Rayleigh Patrol


Rayleigh is large market town between Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea.

The Patrol were believed to have been recruited from members of the Home Guard. In the early days they met at the house of Gerald and Derek Barnes parents, because Len Downes kept his car, a Morris 12, in one of their garages and because Ray Cottis had his shop and house next door. After 1941, the boys lost contact with the Patrol as they met elsewhere, but Derek used some of the Cordtex left behind with homemade mercury fulminate detonators to create small explosions at the bottom of the garden!

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Lieutenant Robert Baptie

Company secretary

Unknown Unknown
Sergeant Leonard Henry Downes

Commercial traveller

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Raymond William John Cottis


Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Frank Hunt

Grocery assistant / transport worker

1940 1941
Private John Henry Murphy

Clerk at Naval Military outfitters

22 May 1941 31 Dec 1944
Private Edward John Southam

Nursery hand

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private John Wyatt Tomlinson

Tester at Marconi

Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Operational Base (OB)

The Operational Base is believed to have been in Hockley Woods, presumably on the Rayleigh side. The Barnes boys knew the site as Coe's Wood, as the Coe family owned the land, though on OS maps Blounts Wood is also used. This was adjacent the railway line between Rayleigh and Hockley. Bert Cocks, Hockley Patrol described the location as Blounts wood, also known as Merryland Wood.

Ray Cottis described the OB as being like a Nissen Hut, with a hidden trapdoor. He thought it had been destroyed after the war. He reported that the first hide had been abandoned because it was damp and had caused their gelignite to start weeping. This may explain the different locations recalled.

John Murphy's daughter recalled he had said that one night, while in the OB, the men had started to inexplicably drift off to sleep. He realised they were slowly suffocating and managed to rouse them sufficiently to get them out, though some had to be virtually dragged out. She found it extraordinary that the Royal Engineers could build a base without working ventilation! Possibly as a result of this, Mr Barnes produced a ventilation fan using the mechanism of a wind up gramophone, in order that it would work silently.

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
Essex Group 8 Patrols
OB Status
Location not known

Rayleigh Patrol

Weapons and Equipment

The Patrol’s munitions were stored in an outhouse at the Barnes’s house to keep them dry. The Barnes boys remembered there being considerable quantities of Bickford fuse, Cordtex fuse, pressure switches, detonators, thunder-flashes, Molotov cocktails, magnesium incendiary devices for sabotage but cannot recall which explosives, if any were kept there.

Other information

On Victory in Europe night on 8 May 1945, Gerald and Derek Barnes used some of the leftover thunder flashes as part of the celebrations in the High Street. A bonfire was also lit on the highest point in Rayleigh, Rayleigh Mount which was the site of a Norman Castle, and the lads carried a sack full of the magnesium devices there and fed the fire – apparently it was seen at Danbury more than ten miles away!

The group photo shows;

Back Row
Don Williams (Rochford), David Antill (Thundersley), Charlie Fance (Rochford), John Tomlinson (Rayleigh), Michael Ford (Hockley), Eddie Southern (Rayleigh)

Middle Row
Jack Murphy (Rayleigh), Bert Cocks (Hockley), Don Handscombe (Thundersley), Doug Cater (Rochford), George Clarke ( Hockley), George Sargeant ( Rochford)

Front Row
George Billardis (Canvey), Rupert Ives (Canvey), Jack Rodwell (Hockley), Bill Heath (AGC), Jack Ford (GC), Bob Baptie (AGC), Jack Burles (Rochford), Len Downes (Rayleigh), Fred Harris (Thundersley)


TNA ref WO199/3389

Hancock data held at B.R.A

1939 Register

Gerald and Derek Barnes

Nick Olley

Ray Cottis interview 1997