Sandford Levvy Patrol

Locality

The parish of Winscombe and Sandford is situated on the western edge of the Mendip Hills and on the A368.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Lieutenant Clifford Hugh Gregory Coombs

Boot repairer (Managing Director)

30 May 1940 03 Dec 1944
Corporal Kenneth Victor Watts

General farm labourer

10 Jun 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Ronald Banner

Nursery market gardener - Agricultural tractor contractor

06 Jun 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Clifford Banner

Nursery market gardener - Agricultural tractor contractor

06 Jun 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Verdon Leslie Freude Besley Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Percy Richard Brooks

Farm carter

07 Jun 1940 01 Nov 1942
Private Samuel Gilling

Agricultural labourer

27 May 1942 03 Dec 1944
Private Frederick Hayter

Chief clerk & accountant - Somerset National Health Insurance Company

03 Jun 1940 14 Apr 1943
Private Arthur Benjamin Lovell

Quarry labourer

20 Jan 1943 03 Dec 1944
Private Edward Leonard Biden Pearce

Dairy farmer

16 Jan 1942 05 Mar 1943
Private David Rigby Ross

Departmental manager - Automobile Association touring department

14 Jun 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Edmund Thiery Stephens

Farm worker assisting Father

15 Jun 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Glyndwr Gwierydd J. Sweeting

Stone quarry worker

14 Jun 1940 03 Dec 1944
Private Cecil Frederick Trego

Dairyman & milk roundsman

19 Jul 1941 03 Dec 1944
Private Kenneth Gordon Weymouth

Milk roundsman

29 Jul 1940 14 Apr 1943
Operational Base (OB)

The OB was constructed in Sandford Levvy, an old horizontal mine adit, many feet underground, running south into Sandford Hill and 450 metres long. It was a trial lead mine first opened in 1830.

In the adit there are remains of paving stones, pieces of old wood and rusty brackets which may be the remains of bunks. There are faint marks on walls which could have been caused by candles and the air is fresh. There are other tunnels above and below the chamber used by the Patrol.

According to Auxilier Sam Gilling, "The Patrol only used to go there in the dark, never in daylight and never the same way twice. Inside there were sleeping quarters, hard tack rations, explosives and special equipment."

Local lad, Wally King lived at Eastwood as a boy and knew the mine area well. He saw the army there hard blasting and later went to find the entrance built over with new access from the top, via counterweighted camouflaged trap door. Inside he found slabs and curved corrugated iron rounded ceilings. Drainage channels were cut at the side of passage. Wire mesh shelves held grenades, cases of rifles, dynamite in 6lb sweet jars.

Local boys knew of another way in further up the hill and were lowered down by rope. The Army had cut a second entrance, 30 yards south west of the main entrance.

Wally watched the Patrol fire metal topped milk bottle phosphorous bombs from something like a mortar on a tripod right across Sandford Quarry.

Another local, Percy Baker, discovered the OB and found it camouflaged and full of ammunition. Thinking it was an enemy hideout he reported his discovery to Police. He was made to swear to keep it secret.

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
Approach to the mine entrance.
OB Image
Caption & credit
Entrance to the mine. A tight squeeze.
OB Image
Caption & credit
Tunnel of OB
OB Image
Caption & credit
Left over signs of the bunk beds.
OB Image
Caption & credit
Left over signs of the bunk beds.
OB Image
Caption & credit
Paving in the tunnel
OB Image
OB Image
OB Image
OB Image
OB Image
OB Image
OB Image
Caption & credit
Sandford Levvy Patrol in the OB early picture
OB Image
Caption & credit
Sandford Levvy Patrol in the OB
OB Image
OB Status
Largely intact
OB accessibility
The OB site is publicly accessible
Location

Sandford Levvy Patrol

Patrol Targets

Auxilier Sam Gilling stated: “We had to get into Locking airport. Joint exercise as one of the lads from Wrington Wood was injured. Thumb and half the side of his hand blown off with a detonator.” This was Steve Fairhurst from Wrington Patrol who was discharged as medically unfit in July 1944.

Other possible targets would have been road and rail links leading to Bristol and Bath.

Training

Local training took place at Auxilier Cliff Banner's house at Kelvin House and at Sandford Quarry.

Auxilier Verdon Besley recalled: “Down at Cliff Banner's house he'd be practising blowing down his trees. I remember him giving me this explosive it was like plasticine. We had fuses, red, green, yellow, and blue timed from instantaneous up to so many seconds or minutes. It was all stored in Cliff's house. He took us to Sandford Quarry to throw Molotov Cocktails. We made our own with petrol in bottles”

Weapons and Equipment

Sam Gilling remembered having a “cheese-cutter”. “They were handy, a length of piano wire with wooden handles on each end. You strangled sentries with them.”

Other information

Sam Gilling along with Fred Trego and many Auxiliers from around the country were sent to the Isle of Wight in the summer 1944 to defend it prior to and during D-Day.

Sandford Patrol had two vehicles to use; Ken Watt's Austin 7 and Cliff Coombs' Morris. The Morris would tow a trailer with a canvas top and the men would sit either in the car or the trailer. Fred Trego moved stores around in the side car of his Raleigh motor-bike.

Author, Don Brown was able to help Nora Trego (and others) be awarded a posthumous Defence Medal for Fred from Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Sir John Wills, at Charterhouse in January 1997.

References

Donald Brown and his research for “Somerset vs Hitler” ISBN 1 85306 590 0. He was able to interview Auxiliers; Sam Gilling, Percy Baker, Wally King, Verdon Besley

Nora Trego, the widow of Fred Trego

Margaret Trevis (nee Hayter)

Hancock Data held at B.R.A

TNA ref WO199/3391

Steven Davies for video