Whitchurch Canonicorum is a village in south-west Dorset, situated in the Marshwood Vale, 5 miles north-west of Bridport, 1 mile north of the A35 main road.
|Sergeant Gerald Hedley Glyde||
Dairy & arable farmer
|13 Jan 1941||03 Dec 1944|
|Sergeant Charles Knight||
|Corporal Wilfred Edgar John Symonds||
|01 Sep 1940||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Samuel Barnes||
|15 May 1942||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Frederick John Dare||
Foreman on farm
|Unknown||04 Mar 1943|
|Private William Fred Dare||
Father Dairy Farmer
|07 Jun 1942||03 Dec 1944|
|Private Frederick William James Sealey||
|01 Sep 1940||31 Oct 1944|
|Private Wilf John White||
Dairy Farming family
|28 Oct 1940||04 Mar 1943|
The OB was sited in Conegar Hill Plantation. It is owned by the Woodland Trust. Over the years the plantation has been worked and reforested, the OB being removed and the vegetation allowed to regrow.
Almost nothing remains of the bunker, except a depression and outline which fits the shape and dimensions described in the book 'Wodetone - A Wooded Place' by Guy Bryan, 2004. There is a drawing of the OB p.91 by Ed Bowditch. It had two vertical shafts and wooden floor.
John Pidgeon interviewed brothers Rex and Ralph Powell who were in the Wootton platoon LDV. They told him they knew all about the OB in WW2, and even helped the Patrol unload all the kit! It is suspected that this was after 1940 since the threat of invasion that year was extremely high and secrecy paramount.
There was a Jack Bowditch in the same LDV platoon. He is possibly the father of Ed Bowditch who made the OB drawing in the book.
Whitchurch Canonicorum Patrol
This was one of a series 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.
No Observation Post has been found, but the Patrol would have had good views along the A35 east to Hardown Hill above Morcombelake, and south to Charmouth and Lyme Bay.
The Whitchurch Canonicorum OB was used by the Beaminster and Symondsbury Patrol for local training as it was the local HQ for these Patrols according to George Raymond from the Beaminster Patrol in an audio interview. This makes sense as the Group Commander and Assistant Group Commander both lived in the village.
The Patrol apparently practised firing on Hardown Hilll, and they 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.
Fred Dare was issued with a .22 rifle, ,303 rifle, a .38 revolver and a commando knife. He also used a Tommy Gun and Sten Gun. He recalled the latter as it tended to fire off a whole magazine when fired on the single shot setting! It is likely that the Patrol were issued with the standard weapons.
Sergeant Knight was the first Patrol Leader, being later replaced by Gerald Glyde, who was promoted from Corporal.
Wilf Symonds was then promoted Corporal in his place.
William Fred Dare and Frederick John Dare were next door neighbours and Wilf White a cousin. In 2014 Fred Dare still refused to talk in detail about his service in Auxiliary Units.
Wodetone - A Wooded Place by Guy Bryan, 2004. Drawing of the OB p.91 by Ed Bowditch.
National Archives WO 199/3390, 199/3391
Additional names and dates of death from Ancestry.co.uk
Further Information from John Pidgeon, Lloyd Dare and Martyn Allen
Recorded audio of George Raymond (Beaminster Patrol) held in Beaminster Museum.