Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Wangford Auxiliary Unit Operations Base

The story of Churchill's so called "Secret Army" is becoming well known these days, after many years of being shrouded in secrecy. The story of the Auxiliary Units can be traced back to 1938, when Major Grand set up a section of the Foreign Office known as section D – its task ‘To investigate every possibility of attacking potential enemies by means other than the operations of military forces’. In 1940 the government, anxious about a potential German invasion, tasked Section D with setting up a British guerrilla force. However due to lack of resources not much was done except hide dumps of explosives around Britain with the apparent hope that someone may use them to attack the enemy.

The task of forming an underground army that would operate in the event of a German invasion was then given to Colonel Gubbins (who led his Independent Companies in Norway, which on withdrawal to Britain were formed into units called ‘Commandos’). This new underground army was organised within GHQ Home Forces and Ironside promised Col Gubbins whatever men and supplies he asked for.  It was one of the best kept secrets of the war.

The new units were called ‘Auxiliary Units’ – a name chosen because it was vague and would not create too much suspicion. The plan was to create Resistance units in a Coastal strip, no more than 30 miles wide, as any invasion force would be must vulnerable within the first few days of landing. The Units would go to ground on invasion and emerge to carry out attacks on occupying German forces.

These units needed a hideout or "Operations Base" in which to go to ground. These were normally located in small isolated woods or copses. Most were based on the "cut and cover" form of dug out, either a simple elephant iron shelter or more complex constructions. Most were constructed by the Royal Engineers. In these shelters would have been bunks, stocks of food, chemical toilets and small stores of ammunition; most of the ammunition / explosives was often stored in separate locations. 

The Wangford OB is a particularly well constructed hideout. It consists of a sunken main entrance constructed from concrete blocks with iron an iron rung ladder for access. The main chamber is a classic elephant iron structure set on a concrete base. The emergency exit has collapsed.

Above: The Wangford OB

A Valor stove, bucket, some pans etc from the period still remain inside.

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