The Auxiliary Units in Kent 1940 - 1944

An account of the activities of the men and women who served in the Auxiliary Units, XII Corps Observation Unit, Special Duties Organisation, Auxiliary Unit Signals, D Section and other clandestine units waiting for the German Invasion.

The purpose of this website is to share information and encourage further research and investigation.

The website sets out to record an account of those times and the people involved. It is not a definitive history; it is not even the story of XII Corps Observation Unit and the Special Duties Organisation in Kent...too many years have passed and too many of those involved have passed away. It is an attempt to record some of what is known so that further research can be conducted and a fuller picture revealed.

 

"You cannot be a refugee in England, there is nowhere to go," Colin Gubbins, CO Auxiliary Units and Head of Operations, Special Operations Executive. 

Bekesbourne Patrol - Codename Swede

Summer 1940 saw the sky above Kent criss-crossed with white vapour trails and black engine smoke as the pilots of the RAF and the Luftwaffe battled it out for supremacy of the air that would mean temporary salvation for one empire and further conquest for another.

The story of the Battle of Britain and the men and women of The Few and their ground crews, men and women who came from the four corners of the world to unite against a common enemy, one, many believed to be unbeatable, has been told many times. But as this bloody aerial saga was being acted out above the fields, woods, marshes and hills of Kent another band of men and women, equally few in number and just as determined, was preparing for the worst...Invasion and Occupation.

During the dark days of World War Two many farmers and agricultural workers were excused active military service because of their reserved occupations, the nation needed food. However, some of these farmers and farm workers led a clandestine existence as members of the XII Corps Observation Unit. This was Kent’s secret wartime resistance movement set up in June 1940 after the Fall of France and Dunkirk Evacuation to act as a ‘last ditch’ defence against the expected German invasion.

The Kent coast between Sandwich and Dungeness was the most likely site for the invasion but the British Army, severely depleted of tanks, artillery, arms, ammunition and other military supplies following the German Blitzkrieg across Europe, was in no shape to take on Hitler’s finest storm troopers massing on the other side of the Channel.

Secret underground bunkers, observation posts and wireless stations were built inland from the coast, along the North Downs, Romney Marsh, the Isle of Thanet, Isle of Sheppey and the Weald ready for the resistance fighters to disappear down into. Their suicidal role was to wait for the Germans to roll over Kent, then reappear at night to attack the German rear. Their aim was to cause as much chaos as possible by setting booby traps for German patrols, sabotaging railway lines, roads and bridges, attacking airfields, assassinating German officers and destroying supply depots – anything to slow up the German advance and buy the British Army time to regroup and counter attack. They had a life expectancy of less than 10 days...if at all.

Alongside them, but unknown to them, were the men and women of the Special Duties Organisation. Their role was to stay above ground, stay put in their towns and villages and carry on as normal...in a German-occupied Kent. They would report on German troop movements via a network of spies, runners and radio operators.

For four long years these quiet and resolute men and women about their daily lives without their wives and husbands, families, neighbours and friends knowing what they were doing or planning to do when the Sun went down and the Moon rose. Then it was all over. No official recognition could ever be forthcoming. The Secret Army simply melted away into the very darkness that had always protected it. Many took the secret with them to the grave.

This website sets out to record an account of those times and the people involved. It is not a definitive history; it is not even the story of XII Corps Observation Unit and the Special Duties Organisation in Kent...too many years have passed and too many of those involved have passed away. It is an attempt to record some of what is known so that further research can be conducted and a fuller picture revealed.