Alethorpe Patrol

County Group

The Patrol was based approximately half way between Thursford and Fakenham in central north Norfolk on the Alethorpe (Ailthorpe) Estate owned by Auxilier John Cedric Thistleton-Smith.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Sergeant Guy Victor George Savory

Dairy farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Corporal John Cedric Thistleton-Smith

Vegetable farmer & contractor

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private John Dudley Burgis

Farmer assisting father on farm

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Charles Cornwall

Tractor driver & agricultural labourer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Alec Edward Newstead

Farm worker

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Alec John Savory


Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Operational Base (OB)

The OB is situated on the edge of a copse, locally known as Alethorpe Wood. There are, however, a number of other small woodlands in this area (presumably all having formed part of a much larger woodland, centuries ago), all of which are known as Alethorpe Wood.

The copse is located in the grounds of Alethorpe Hall, near Snoring airfield. It is surrounded by fields on three sides and is skirted by a farm track running past a paddock that adjoins the Hall in the north. The copse is not marked on OS maps.

The main chamber including one end wall are intact, the end wall near the exit has deteriorated. The OB size is 4.20m x 3m and it is orientated N/S – 160ft ASL.

The entrance shaft or passage (south-facing) has collapsed, emergency exit passage (collapsed) appears to have been about 6m long, emerging in ditch or gully.

At the time of our visit (beginning of August 2011) the site was much overgrown, mainly with ivy.

The main chamber was dug into level ground near the edge of a copse (Alethorpe Wood – note that a number of small woodlands and copses in this area are called ‘Alethorpe Wood’) to the north of Alethorpe Hall. A farm track leads past the woodland’s southern edge. There is a pasture on the other side of this track and the pasture adjoins barns by Alethorpe Hall.

The main chamber (missing one end wall but otherwise intact) was constructed from corrugated sheets held in place by a wooden frame, with a roof of curved corrugated iron sheets. Due to the deterioration of the wall near the entrance and also to the exposed doorway at the exit end, and the subsequent back fill with sand from both ends which has considerably raised the floor level within the main chamber, we failed to establish whether it rested on a base or was placed directly on the ground.

Corrugated sheets, painted white, were used as end walls.

The end wall near the entrance (south) appears to be missing. Sandy soil has trickled in, filling this end of the main chamber to a height that almost reaches the roof.

The north wall is still in place. It has a doorway with a crude wooden frame, made from wooden 75mm square timbers (painted white). Two 40-gallon drums each side of the exit doorway have been placed with their long sides against the chamber’s walls – presumably these drums represent the 200-gallon ‘water tank’ mentioned by Patrol member Alec Newstead (in: A Hoare).

Just outside and above the (exit) end wall a large ceramic pipe emerges from the ground, presumably serving as a vent. No pipe was found on the opposite side.

Leading away from the exit doorway there is an approximately 6m long depression in the ground, denoting the course of the emergency exit tunnel which appears to have collapsed. It leads in northerly direction and appears to end near a wooden strainer post that emerges from the ground, horizontally across it. A long nail is sticking out of its end. We were wondering whether the post and long nail once formed part of the booby trap mentioned by Alec Newstead (in: A Hoare, Standing up to Hitler, 2002).
We found an old pitchfork underneath the creeping ivy that covers the thick layer of soil on top of the main chamber’s roof, close to the emergency exit. The upper section of its steel handle is wrapped with grey duct tape.

Other physical remains include a large ceramic field (drain pipe); four 40-gallon drums; wooden strainer post with long nail; pitch fork with handle wrapped with grey duct tape

According to Patrol member Alec Newstead (in: A Hoare, Standing up to Hitler, 2002) the OB was built by Royal Engineers and contained 4 bunks, a 200 gallon water tank, calor gas for heat and light and about 40 lbs explosives, time pencils etc.

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
OB location in wood
OB Image
Caption & credit
End wall of main chamber
OB Image
Caption & credit
Main chamber
OB Image
Caption & credit
Main chamber near the entrance
OB Image
Caption & credit
Drums in main chamber
OB Image
Caption & credit
Post near escape exit
OB Status
Largely intact
OB accessibility
This OB is on private land. Please do not be tempted to trespass to see it

Alethorpe Patrol

Patrol Targets

The Patrol targets were RAF Little Snoring and RAF Scultorpe.

RAF Sculthorpe expanded and in Spring 1942 it opened as a Heavy Bomber base with 342 (Lorraine) Sqn. of the Free French Airforce occupying it. They were followed by the 487 Sqn. Royal New Zealand Air Force and the 464 Sqn. Royal Australian Air Force.

The RAF Sqn. 21 with new Mosquitos arrived in January 1944 followed by 100 Group No 214 Sqn. with the American Boeing Flying Fortress'.

Other local targets include Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line.


Some of the Patrol went to Coleshill House.

Training was carried out mostly by regular soldiers at Leicester Square Farm, Syderstone. Pistol training at Walsingham Hall. (Info from Patrol member Alec Newstead, published in: A Hoare, “Standing up to Hitler”, 2002)

Other information

Alethorpe (alternative spelling: Ailthorpe) is one of Norfolk’s lost medieval villages, located within the parish of Little Snoring.


TNA ref WO199/3389

Hancock data held at B.R.A

Evelyn Simak and Adrian Pye

A Hoare, Standing up to Hitler (2002);

Cricket Archive;

Mr and Mrs Hancock, Alethorpe Hall (personal interview),

Jeremy Norman;

The late John George Seaman (leader of Baconsthorpe Patrol)