Letterston Patrol

A.K.A. (nickname)
Sealyham Saboteurs or Tommy George's Group
Locality

Letterston parish is situated in the north-western part of the county, and is intersected by the road from Haverfordwest to Fishguard.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Captain Thomas James George

Strongman

Unknown Unknown
Sergeant Hywel Griffiths

Plumber

03 May 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Benjamin Bowen

Farm labourer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private John James Davies

Farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private William Trindal Davies

Agricultural labourer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Evan Milton Evans

Small holder

Unknown 1942
Private Mansel Humphreys Evans

Builders apprentice

Unknown 1942
Private Waldo Harries Unknown Unknown
Private Joseph Henry Lewis

Ploughman

06 May 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Arthur Williams Unknown Unknown
Operational Base (OB)

The first OB was constructed in the valley of Summerton Woods near Little Newcastle, a site selected by the Intelligence Officer and built by the Royal Engineers. The Patrol however were not impressed by this as it was an area well known and used by the locals. It was also very damp and difficult to visit without leaving a tell tale track. The site was abandoned and a new location found in Sealyham Wood, between Wolfscastle and Letterston, in a natural hollow covered by a Rhododendron thicket and with a well worn path nearby.

The Army supplied all the materials and the Patrol spent the next few weeks, under the cover of darkness, carrying corrugated sheets and all the materials from the Harp Inn to the site. They constructed a Nissen type structure, accessible through a well concealed trap door with living accommodation for 6 men. Tommy George recalled; "We removed all the undergrowth and soil, tons and tons of it, then we brought in some sheeting from Anderson shelters [may have meant Elephant shelters] at the dead of night and laid it in position. After that we put the soil back on top and replaced the vegetation. After 2 weeks there wasn't a trace of what we had done. Altogether it took us about 3 months to completely finish, just the 6 of us, working night and day."

The finished OB was 30 feet by 12 feet and buried about 5 feet underground. From the main chamber a long tunnel led to a trapdoor exit in the bushes beside a pathway. The trapdoor was counterbalanced with lead weights as there was so much soil on top. Tommy explained; "When the war office people came down to inspect we led them to within 10 feet of the entrance, then challenged them to find it. Several times they walked right over it but in the end they gave up. Even then one of them was standing with his foot on the trap door itself. I asked him to move and tugged hard on a Laurel bush growing on top. Up came the Laurel, and the trapdoor, revealing a staircase leading down into a tunnel. It was very comfortable inside. We had bunks, tables and chairs and it was beautifully painted with anti-condensation that made it wonderfully dry, we spent days and nights there getting used to the atmosphere".

A few hundred yards away the Patrol created an Observation Post connected to the main base by an underground military telephone line. This smaller base would be for a single observer to give an early warning of an enemy's approach.

OB Status
Location not known
OB accessibility
This OB is on private land. Please do not be tempted to trespass to see it
Location

Letterston Patrol

Patrol Targets

Transport targets would have included the rail lines to the east and west and the main A40 road. Practice raids took place on Withybush airfield.

Training

The Patrol would routinely march 20-30 miles, carrying a full pack. They had a training ground near Wolfscatle, complete with moving targets.

They carried out many attacks on local military bases, especially the American ones. One large camp at the back of Letterston was full of tanks and ammunition. Tommy George recalled; "We made several sham attacks on that place, though once or twice, I must admit, some of my boys got carried away and started using live stuff. One time they set a sticky bomb onto a small pile of ammo and fuel and up it went. Oh yes, I had some very keen boys indeed."

Withybush airfield had security that was meant to be impossible to breach but the Patrol broke in and fixed dummy bombs to the parked aircraft. When the bombs were discovered the following day the Base Commander was not pleased.

The group actually asked permission to test another base, which was granted as the Commander assumed it was a Home Guard exercise. Some strong language resulted after they discovered some secret papers had disappeared from the Commander's office proving security had been breached.

