appointed Colonel Colin Gubbins to form the units in summer 1940. There were seven patrol members who all lived in Hetton-le-Hole. The Commanding Officer was Captain A.C. Burningham. Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire Group No. 3 consisted of five patrols - Birtley, Haswell, Hetton-le-Hole, Kibblesworth and Wheatley Hill. Auxilliers were recruited from the Home Guard. The men were trained on weekend courses at Coleshill House near Highworth, Wiltshire, in the arts of guerrilla warfare including assassination, unarmed combat, demolition and sabotage. They were trained in explosives - fire pots, time pencils, cordite, ordinary fuses. The unit was equipped with revolvers, rubber truncheons, sten guns, rifles, commando knives, blasting gelignite explosives, fire pots with time pencils, cordite wasp fuse cord, grenades and sticky bombs. Each Patrol was a self-contained cell, expected to be self-sufficient and operationally autonomous in the case of invasion, generally operating within a 15-mile radius. They were provided with a concealed underground Operational Base (OB), usually built by the Royal Engineers in a local woodland, with a camouflaged entrance and emergency escape tunnel; it is thought that 400 to 500 such Obs were constructed. All patrol members were issued with a cyanide capsule and were instructed to use it if wounded or captured to avoid compromising local residents. The Operational Base is a standard 'elephant' type shelter. Both ends of the Operational Base survive and two clay ventilation pipes on the main entrance wall. The bolt hole tunnel route to the stream is visible at the south end of the Operational Base. The entrance shaft would have been at the north end and a tunnel outline can be discerned. The entrance tunnel was 18 feet long north-south with a side tunnel to the east 6 feet long. Both were 3m wide. The main chamber was 20 feet x 12 feet. The bolt hole tunnel leading to the Rough Dene was 10 feet long by 3 feet wide.
Hetton-le-Hole Auxiliary Unit Patrol - a report by CART (Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team) County Information Officer Stephen Lewins, 2011, http://www.coleshillhouse.com/hetton-le-hole-auxiliary-unit-patrol.php; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auxiliary_Units; David Lampe, 2007, The Last Ditch: Britain's Secret Resistance and the Nazi Invasion Plan; Bill Watson, 2011, Gone To Ground, Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team; Arthur Ward, 1997, Resisting the Nazi Invader; John Warwicker, 2002, With Britain in Mortal Danger: Britain's Most Secret Army of WWII; John Warwicker, 2008, Churchill's Underground Army: A History of the Auxiliary Units in World War II; Owen Sheers, 2008, Resistance