Maiden Newton is a village 9 miles north-west of Dorchester on the A356 with railway connections. Toller is is small settlement close by, linked during the war by a railway line. Maiden Newton was heavily defended, surrounded by a ring of pillboxes, anti-tank ditches and obstacles, and the bridges over the Frome were mined. This perhaps explains why the Patrol was based just outside this area.
The following is an account by Auxilier Ron Vallis.
The Maiden Newton Auxiliary Unit was a small secretive bunch of men who were trained to evade capture and disrupt an invading enemy as best they could. A great deal of their training involved explosives with the aim of causing maximum disruption to the progress of an advancing enemy.
Ron also recalled a number of other names including, Coombes, Stan Turner, Vines, Johnson and Jack Legg. You will notice that most of these men in fact lived in and around the Tollers and Kingcombe, but their task was to disrupt activity in the Village of Maiden Newton which would have become an important Railhead for an invading Army.
|Sergeant Frank Greening||
|01 Jun 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Gerald Albert Grover||
Electrical Engineer BBC Control Room
|06 Aug 1942||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Herbert Owen Sampson||
BBC Maintenance Engineer
|19 Jun 1942||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Roy Percy Tubbs||
At home Father a Dairy Farmer
|03 Jun 1943||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Ronald E Vallis||
|01 Dec 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Christopher Sidney George Vallis||
|01 Jun 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Cyril John Wallbridge||
|01 May 1942||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Samuel Edgar Wrixon||
|01 Jun 1940||03 Dec 1944|
Their shelter was located just south of the A356 in an old chalk pit. Seven people were able to sleep in hammocks at any one time in a room about 20’ long. Access to the hide was via a trapdoor that was activated by pulling on a wire hidden in a bush. The door would swing open to reveal a set of brick built steps leading down into the hide cut into the side of the chalk pit. Their explosives; gelignite, incendiaries and grenades were stored along the sides of these entrance steps which led down to an underground Nissen hut. These hides were known as OBs (Operational Bases). Ron is aware of the location of two others that they could use if they needed to move on, one at Beaminster and another near Stratton / Wrackleford.
Their OB was equipped with churns of water and food for 3 weeks. Ron was told that the OB was kitted for three weeks because if they hadn’t got ‘Jerry’ out by then the war was probably lost.
The site was destroyed when a large modern barn was built in the same location.
Maiden Newton (Toller) Patrol
These likely included the rail junction at Maiden Newton.
Their HQ was at Duntish Court, the Dorset Aux Units HQ for training. They would all go over on a Sunday morning for “beer and training”. Duntish Court was run by “Lt. Weaver and a bunch of Red Caps”. They would all train in the stables and out buildings. As far as Ron knows all of the staff at Duntish Court had escaped from France. Their cover for traveling on a Sunday was that they were delivering coal, this was necessary as nobody was to know about their secretive work. Ron was aware that their French counterparts, the Resistance, were trained in Scotland.
His (Ron) main role within the Auxiliaries was as an explosives expert and his task was to destroy as many bridges as he could before being captured. On one occasion he was sent to Wimborne for an exercise. They were dropped off in a field of kale with the instruction to reach a convoy of vehicles and to ‘mark them’ to indicate that they had been blown up, a task that was successfully achieved.
They also attacked RAF Warmwell from Duck Farm. They had to cross a number of water-meadows, through the quarries and onto the Warmwell airfield. Again they had to ‘mark’ the aeroplanes, which they did, but were eventually caught in the search lights. Upon capture they were given a meal and returned home. All of their training took place at night except for the Sunday sessions at Duntish Court. They also never visited their OB during the day and made every effort to approach it from different directions in order that they would not create a track. Ron recalls one occasion when he was stopped by PC Dunford in the middle of the night at White Gate on his way home. He had to lie his way out of a tight spot!
They were issued with a Service Revolver each and the OB had one .22 rifle with telescopic sights (Ron recalls that this was for shooting rabbits as food, but this has been challenged by others who claim that it had a more sinister use), two rifles, one ‘Tommy Gun’ and two ‘Sten Guns’. Each of them had the option to buy a ‘Fairburn Sykes’ fighting knife which they mostly did. The Auxiliaries would fuse their own grenades when needed and could set the fuses to detonate after either 2 seconds or 7 seconds. They also had lead 'delays' which could be set to go off up to two days later. The detonators came in tins of 15 per tin.
Capt. Gaunt was in charge of their Unit and would occasionally take them for a drink at the Spyway Inn. Ron recalls that the landlady was very strict and would only let them have 1 ½ pints of beer. He was visited at home by Capt. Gaunt on 5th June 1944, the day before ‘D Day’. Capt Gaunt informed him that he would be collected by staff car the following day and that he should then collect Eddie Wrixon and that they would be taken away for active duty. The next day he was working in the fields “picking tiddies” as usual when the staff car arrived. The driver escorted him to his home where he acted like an officers ‘batman’ and helped Ron to dress in his uniform, giving him a shave in the process. They then collected Eddie and set off. Their journey took them deep into the Purbecks, past Corfe and onto the hills overlooking Poole to an artillery base. The base was covered in camouflage netting and they were allocated a billet in a tent. They were there for eight days and were tasked with guarding a door into the hillside. He never knew what was behind the door and never felt that he could ask. All that they ever saw was the Hospital Ships going to and fro along the coast. On the last day he was instructed to present himself to a Red Cap Officer who paid him eight days Army pay. They were then collected and taken to Corfe where they were given a meal in the pub. The best bit was that his boss on the farm also gave him his full pay for the week!
He can’t remember a great deal about the other defences or the Home Guard other than the Auxiliaries were paid but the Home Guard were not. He can also remember that a gun was stationed in Higher 20 Acres which was then moved down into Little Toller along with the search light.
Ron had a medical prior to being accepted at the WI hall in High West Street, Dorchester. He then had to see a Red Cap who told him that he would be sent away for six weeks training before being posted to his unit. He was told by Lt Weaver that as an Auxiliary he was now in a reserved occupation and would never be called up into the Regular Army. This was also one of the reasons that many of the Auxiliaries were farmers as they were also exempt from being called up so it would not be seen as unusual. However, “on one occasion a close friend, Clunie Mearns, defended them by taking on a number of ‘Yanks’ who had been insulting the non-uniformed locals”.
After the war Ron is not sure what happened to the hide and the equipment in it. He only returned once and took two grenades as souvenirs, only one had a detonator. He decided to try this out and went to the river with Roland Elliott. They threw it into a deep pool to see what would happen. After the explosion a lot of trout floated to the surface of the pool which Roland jumped into and scooped up as many as he could. He buried his last grenade in the hedge behind the outside loo of his cottage.
Ron Vallis and Eddie Wrixon spent the period for eight days from D-Day onwards guarding a doorway in a hillside (possibly a radar bunker).
The former Maiden Newton @ War website (no longer active)