Tommy George remembered his visit to Coleshill for all the 'cloak and dagger' secrecy that enveloped him the moment he stepped off the train. Bemused by having to report to the Highworth Post Office he presented his papers to Mrs Stranks. Having phoned Coleshill she told him not to move and someone would come and collect him. "At Coleshill I was told exactly what was expected of my Patrol. We weren't supposed to engage the Germans in a frontal attack, but go to ground , let them pass over, then emerge only at night to make attacks on convoys, airfields and ammunition dumps; also on headquarters wherever they established them. We were expected to fight until we'd been completely overrun or until the Germans had been forced to retreat. How long we could have lasted out is a matter of opinion. Myself I think we could have survived almost indefinitely. We could live off the land and we were well equipped. Because I was skilled in the martial art of Ju-jitsu, I had to train a lot of the other Commanders."

In a contest at Coleshill, Letteston came second in the whole country, only beaten by a Patrol from Scotland.

After a weekend at Coleshill, Tommy took the Patrol on a day trip to London but failed to notify anyone; "Off we went, but as soon as we got to Paddington the Military Police spotted us straightway, perhaps they noticed something unusual about our insignia. In any case it had been a fairly testing course so we were looking pretty rough. We'd only gone about 200 yards when a horde of M.P.s drew up in front of us blocking our path. Who were we? What were we? I carried a document with me It had a telephone number and instructions on no account whatsoever is this man to be questioned as to his business. If a law officer or anyone in authority requires further information they should telephone.....They held us while a Sergeant rang the number and they had to let us go."

Weapons and Equipment

Tommy George recalled the Patrols were very well equipped with whatever new and more efficient weapons military science could devise; "Thompson machine guns from America, rifles, revolvers as well as .22 special high velocity rifles for use by marksmen and all sorts of bombs and mines together with all the paraphernalia needed to set them off - detonators, time pencils and tripwires. Also phosphorous hand grenades, tyre busting mines disguised as lumps of coal or horse manure".

When a new load of explosives arrived it was vital they were taken to the Sealyham Woods OB. The nearest they could get by car was 400 yards, the explosives then had to be carried along a footpath which led to the hospital. On this night some nurses were returning late from a night out and spotted the Patrol. Racing into the hospital they reported they had seen German paratroopers.

Dozens of police arrived and surrounded the woods while the Patrol hid out in the OB. At 3am the decided to go home and passed through the cordon without being seen. The following day they found the police and army still searching the woods. The OB wasn't discovered. Tommy recalled; "We could see all these Policemen getting more and more frustrated, talking and smoking and trampling about on the edge of the wood. We passed between them without them seeing us at all. I was talking to a special constable sergeant the following day. He looked exhausted. He'd been up all night, he said, searching Sealyham Woods for Germans. They'd had to call troops in to help them in the end. The troops were still there".

The locals did notice that the men seemed to have access to plenty of petrol and once or twice were reported to the Police because it was assumed they were getting it on the black market. The matter was referred to the Chief Constable where, as he was aware of the Patrol's activities, the investigations stopped.

The Royal Engineers were detailed to collect up all the explosives and weapons and destroy all the bases after stand down. Tommy recalled; "The trouble was that the Royal Engineers didn't make a very good job of it. They left explosives all over the place, a fair amount in my area. We had a distribution base at Canaston Wood on the other side of Haverfordwest. After we had been disbanded I went to have a look there and I was alarmed to say the least. It still contained at least a quarter of a ton of explosives, Molotov cocktails and so on".

 

Other information

In an article published in County Echo 21 Sept 1982 by Joe Nicholls Tommy George recalled life in the Patrol;

"If anyone asked us what we were doing, we were supposed to say we were just surplus to requirements as far as the Home Guard went. I picked people who'd trained with me and who'd worked with me and the most wonderful and dependable boys they turned out to be. I chose only 6. Other Patrols were sometimes larger, but I thought 6 was about the limit if you wanted speed of movement and secrecy."

References

TNA Reference WO199/3389

Major Hancock data held at B. R. A

1939 Register

"The Last Ditch" by David Lampe

The Story of Stokey Lewis by Walter Ireland

Roy Lewis article Western Telegraph Dec 2002

Country Echo 21 Sept 1982 by Joe Nicholls