Symondsbury is a small village 1.5 miles west of Bridport in West Dorset and lies just north of the A35, the main road route east / west through the area.
Bridport is a town 1.5 miles inland from the English Channel and grew on the rope-making industry. It had a train branch-line to West Bay (Bridport Harbour) until 1974. There were and still are a number of light industries in the vicinity.
American forces were stationed in and around Bridport prior to D-Day.
|Sergeant John Wills||
|02 Aug 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Corporal William George Westcott||
|01 Mar 1941||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Jack Bevis Bonfield||
1939 Electric Motor Engineer - owned garage
|Private Leonard George Hussey||
Baker, confectioner & cakes.
|30 May 1942||21 Mar 1944|
|Private Francis Gerald Legg||
|Unknown||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Thomas Roland Ridler||
|02 Sep 1941||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Richard Samuel Shute||
|01 Apr 1942||03 Dec 1944|
Patrol Leader Jack Wills had the OB built in his farm.
The OB was concealed inside a milking shed, now destroyed. The OB remains, though now partially collapsed. It is a standard Elephant shelter type with bunk beds either side and corrugated iron end wall. The brick entrance shaft contains the ventilation pipes. Bunks are visible either side, though the rest of the debris is post war rubbish that has been dumped inside.
It was rediscovered in 1999 when 3 year old Jasper tumbled through the shaft while playing in a field on his parents farm. His fall was broken by debris in the shaft and he was rescued moments later by his mum. It seems that after the war it was used to dump rubbish from the farm. Its whereabouts was lost when the milking shed above was demolished and the area became fields again.
In May 2022 CART 360'd the bunker. See below..
This was one of a number of Patrols based either side of the A35, then as now, one of the main roads out of the southwest. Presumably the intention was to ambush and delay any German troops landing either on the Dorset coast or further southwest.
There were relatively few military targets otherwise in the area. The closest airfields were some distance away. The nearby town of Bridport might have been a landing site for German troops and a possible target, along with the railway from Bridport to Maiden Newton.
The Patrol would have attended training sessions at the Dorset headquarters at Duntish Court. The Dorset Scout Section would have provided training to the Patrol as well. They also attended training at the Whitchurch Canonicorum OB along with the Beaminster Patrol.
It is probable that they would have also practised at the nearby shooting range behind The London Inn. The range aligned north towards Colmer's Hill, and the local Home Guard used it, as did the American forces who were stationed in the nearby village of Walditch in the run up to D-Day.
Two spent cartridges were found in the OB, one inside the other. One from an American M1 Carbine and the other a .38 revolver round (standard issue to Aux Patrols).
Apparently Francis Legg kept his revolver and knife in the grandmother clock in his house (where his younger brother found it and would practice loading it). It is likely that the Patrol were issued with the standard weapons.
The US soldiers in the photo outside the London Inn (stationed in nearby Walditch) were among the first to make the breakthrough and reach the bluff above Omaha beach on D-Day.
National Archives WO 199/3390, 199/3391
Additional names and dates of death from Ancestry.co.uk
Dorset Echo 26th March 1999
Audio recording of George Raymond (Beaminster Patrol) held in Beaminster Museum.
Helen Doble (personal correspondence)