The village of Rolvenden lies between Hawkhurst and the town of Tenterden.
|Private William Hook||
|26 Jan 1941||Unknown|
|Private Percy James Gilbert||
|15 Jul 1940||Unknown|
|Private John Levi Moss||
|13 Jun 1940||Unknown|
|Private John Cecil Page||
|25 Jul 1940||Unknown|
|Private John Raymond Reed||
|27 Jun 1940||Unknown|
|Private Herbert Trelogan||
In the summer of 1940 Peter Fleming had to act quickly to get arms and explosives out to Patrols. Concealed dumping points had to be found at minimum notice. The first cache was under a small rubbish dump in a strip of woods behind the church. Bill Hook recalled; “During the early days, before the OB had been built, some supplies were stored in a wooden shed at Primrose Cottage. There was no training and the equipment was just handed out."
The OB was sited in woods behind Rolvenden cricket ground. The site was chosen by Norman Field and Bill Hook and built by Welsh miners attached to the Royal Engineers. The OB was closed down early and the kit transferred to Gibbet Oak; probably because troops were based nearby.
There was a trap door in the ground covered by a thin door mat disguised with ground debris and rubbish. A vertical ladder led into a bunker fitted with bunks and an Elsan closet and stocked with food and explosives. The OB was constructed using the disguise of an anti-aircraft battery at the end of Bull Lane. It was constructed with brick sides and a corrugated iron roof. The main chamber was 14 foot 6 inches long, 5 foot 9 inches wide and 6 foot 4 inches high with two side chambers 6 foot 6 inches long and 5 foot high. The escape tunnel was 5 foot 4 inches high and 4 foot 6 inches wide.
It was constructed near a footpath in a steep sided wooded gully with a stream to provide drainage and water. It was not tunnelled out but excavated, the OB was built and then covered with the soil that had been removed. This left a prominent rise in the bank even though it had been camouflaged. This was probably another reason why the OB was abandoned later in the war.
Herbert Trelogan: “I only visited the OB two or three times. We went over the field to a track in the wood. Off the track was a nice big straight tall oak tree. There was a trap door at the base of the tree covered with dead leaves. You pulled a ring and it came up and you went down a ladder into the chamber below. It was very difficult to cover the trapdoor and you used to try and scrape as many leaves round and slowly close the trapdoor behind you. This worried me very much. Later a tree stump was used.It was very damp down there."
Jack Moss: “We used to visit the OB once a month to check security, although I believe Bill Hook went there more often.”
Another OB was built in thick woodland on the Hole Park Estate north east of West Cross. The OB was dug into the side of a steeply sloping valley and consisted of a series of Anderson-type shelters in a T shape. Access was from the foot of the T where the bunker came out of the ground level. The dimensions were 20 foot by 20 foot. Nearby in the same wood there was a second bunker which was demolished by explosion soon after the war.
The Rolvenden OB was discovered during the war by two local girls, Gwyn Goddard and Mona Goodrum. They were walking through the wood when by chance they looked across the stream and spotted a hole in the bank with a light inside and what looked like rails long the sides. Most likely the emergency exit had been opened to provide ventilation. The rails mentioned were probably the sides of the shelves and bunks in the main chamber. Gwyn Goddard also mentioned that from Hole Park it was possible for a while to see vehicle tracks from the end of Bull Lane going down across the field to the wood. They may have been made by vehicles taking materials to the site.
Jack Moss: “In the event of an invasion we were on our own as we did not know of any other units and were not in contact with the Regular Army. As long as we could have pinched food we could have stayed active. If the Germans were still here after two weeks I do not think they could have been dislodged. We might have been useful; then again we might have been a liability.
We were not to actively engage the Germans. We were to operate at night and it was sabotage. Our weapons were for defence not attack. The knife was to be used to get rid of a sentry so you could place explosives but we were not to fire a pistol at them.
The possibility of being captured if wounded was not talked about a lot. I think it was the decision of the Patrol Leader or the rest of the Patrol to eliminate the people who not get away.”
