Brandon Patrol

County Group

The small town of Brandon lies on the edge of the Thetford Forest and straddles Norfolk and Suffolk.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Lieutenant Eric George Field

Sawmill foreman

Unknown Unknown
Sergeant Philip Russell Field

Wood machinist

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Sergeant Charles Edward Holmes

Eastern counties representative for the Nollingham Coal Sales Association

Unknown Unknown
Corporal Samuel William Baker

Permanent way labourer - Railway

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Walter Cyril Blake

Forestry worker & farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Roy Donald Budden

Garage owner - Motor & general engineer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Albert Leonard Drewry

Stoker gas works

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private George Alfred Eagle

Horseman on farm

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private George Henry Holden

Agricultural labourer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Donald Smith

Wood machinist

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private J. William Stead Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Operational Base (OB)

The OB was situated on the edge of Lingheath, a scrubby heathland bordering on the Thetford Forest, about 90 metres distant from a dirt track and a piggery.

According to information published on the Brandon at War website, Brandon was chosen as the site an OB because it was thought that the invading German Army would rest up and regroup in the cover of the Thetford Forest.

The Patrol's first OB was built in July/August 1940. It was located in Forestry Plantation and large enough to provide room for 15 Patrol members.

Due to problems with flooding a second OB had to be built. It is described as having contained 8 bunks.

The OB is described as having been a 12 foot underground structure that was reached by clearing brush from the ground and opening a trapdoor to the bunker. Trees were cut down and used for the rafters, corrugated iron laid for the roof and earth covered over with a final layer of leaves and pine cones to disguise the underground base. There was an air vent that ran up alongside a tree. The Patrol had a primus stove for cooking.

An Observation Post was constructed on the edge of Lingheath along the Bury Road. (Info: Steve Woods)

We were taken to the location by John Field, son of Patrol leader Sergeant Philip Field. Mr Field was taken to the site by his father, after the war, but was not allowed to access it. On returning to the site years later all that remained of it was a depression in the ground. Presumably it had collapsed. Going by Steve Woods’ description, the OB appears to have had a flat roof and was, in all probability, built by the Patrol members themselves.

Over the years the location has changed considerably: the piggery no longer insists; trees are now growing on the small area of former heath land, which is hemmed in by boarding kennels and two private dwellings to the north and east, and a substantial house to the west of it. In the 1940s, the nearest roads would have been Thetford Road (600 metres north) and Bury Road (550 meters west). The Patrol’s Observational Post is said to have been near Bury Road.

Our thanks go to Mr John Field for kindly taking us to the location and for letting us have a photograph depicting not only most of the Patrol members but also Group Commanding Officer Captain Walter Gentle. The photo is believed to have been taken on occasion of a competition (note Lieutenant Eric Field holding the cup they won). This is the Auxiliary Units, Norfolk Area Cup, which is now on display at the Parham Airfield Museum. Brandon were winners in 1941, with Walsingham the runners up.

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
Brandon Patrol. Capt Gentle rear center, Lt Field in front holding cup (from J Field)
OB Image
Caption & credit
Brandon OB site
OB Status
OB accessibility
This OB is on private land. Please do not be tempted to trespass to see it

Brandon Patrol

Patrol Targets

Local targets would have included the main railway through Brandon and Thetford Forest and roads and crossroads through Thetford Forest - a possible German regrouping point under the tree cover.

Large flat expanses of Breckland heathland around Brandon would have made an ideal landing area for parachutists. Also the Little Ouse River crossings.

RAF Lakenheath is nearby, as is Didlington Hall, which was the HQ of the 46th Army Group.


Some of the Patrol went to Coleshill House for specialist courses. They also trained locally around Thetford Forest and at Didlington Hall with the army.

Training was carried out every Sunday in the chalk pit on the Elveden to Bury St Edmunds road. Patrol members were taught by the regular army to prime and throw Mills bombs, about dismantling fuses and especially the seven second fuse; they were also taught how to wrap plastic explosive around rail tracks to cut 3 foot lengths of rail.

A second joint training day was carried out in November 1940 and participants were taught about tank sabotage, how to keep low, using the .38 revolver and how to track their target.

The Unit also went to the rifle range at Cawston in Norfolk with .303 packed in grease that had been stored since the previous World War.

An account by Les Bond on the Brandon at War website recalls a weekend exercise when his regular Home Guard unit was pitted against the “Home Guard Commandos” as they knew them. His section was in an old shop on the Thetford Road in Brandon, but the Aux Units men dropped a grenade down the chimney of the pot bellied stove to wipe them all out. The assumption is that this was a dummy grenade and not the real thing! Les joined the Home Guard on 29 Oct 1941 and he was in the Army by April 1943, so this exercise must have been between those dates.

Other information

The patrol photograph is as follows;

Rear L - R; Billy Stead, Captain Walter Gentle, Wally Blake

Middle L - R; Sergeant Phillip Field, Assistant Group Commander Lieutenant Eric Field, Roy Budden

Front L - R; George Eagle, Billy Baker

(Courtesy J R Field)


TNA ref WO199/3389

Hancock data held at B.R.A

Evelyn Simak and Adrian Pye

Gareath Evans

Brandon at War

J R Field for the Patrol photograph.

Steve Woods, Brandon Country Park