Borders Resistance network research

I’m researching a unit formed during the early days of WW2.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd May 2013, 12:38 pm

Using the purposely vague name Auxiliary Units, this was actually a cover name for a Resistance network that covered the whole of the UK, mainly on east coast areas.

Set up by the then Major Colin McVean Gubbins, individuals were recruited locally by Regular Army Intelligence Officers and civilian group leaders who were given a local rank of Captain or Lieutenant and sworn to secrecy by the official secrets act of the time, this was all conducted by word of mouth and potential individuals carefully vetted.

Training consisted of weapon handling, night navigation, demolitions, as well as other skills associated with this clandestine type of warfare.

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Members wore civilian clothes during those early days but as they grew in numbers they were issued battledress uniforms and wore Home Guard shoulder titles, which was part of their cover. They were also at this time given battalion status.

Three battalions were formed, 201 GHQ Reserve Battalion which covered all of Scotland down into Northumberland.

Most members were in a reserved occupation and came from a wide and varied background, mostly country folk that included farmers, estate workers, blacksmiths, ghillies, and the odd poacher to name but a few.

Operating from underground hides constructed in secrecy and known as Operational Bases (OB’s) they would work in six or eight man cells and tasked with causing as much mayhem as possible to the movement of the German occupation forces. Life expectancy for an Auxiliary member during the occupation would be approximately two weeks; told this before they signed the Official Secrets Act’ all too aware of this as the threat of invasion got closer by the day in those summer months of 1940.

The units in Scotland covered areas from the Outer Hebrides down to the Scottish Borders.

Some members of the Scottish units were also tasked with helping to form the outer perimeter guard at Balmoral when the Royal Family was there.

The Scottish Auxiliary Units were commanded for a short time by Major Eustace Maxwell, wearing the uniform of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, when he first arrived in Scotland he had his HQ in the Falkirk area, he was tasked to set up and organize training for the Scottish Auxunits.

In the Scottish Borders an HQ was established at Monksford House stables and all patrols operating along the Borders were commanded by Major Peter Forbes. It was at this HQ and others in Scotland, that training in demolitions, weapon handling, and silent killing were taught, mostly by 12 man Regular Army sections, known as ‘Scout sections’ and also visiting instructors specialising in a particular skill.

The East coast of Scotland was one of the routes from Europe that the enemy would likely strike. In coastal towns and villages or a few miles inland Auxiliary unit members were going about their normal daily working lives, once word had come through of an imminent invasion, they would be stood to by another network of runners and contacts using hidden transmitters spreading the word and secret messages being dropped off at locations only known to a select few.

Auxiliary Unit members ‘Wives, girlfriends even parents would be totally unaware of the task that lay ahead for their loved one, as even they were not told; their loved one disappearing, never to be seen again.

Auxiliary units all over the UK were stood down in late 1944. About 300 went on to volunteer for the Special Air Service Regiment, as was the extent of the training they received, they were well suited to this kind of work, only about 150 were selected from all the Patrols in the UK.

The Regiment was based at Darvel in Ayrshire, reforming and training for the pending push into Europe.

Some of those selected were killed in action during those months with Special Forces units in the European theatre, prior to Normandy and after.

My research into this unit is focusing on the part played by Scotland and would like to be able to record the relatively unknown work done by this organisation.

My research is now focusing on the Scottish Borders Patrols that covered its entire length from the east coast; including, Dunbar, East Linton, Granthouse, Coldstream, throughout the central Borders and across to Castle Douglas in the west.

If readers have information, patrol group photos, taken at stand down, anything, no matter how small or trivial, it could help in placing missing pieces of the jigsaw and build a picture of the units in Scotland; but, ultimately give them the recognition they deserved, as they would have given the ultimate sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds.

This year a very small group of former members will march in the Remembrance Day parade in London, having been granted permission, after several requests for recognition over the years.

I can be contacted as follows: David Blair, 54 Younger Gardens, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8AB (01334 470599/07731353871 [email protected]).