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World War Two: Britain's Secret Army
The Defence Of Britain
Britain was virtually defenceless as the Nazis prepared for invasion, so what turned Britain into a fortress?
Well, Prime Minister WInston Churchill ordered that the vulnerable south-eastern coast of England be fortified with trenches, anti-tank guns and 18,000 pill boxes were to be built to house gunners.
However, many of these were poorly equipped and shambolic, earning themselves the nickname "Dad's Army".
But every last one of them was willing to do his bit to defy a German invasion.
In 1940, the sound of church bells had a sinister significance, as it signalled the arrival of a German invasion.
On Saturday 7th September, widespread reports of church bells ringing and sightings of parachutists were recorded around the country.
Was Britain under attack?
Is this it?
Could the Nazis have landed in Britain? there are some people who believe they did indeed land on British soil and that this was hushed up by the British Government. At a seaside town in Suffolk, residents of a small hamlet were forced out of their homes by the British military. The area became a closed military zone with an extensive minefield along it's coastal frontier.
One particular member of the Home Guard at the time (whose identity I'll keep anonymous), believes he witnessed a German invasion of the area. He states that whilst out on patrol near the beach, he and a colleague witnessed a stretch of the sea was on fire. Shortly after this, there was explosions and gunfire that went on throughout the night.
He believes that a German raid had failed, as the British had set alight an oil pipeline along the seafront. He also claims that the next morning, a number of bodies were picked up along the shoreline and these corpses had been unceremoniously buried in pits at secret locations.
The former Home Guard soldier also claims that a force of 3,000-4,000 Germans fought a running battle with British soldiers for around nine hours through the night. It is alleged that this information isn't to be made public until the year 2021, the official file however, has already been declassified since 1993.
The file clearly does not state that any invasion force landed that night and only complaints regarding damage to private property by British soldiers is noted. In essence, the secret is that there is no secret, but what about those church bells?
Eyewitness accounts state the ringing of invasion bells and in some cases, reports of bridges being blown up to halt any German advance, was also recorded.
Operation Sealion was the codename given for the planned German invasion of Britain. It was originally planned for the 15th of August 1940, and would consist of 180,000 German troops, the equivalent of D-Day in reverse.
The second wave would have been 160,000 strong plus a further 10,000 paratroopers landing between the Dover and Folkestone areas. Although Britain managed to get it's troops back from Dunkirk, they had left behind 500 tanks and 1,000.heavy guns and this had left them critically short of the arms needed to withstand a German invasion.
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Ready For The Huns?
In 1940, the Germans published huge volumes of geographical and military information concerning the British Isles. These were full of aerial reconnaisance photographs and maps and indicated every individual defensive position in Britain.
If an invasion had taken place, the Home Guard would have been on the frontline, they may have been depicted as a bit of a joke and nicknamed "Dad's Army", but they were actually well trained in combat situations, the use of explosives and the techniques of sabotage.
Thankfully, the Home Guard were not alone in their efforts to repel a Nazi invasion, Churchill had also put together a secret underground army whose soul purpose was to cause as much disruption as possible to occupying Nazis.
Churchill's Secret Army
In the summer of 1940, this secret resistence force was formed as a last line of defence in an occupied Britain. These highly trained elite units were known as the Auxiliary or Aux Units, if Britain had been invaded, their mission was to kill and sobotage.
In Parham, Suffolk, the only museum dedicated to these men, houses an Aladdin's Cave of their unique weapons and personal effects. Their objective was to destroy ammunitions and fuel dumps, vehicles, stores, bridges, canals, rolling stock, communications and to kill as many German troops as they possibly could.
Churchill was insistent that these troops had everything they needed and this force of around 6,000 men operated around 30 miles inland from the coast of England, all the way up to Scotland and across to Wales.
They were even trained to assasinate high ranking British dignitaries who might "know too much" and it was believed were maybe weak enough to give away sensitive intelligence when under interrogation.
The secrecy of these Aux Units was paramount and is still not discussed in public to this day. Not even the troops' families knew of their clandestine operations. They were trained to kill with their bare hands using the same coaching manual as used by the SAS, SOE and commandos. They were prepared to die to protect their country and disrupt the enemy as best they could.
Recruits to these Aux Units were hand selected and vetted, on acceptance they were to sign the Official Secrets Act and told to make their way to a village in Wiltshire named Highworth.
On arrival they would check in at the local post office, they would then be picked up by a discreet truck and taken to the nearby training camp. At a countryside estate known as Coleshill House in quiet rural surroundings, their training would begin.
The men were billeted in the stables of the country house and intensely trained in the arts of concealment, sabotage, explosives and hand to hand combat. They also built an underground operational bunker known as an O.B. This would be the underground base that they would use to spring surprise attacks on any invading Nazi forces.
Concealed in the nearby woodland and 12 feet below the ground, it is estimated that 1,000 of these bases may have been built around Britain, but their locations were kept secret even after the war and many have not even have been discovered to this day.
The Aux Units would have stayed underground for around two weeks at a time and so may not have even been aware of what was going on above ground concerning their colleagues, families and the country as a whole. Their would also have been the strongest kind of reprisals against them and the country once they had started to carry out their planned objectives.
The Black Book
Other people too were particularly vulnerable, Hitler had devised his own personal hitlist, his "Black Book", which is housed at The Imperial War Museum in London.
People including Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, Virginia Woolfe, Noel Coward and J.B. Preistley were just some of the famous names on a list of 2,820 individuals selected for "protective custody" which would no doubt have meant detention at a concentration camp and ultimately, execution.
Holding Back The Tide
In that summer of 1940, Britain's future had been perilously uncertain, but the war in the skies was already underway. The brave men of Fighter Command, "The Few", in their Spitfires and Hurricanes, would ultimately stave off the Luftwaffe and Hitler would eventually postpone Operation Sealion indefinitely.
Were we ready, thankfully we will never know.