EARLIER in the summer we featured a story on former Duns Second World War veteran, Bill Watson, who kept his word by never revealing to his family that he was once part of ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’ and now his self-penned book which finally unearthed the secret is being launched in the town he called home for many years.
On Monday, August 29, Duns Library is hosting the launch of ‘Gone to Ground’ which describes how after the successful German invasion of Britain in 1940 Auxiliary Units were set up by Churchill to remain behind the lines and disrupt the invading army, sprang into action.
In 1940 personnel of the Home Guard and local volunteers were formed into these top secret patrols throughout the entire country. Trained in all aspects of explosives, booby-traps, time-fuses, mines and unarmed combat, these units had approximately 3,500 members around Great Britain. They would operate from specifically prepared underground bases set up countrywide.
In ‘Gone to Ground’ Bill writes about the actions of one such unit after the successful invasion of the German forces. Set in Duns itself, Bill brings the story to life and paints a vivid picture with a true depiction of life during those dark uncertain times under occupation, and what Britain would have been like if the worst had happened in 1940.
Born in 1924 in Edinburgh, Bill spent his early years in Duns, going to school there before joining the Scots Guards as a volunteer, serving as a regular soldier in the Middle East and Italy until 1943 before he was captured and imprisoned in Germany until 1945.
Bill sadly died in 2004 aged 80 before his book was published and it was not until his manuscript and background had been looked at by members of the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team that it became clear that before joining up, he had served as a member of the Duns Auxiliary Unit.
Like many of his compatriots he signed the Official Secrets Act upon joining the Auxiliary Unit and did not breathe a word of it to any of his relatives or friends.
This means that the book takes a new significance as it gives one of the very few first hand descriptions of what life was like, and could have been like, if Operation Sealion had succeeded.
Copies of ‘Gone to Ground’ can be reserved from www.gonetogroundnovel.com and will be available to buy online in the next few weeks.
Fifteen per cent of the profits will be donated to the Red Cross, to whom Bill owed so much during his time in captivity in Germany.