Snargate Patrol

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

Snargate village is 4.5 miles north-east of the town of New Romney.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Sergeant Richard Stephen Body

Farmer

09 Jun 1940 1944
Private William John Brotherwood

Tractor driver

27 Nov 1941 1944
Private Frederick Cottington

Tractor driver

21 Jun 1940 1944
Private Victor Allan Cripps

Tractor driver

10 Mar 1942 1944
Private George Arthur William Elvy

Shepherd

10 Jun 1940 1944
Private Alfred William Jemison

Tractor driver

21 Jun 1940 1944
Private William Henry L Ovenden

Farm manager

Unknown 1944
Private Percy William Town

Tractor driver

21 Jun 1940 1944
Operational Base (OB)

Romney Marsh had three Auxiliary Unit patrols, with a fourth near Court at Street on the chalk escarpment above and to the north of the Marsh. Because of the very high water table on the Marsh, their operational bases (OBs) were built of reinforced concrete, fined with bitumen, by a civil contractor, Corben's of Maidstone, for £300 each.

Each had two entry/exit shafts, in one of which an Elsan closet could be placed; two three-tier bunk beds; bench seats with shelves above and lockers below; a 50-gallon water tank; and a table.

Today this OB remains structurally sound but is completely flooded. It measures 20 ft x 8 ft x 8 ft.

Norman Field chose the locations for the three O.B’s on the Marsh but only ever saw the one at Snargate being built as he was taken away from the units and Captain George McNicholl took over as Intelligence Officer. Whilst digging the hole to build the O.B. Norman noted that at 7 foot down they came across well preserved compressed braken and a blackened Oak tree lying on its side which he found fascinating being it was from another time long ago!

Sergeant Dick Body recalled: 'The three Operational Bases, designed by Captain Field and built by Corbens of Maidstone, were identical in size, being 20 ft long, 8 ft wide and 8 ft high. The external walls were of reinforced concrete lined with bitumen, and white bricks were used on the inside, with a ventilating downpipe in each corner and three air outlets along the centre of the chamber. There was an entrance at either end, with dwarf walls at the bottom in case the enemy should drop a grenade into the entrance shaft. Iron bars were let into the shaft brickwork to form steps. The entrances had camouflaged wooden covers.'

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
George Elvy and Dick Body at Snargate entrance 1994
OB Image
OB Image
OB Status
Largely intact
OB accessibility
This OB is on private land. Please do not be tempted to trespass to see it
Location

Snargate Patrol

Training

Took place at The Garth at weekends. The Patrol also trained in the area around Snargate and practiced with local military units on the odd occasion.

Sergeant Dick Body remembered his role as patrol leader in great detail:
'Soon the Patrols were kitted out and training began at The Garth. Most of the practical work with explosives was done under Capt Field and a Royal Engineer Corporal, and for weapon training, field craft, etc. under a Sgt MacDonald and Cpl MacKenzie of the Lovat Scouts. At times we handled captured German weapons so that we had a certain working knowledge of them. We were expected to practise in our own areas what we had learnt at The Garth.

For the first year no importance was put on dress and drill. Various members of Patrols went on a weekend course at Coleshill. There everything was intensive, with the first lecture taking place during the Friday evening meal. The officers running the HQ had all their meals with us; at the first meal the Colonel sat himself next to me. On the Saturday, lectures and practice went on all day with a night scheme that finished about 1 a.m., more lectures and demonstrations on the Sunday morning: unarmed combat with men from the Army Physical Training Corps, etc. After a quick meal we were trucked to the station and train back.

Every Patrol which went to The Garth was marked for competence with explosives, weapon drill, cleanliness of weapons, firing and grenade throwing. After the first selecting round, Patrols were graded A, B and C. Mushroom found themselves in C and something had to be done. So all weapons spent Saturday evening on the kitchen table being cleaned before going up to The Garth. As only five points were awarded for full turnout, and twenty for drill and turnout, there were occasional absentees. As a result of gamesmanship, Mushroom climbed by two steps from C to No. 4 in A.'

We would practise with live ammunition, firing against a thick bank, and on one occasion the bank was so hard the bullets ricocheted over the top and a farmworker in the next field shouted 'Oi ! These bullets are flying around everywhere!' We also made up a target like a man's head on a string, lay in the dyke, and one man would pull on the string so that the head came up and you would use a revolver to fire at it. We would all take it in turns. That was our training with the revolver on a moving target. After a while we were quite good at it.'

 

Weapons and Equipment

Sergeant Dick Body: 'Soon we were operational and were issued with quite a lot of material, which we took home so that we could practise and familiarize ourselves with it. The first time or two we handled gelignite very gingerly but soon learnt that all was safe so long as the basic rules were obeyed. We learnt the best places to immobilize tanks, vehicles, destroy stores, interrupt communications and set the various devices off by delay mechanisms, trip wires, etc., one of the important points being to do so in such a way that sabotage would not be too obvious.'

'Each member of the patrol had a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver and a knife as his personal weapons. Each patrol had as well a Thompson machine gun. two .300 Springfield rifles and a .22 Winchester magazine rifle with silencer and telescopic sight. This .22 was particularly for use against guard dogs and perhaps sentries. In 1944 our Thompson gun was withdrawn to send to Denmark and every man was issued with a Sten gun, a weapon they did not think much of; when you squeezed the trigger you did not know how many rounds you might fire.'

References

TNA ref WO199/3391 and WO199/3390

Hancock data held at B.R.A

Phil Evans

Adrian Westwood

Edward Carpenter's “Romney Marsh at War”.

Intelligence Officer Captain Norman Field and Sergeant Dick Body

Pillbox Study Group.