Letton Patrol

A.K.A. (nickname)
Adam
County Group
Locality

Letton is a small ancient village which is included in the estate of Letton Court next to the River Wye.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from until
Sergeant Alexander Beck

Farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Corporal John Turner

Farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Vernon Beach-Thomas

Engineer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Leslie Edwin Evans

Nursery manager

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private William Aurthur Henry Morgan

Roadman

Unknown Unknown
Private Geoffrey Morgan-Jones

Farmer

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Operational Base (OB)

When first formed the Patrol didn't have an OB so their plan was to use whatever cover they could find. Their strategy was to gather together to make a plan then spread out to commit sabotage individually.

The first OB was built by the Royal Engineers in a wooded area close to Sergeant Beck's home at Old Lutton Court. It was on the land of a Major Cotterrel who lived at Gamons. Its location may have been influenced by it being one of the first pieces of wooded hillside west of Hereford. The OB was near a Yew tree. It had a corrugated iron roof and a small boarded escape tunnel that could have exited too close to the OB to be effective. The entrance was via a trap door covered with earth. The trapdoor was covered by earth and was lifted manually.

The Patrol members were expected to be able to find their way to the hide in the dark, the OB was never approached in daylight.

A nearby separate pit store, entered via a trap door was used to store all the Patrols explosives.

When it was realised that ventilation was an issue a new unofficial OB was established in caves at Credenhill Park Wood.

OB Status
Location not known
Location

Letton Patrol

Training

Training by the regular army included use of plastic explosives, unarmed combat, assembling explosive charges in the dark and night firing. Geoffrey Morgan-Jones vividly remembered the first demonstration of plastic explosives; an officer placed a T shaped charge on a traction engine wheel which cut a T shaped hole in the wheel. He also recalled magnets used with plastic explosives to enable the charge to be fitted to a tank.

One exercise had the Patrol booby-trapping a high-ranking officers car. An unplanned, but successful diversion of over turning a hen house meant they achieved their aim.

An exercise with the other Herefordshire Patrols at Canon (or King's) Pyon involved noting the number on a 5-gallon drum without being seen by the Army detachment guarding it. A member of “Adam” Patrol not only got the number but carried off the drum as well. Captain Sandford was not pleased and the Patrol were reprimanded.

Other exercises involved demolishing trees to block roads and exercises to test the security of Shobdon airfield.

At a party at Bullingham Barracks, Hereford, an Army officer was adamant nobody could break into the guarded camp. Sergeant Beck decided to take this as a challenge so at 2am the Patrol drove to a spot to wait an hour for their vision to adjust to the dark night. Avoiding the sentries they entered the camp at different points laying thunderflashes on time-pencil delays. It is unknown if they stayed to watch the resulting commotion but a resulting enquiry showed all of Adam Patrol were fast asleep in bed.

Hereford Patrols trained at Holmer Grange, the home of Captain Hughie Hall. Auxiliers had memories of a large lake with a pontoon bridge over. An exercise was to run over the pontoon with all their equipment, missing the part of the bridge that was primed to collapse. If they didn't fall in, the instructors pushed them in anyway. A stuffed dummy mounted in a doorway was used for silent killing practice.

A competition between all six Patrols took place at a farm at Holmer. Each Patrol had to place a magnet with the Patrols name attached on some farm equipment stored in a yard. Getting in and out without being spotted, the victor was Bromyard Patrol.

At Coleshill unarmed combat was taught. The course was felt to be a bit of a waste of time possibly because Alex Beck had already carried out training with his unit and the majority were tough and robust farmers. Morgan-Jones recalled sleeping in a straw filled loft.

 

Weapons and Equipment

It is assumed that they had the standard weapons and explosives issued to all Patrols. These were stored near the first OB in the separate store. This small pit-store contained various types of equipment: time pencils, Mills grenades, nitro­glycerine, phosphorous bombs etc. After the war the Royal Engineers blew up the store but not all of the explosive content was destroyed.

Morgan-Jones recalled a Thompson sub machine gun being replaced by a Sten, a Smith & Wesson with dumdum bullets and a Fairburn-Sykes fighting knife along with sticky bombs which he regarded as useless.

Experimenting with some explosives, Sergeant Beck caused a blast large enough to damage a cottage and bring the Hay Civil Defence Corps running.

Other information

Geoff Morgan-Jones remembers a Captain van Moppe giving a talk to the group, possibly on security. If they were ever stopped the enquirer was told that he belonged to 202 and to make further enquiries of a particular quarter.

If any member of the Patrol had been caught, the instruction was to get a message to Beck's wife Joan as a first means of communication. The whole basis was the less known the less able to disclose anything hence the aura of secrecy. Todd ended up on friendly terms with Beck. They had no illusions as to their fate if caught and no quarter was to be given.

Most of the Patrol were known pre-war to each other; Tuner was the best man at Morgan-Jones wedding, Evans was a friend, Beck and Hall were hunting and shooting friends,

Along with other Patrols from around the country some of Letton Patrol were recruited to defend the Isle of Wight in June 1944 for 10 days during the time of D-Day.

Secrecy was never compromised. When the war started to turn in the Allies' favour less time was spent in training but the unit still met if only for drinks!

Herefordshire Patrols had their first reunion dinner on 26th January 1945 at Booth Hall in Hereford.

References

TNA ref WO199/3389 

Hancock data held at B.R.A

The Mercian Maquis by Bernard Lowry & Mick Wilks,

Info on Alexander Beck provided by Don Maddox.