The village of Ashbrittle is 6 miles west of Wellington in south west Somerset.
|Sergeant Hugh Ravensford Dixon||
|09 Jun 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private William George Godding||
Market garden labourer
|25 Oct 1940||15 Jan 1944|
|Private James Hugh Notley Merson||
|03 Feb 1941||15 Apr 1943|
|Private Arthur Malcolm Sweet||
Poultry & sheep farmer
|15 Jun 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Nigel Sweet||
|23 Oct 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Frederick Tarr||
Rockman slate quarry
|03 Feb 1941||03 Dec 1944|
Located in Kittisford Wood between the hamlets of Kittisford and Appley, the OB is in a fairly isolated location in a well maintained wood surrounded by farmland.
The main chamber of the Operational Base has collapsed and it appears some of the building materials have
been robbed out. The end brick built wall which we think was the entrance “shaft” and the chimney is all that remains in situ with small sections of corrugated iron attached that is all that remains of the elephant shelter used for the main chamber.
The small chamber, an explosives store, has also collapsed and it appears the escape tunnel could have been removed and reused. The ground has been made up where the escape tunnel crosses under a path.
Mike Sweet remembered that the Army dug a big deep hole and put a Nissen hut in it. A brick chimney was built and the whole thing covered with soil.
There were two entrances or exits. A trap door, disguised as a tree stump which dropped straight down into the main chamber with iron rungs [no evidence remains of the rungs]. The escape tunnel would have been used to collect water from the stream if they could not leave OB for a few days.
He remembered bunk beds, a toilet and a stove. The smaller chamber he recalled was an explosive store and the chimney was disguised to merge with the woodland.
The roughened concrete slab to the right would have been used to disguise the entrance.
The outline of the main chamber is 25 foot by 10 foot (all sizes are approximate). A small (3 foot) corridor which may have been a tunnel leads through to a 15 foot by 6 foot small chamber most likely used as a explosives store. The escape tunnel runs away slightly downhill from here exiting in the banks of the small stream and is 65 foot long.
The end wall of the main chamber is constructed from brick and well built. The chimney appears to be built at the same time though the pointing is quite poor compared to the main wall so may have been finished by someone else.
The chimney is built off centre of the main wall allowing room for an entrance on the left. That side of the chimney is also stepped. Though the pointing is poor, the construction of an arch to form a fireplace shows some skill.
At the time of visiting this was waterlogged but had been dry in the past.
A built slot in the chimney breast could have been used to house a mantle piece, which is 42 inches wide. A ventilation pipe is in the back wall behind the slot.
The main chamber was constructed in a north west direction allowing for the escape tunnel to run slightly downhill and angling away from the chamber, exiting very close to the stream.
It appears that some of the materials used to build the OB have been removed and reused to channel the nearby stream and create a bridge.
Mike and Nigel Sweet had a brother, Alan, who was not a member of the Patrol but farmed at Little Brimley, Appley, from around the end of the war. The farm included part of Kittisford Wood but he was completely unaware of the base and knew nothing of the unit’s activities until some time later. During the ‘50s and ‘60s it looked very much as it does now, so the buried Nissen hut must have been removed at an early stage.
At first glance the Patrol is based in a very isolated area that would hold little interest for an invading force.
However, studying a contemporary map shows the OB is placed almost mid distance between two major transport links out of the South West.
The A38 road and Great Western Railway at Wellington were main routes from Exeter and the south coast. The A361 road (now B3227) and railway at Wiveliscombe were the main connections from north coast.
Locating the OB between the two routes meant, with long return treks, both routes could be disrupted by one Patrol. Auxilier Nigel Sweet was to target the Waterrow railway viaduct with explosives. Since the war the track bed has been removed, but the tall piers remain. Likely the Patrol would have targeted the metal track bed, rather than the robust stone piers.
Auxilier Mike Sweet remembered training mainly in Taunton. Sometimes seeing people he knew from other Patrols, he would never acknowledge them.
Returned at stand down were a .22 rifle with a telescopic sight and sound moderator, a Sten gun with 500 rounds of ammunition and Nigel Sweet's favourite, two Thompson machine guns.
Mike Sweet recalled having garrotte wires to stretch between trees on either side of a road to stop dispatch riders. He trained with time pencils and using magnets to attach explosives to vehicles.
Personal equipment returned amounted to six of everything. The list included revolvers, fighting knives, denims, ground sheets, gloves, haversacks, lanyards, mess tins, table knife, fork, spoon, steel helmets, holsters, field dressings, face camouflage and 216 small arms ammunition.
It appears that two sets of denims were not returned and even though it is known that some explosives were not returned there was a question asked as to whether Sergeant Dixon should be personally charged for the missing denims.
At stand down the Patrol returned a tea bucket, heating stove, Primus stove, a Tilley lamp and a first aid kit along with 12 blankets.
The ash bin, water tank and Elson “closet” (toilet) box on the return form, filled out at stand down, is left unchecked so it is assumed they did not have these facilities in the OB. Mike Sweet however recalled that they did have a toilet so it may have been they were unable to return it for some reason.
Some took a few items for their own use after stand down. Mike Sweet took some magnets and some fuses. Nigel took an amount of explosives and took them home to store in an unused inglenook fireplace. He used them to great effect getting rid of tree stumps and wasps nests.
Eventually he was persuaded to call the bomb disposal squad as the hoard was weeping and dangerous. They were moved to the bottom of the garden and destroyed with a controlled explosion. The locals were not warned of their intentions so were very alarmed when houses shook and some windows were blown in
Donald Brown and his research for “Somerset vs Hitler”
TNA references WO199/3390 and WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B. R. A.
“Ashbrittle at the Millennium” by the people of Ashbrittle
The private papers of Captain T Baird (SHC ref DD\SLI/12/2/26)
Various local newspapers
Somerset Historic Environment Record Ref 31467