Stoke Gabriel Patrol

County Group
Locality

Stoke Gabriel is a village in South Devon on the east bank of the River Dart.

Patrol members
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Sergeant Alfred John King

Transport driver

26 Sep 1940 03 Dec 1944
Corporal James Alfred Collings

Horseman

23 Sep 1941 03 Dec 1944
Private Reginald Victor Baker

Sand barge worker

28 Sep 1941 03 Dec 1944
Private Francis Leslie Chubb

Farm carter and horseman

23 Sep 1941 03 Dec 1944
Private Frederick John Hodge

Timber worker

23 Sep 1941 03 Dec 1944
Private Charles Kiff

Gardener

28 Feb 1943 03 Dec 1944
Private Edwin Prince Potham

Farm worker

28 Sep 1941 03 Dec 1944
Private Alfred Tucker

Farmer and carpenter

23 Sep 1941 12 Mar 1943
Private Charles Neville Watson 25 Oct 1941 10 Oct 1942
Operational Base (OB)

The Operational Base is on PRIVATE LAND and was accessed by kind permission of the estate manager.

The OB is on the edge of East Wood, below Sandridge Barton on the east bank of the River Dart, downriver from Stoke Gabriel village.

It appears that some attempt has been made, post war, to dismantle the Operational Base though it may have collapsed naturally with the progression of time. Far too many ventilation pipes are intact and in situ for it to have been blown up and the depression in the ground is far too evident for it to have been filled in.

Though overgrown with Ivy and decades of mulch from the trees, a clear outline of the Operational Base can be mapped out, at least 10 feet down into the bedrock.

A lack of in-fill behind the remaining wall structure seems to indicate that the original pit was quarried or at least finished by hand to exactly the correct size and design.

The distinct layers of construction can be seen in the far end wall of the main chamber and this seems to suggest the base was maybe built by the patrol and may have been altered or added to when construction and materials became more standardised.

A framework made of 4 inch by 4 inch timber was constructed around the sides of the quarried out area. This was then clad with 4 inch by 1 inch timber to create a wooden hut structure.

This was then internally lagged with chicken wire and then roofing felt or possibly damp proof course, though no joins can be seen.

The more standard construction material of the corrugated iron Nissen was then placed inside. No evidence remains of any concrete blocks being used.

The OB remains show the original structure consisted of a drop down shaft, lined with corrugated iron, leading to a small entrance chamber which had an approximate 4 foot by 3 foot alcove off to the left as seen in the picture which is looking down into the side alcove.

After this the main chamber of the OB opens out to an area of around 17 foot by 15 foot with (looking from the entrance shaft) a larger alcove to the right with various ventilation pipes still in situ and the escape tunnel leading off to the left.

The escape tunnel exits from the main chamber, runs downhill 33 feet and seems to turn a right angle and continue for another 7 feet before terminating near a path and gateway.

It appears to have been constructed in a similar way to the main chamber. Being 4 feet wide, corrugated iron lines the sides and the presence of 4 inch screws indicates a wooden frame was used for the structure.

The length of the tunnel was covered with stones which would have been the spoil from the excavation of the main chamber.

The location of the OB, close to and above the River Dart, would suggest the best location for a observation post would actually be on lower ground, closer to the river edge.

The wood continues down the river bank, almost to the waters edge, so they could have good visibility up and down the Dart whilst still well concealed by trees.

During the preparations for D-Day, Allied forces were based in the nearby fields. Many trees, only yards from the OB, have military arborglyphs (graffiti) carved by American personnel.

Patrol & OB pictures
OB Image
Caption & credit
Stoke Gabriel Home Guard
OB Image
Caption & credit
Ventilation Pipe still in situ at what would have been ceiling height.
OB Image
Caption & credit
Screws used to build structure.
OB Image
Caption & credit
Diagram of OB (Not to scale)
OB Image
Caption & credit
Looking down into main chamber
OB Image
Caption & credit
Metal lined entrance shaft
OB Image
Caption & credit
Escape Tunnel running from main chamber
OB Image
Caption & credit
The right angle turn in the escape tunnel.
OB Image
Caption & credit
View from the OB over the River Dart
OB Image
Caption & credit
Side wall showing build method
OB Image
Caption & credit
Aerial view of the Estate
OB Image
Caption & credit
Devon Group 4 Auxiliers and Commanders of Brixham, Marldon and Stoke Gabriel Patrols (from Nina Hannaford)
OB Image
Caption & credit
Brixham, Stoke Gabriel and Marldon (colourized by Stephen Lewins)
OB Status
Collapsed with some visible remains
OB accessibility
This OB is on private land. Please do not be tempted to trespass to see it
Location

Stoke Gabriel Patrol

Patrol Targets

As there are few important road or rail links close to Stoke Gabriel it is assumed that the most obvious target would have been traffic on the strategically important River Dart.

Weapons and Equipment

It is assumed they were issued with the standard kit, arms and explosives.

Like Philliegh Patrol on the River Fal in Cornwall here is a thought that due to Stoke Gabriel's location next to the extremely strategically important River Dart they may have been issued with Limpet Mines.

Other information

Just downstream from the OB was another wartime clandestine operation. The 15th Motor Gunboat Flotilla of the Royal Navy used to lie midstream in the River Dart alongside an old paddle steamer, 'Westward-Ho!'

This flotilla carried out clandestine operations from the River Dart to Northern Brittany from 1942 to 1944. Working closely with the French Resistance, it landed or brought back many British and Allied agents supporting intelligence and escape networks and SOE (Special Operations Executive).

In 1941 the Nazis produced a folder containing maps and booklets that were intended to be used as military intelligence documents for invasion.

In preparing for the invasion a vast amount of information, including maps and photographs, was assembled by the German military which resulted in the production of a series of military/geographical assessments, showing what might be found by those arriving.

There are two pictures of the River Dart, one an aerial view with the caption of 'a harbour of refuge' and the one above taken from the east bank looking up towards Stoke Gabriel.

References

TNA ref WO199/3391
Hancock data held at B.R.A
Charlie Bircham
Bob Scadding
Sylvia nee Tucker

Martyn Allen
Old Stoke Gabriel Photos
1939 Register on Findmypast.

The Secret War from the River Dart by Lloyd Boyt