One of Britain’s best-kept secrets of World War II was the Home Guard Auxiliary Units, which used the status of the Home Guard as a cover for their real activities.
In May 1940, Colonel Colin Gubbins formed a tightly structured resistance that was to be supplied with the best weapons available and with modern plastic explosives. He names them the Auxiliary Units, a deliberately nondescript title. Everything about the Auxiliary Units was to be kept highly secret.
Gubbins knew he needed local men to form the small patrols in each area, men who could be trusted and who had a good knowledge of their surroundings. He decided it would be best to obtain his resistance men from the Home Guard. Contrary to popular belief (mainly due to the BBC series ‘Dad’s Army’), the Home Guard was not totally made up of bungling old men. Many younger men who were in reserved occupations joined their ranks. This is not to say that every member of the Auxiliary Units was originally in the regular Home Guard. Potential members were always vetted by the local police before they were allowed to join. All the men had to sign the Official Secrets Act, and, on joining the Auxiliary Units, were issued with Home Guard uniforms bearing the number of their battalion. These battalions were: 201st in Scotland; 202nd in Northern England; and 203rd in Southern England. None of these battalions ever had official recognition, which meant they were not covered by the Geneva Convention. If the men were captured, they would have been shot.
When a patrol was formed, it had to have its own underground hideout. This was known as an Operational Base or OB The hideouts were to be used in the event of an invasion. They were well-hidden and purpose-built to house the patrol along with the necessary food, water, ammunition and explosives. In Sussex there were 23 patrols with 139 men, the smallest consisted of four men and the largest eight.
Each patrol had an underground hideout, the operational base (OB) and in many cases an underground observation (OP) post or lookout was also sited close by. Both the OB and OP were extremely well hidden, usually in woodland or thick undergrowth.
The Hurstpierpoint Patrol had six members. The Patrol Leader was Percy Tulley. The other patrol members were Bill Baron, a market gardener at the local Gears nursery, Ernest ‘Jimmy’ Williams, a baker in Hurstpierpoint High Street, Wally Crook, a farmer, and the brothers ‘Pop’ and Basil Stringer, both builders. ‘Pop’ Stringer, as he was known to everyone, was later called up into the regular army, but it is not known whether the patrol took on another member to replace him.
The patrol’s underground hideout was sited in a small wood to the north of Wolstonbury Hill, just on the edge of the Downs. It was built by the Royal Engineers who constructed it out of timber and corrugated iron sheeting. It is unknown whether the patrol had an underground lookout.
Part of the patrol’s training included mock attacks on Danny House which is reputed to have 365 rooms within it.
The main chamber has collapsed but the entrance shaft is still visible although blocked a few feet down.