Herbert Trelogan recalled: “I was approached while I was a beater during a rough shoot at Park Gate with Bill and Cecil. In the early days we had no instructions. We had the hide out and the equipment and we used to invent our own tactics. If the enemy came we were to go to ground and do what we could to disrupt them and blow things up. We never went on courses; that came later. In fact, we did not examine a lot of stuff in the hide out as no one had shown us what it was for. We used to chuck grenades in a nearby pond. The water would rise as high as the surrounding trees but hardly any fish ever appeared.
Lieutenant Strangman, and then a Lieutenant Dinwiddy, and two or three Lovat Scouts were responsible for our training at Cranbrook. We used to go to Angley Wood at weekends and the Lovat Scouts would show us how to use and strip down various weapons. We also had a little stunt where we would go into the woods with our Thompsons and a chap hiding would pull up targets with wires. Very crude but it did the job.”
Jack Moss: “We went to The Garth once a month and also trained at Coleshill and in Angley Wood near Glassenbury. There was a local Patrol in the area, but we never met them. We had lectures, grenade throwing, explosives practice, unarmed combat, shooting and how to crawl through barbed wire without cutting it so as not to leave any evidence. We were not to engage the Germans but to destroy their supplies. Our weapons were for defence not attack.
We were taught to carry our Thompsons on fully automatic but to only fire one shot. You had to press and release the trigger very quickly. We sometimes saw people at Angley Wood, from other patrols, we recognised. We never asked them any questions for security reasons. Before D-Day we were asked whether or not we would be prepared to drop into France. This was more of a feeler than a reality.”
Bert Trelogan: “Coleshill had a very big unit and headquarters there; quite a sophisticated place. The man in charge was Colonel The Lord Glanusk, a Welsh Guardsman. He was a very tall fellow and used to dress up in full rig. I remember this Lieutenant Dinwiddy; he was there at the time. He was just a little fellow. I remember looking up at the big fellow in awe.
Lord Glanusk would issue the men with a typewritten notice to be shown to anyone who asked who they were and what they were doing.
We did all sorts of things like throwing grenades. They had a big area and were behind an emplacement. We would throw the grenade and drop down behind the emplacement and wait for the explosions. I used to love it because I was quite good. We were shown how to steal up behind somebody with a knife and grab them and stick in the knife…and that was fine.
I remember we had a night exercise there to attack a position and I was in charge of our little crowd, about half a dozen blokes. I decided we were going to crawl across these fields to attack the place not along the hedgerow, as this is where they would set all the traps. In the middle of the field it was all flinty ground. My knees were red raw through crawling through a ploughed field.”
Jack Reed recalled the training at Coleshill was more intensive and the lectures came from higher military people. He recalls they even had an ATS station.
According to Jack Moss the Patrol’s operational area was to be two or three miles round Rolvenden. Although they carried out local exercises most of the training was at Angley Wood and sometimes at The Garth. They practiced laying booby traps along Alders Lane where it was presumed the Germans would travel.
Herbert Trelogan: “The OB was stuffed with various bits such as anti-tank mines, anti-personnel switches, fuse wire, primer cord and plastic explosives. I never saw all of the stuff as it was wrapped up and stored ready for use. We had two Thompsons and a BAR .300 calibre automatic between us. We had rubber boots like Army boots but made of rubber. I had never seen the type before. We each had a Smith and Wesson pistol and Fairburn Sykes fighting knife. We also had tinned food such as Spam for three months."
Until the end of 1941 the patrol consisted of the men listed. After this period the set up was changed because Rolvenden Patrol was stood down and merged with Gibbbet Oak Patrol. An early member was Herbert Trelogan, a pharmacist’s assistant from Ticehurst: “There were four original members of the Patrol - Cecil Page, Bill Hook, Jack Reed and me. I was in the Biddenden Home Guard and knew Cecil Page, a farm manager at Park Gate fruit farm. Cecil knew Bill Hook.
Some members of the Rolvenden Patrol believed that the Patrol was stood down due to a lack of a credible threat of German invasion and because the Patrol lost some men and was deemed non-operational. HQ at the Garth did not tell anyone the real reason for the Patrol being stood down.
In March 2023, Edward Barnham (Hole Park Estate owner), instigated an Information Board / Memorial to the Patrol and can be viewed here.
TNA ref WO199/3391 and WO199/3390
Hancock data held at B.R.A