On the outbreak of war, I reported to the local fire station in September as a messenger. This meant that I had to take my bicycle along with me, and I attended the Watch Room for three nights a week, and if there were a raid and the engines were called out, I would have to report to the fire station and go along with the engines with my bicycle. Of course, in those days there was no such thing as radio contact between the station and between engines, so it was all done by messenger.
In the summer of 1940, after Dunkirk, I joined the LDV. This was just like Dad's Army. My first patrol was on the back of a motorbike, civilian clothes, LDV armband. The chap driving the motorbike had a shotgun across his back held with a cord, a piece of string, and I was armed with a piece of pipe and a bayonet. We were supposed to patrol the local golf course in case parachutists dropped, but fortunately they didn't.
The LDV developed into the Home Guard, and the Bathampton Platoon which I was in, used to meet twice a week at the church hall in Bathampton for general drill and practice. We had the odd lecture on tactics. We were shown how to use and throw dummy Mills Bombs. We were introduced into rifle drill, bayonet practice and the usual training routine. The post which we manned was on the Warminster Road, just south of Bath, by the old Dry Arch. We had a sandbagged post, and we also had a slit trench with machine gun post that was up under the Claverton Woods, which would cover the valley and the main road. We were there for one night a week and at weekends, and we shared the duties with another platoon.
In early September 1940, when the threat of invasion appeared imminent and we were all mustered to stand to, we were on duty and we put knife-rest barbed wire blockages across the road so that any vehicle coming down would have to zig-zag between four of these blocks to pass us. Sometime after eleven o'clock, two of us were on sentry duty with the Sergeant, and three or four cyclists from Bath came down the road. They were obviously lads who had been out on the beer and were coming home. We challenge them - "Halt! Who goes there?" and got the answer "Bandwagon". "I'll Bandwagon you, you buggers", said the Sergeant and stuck his stick through the wheel of the front bicycle. This caused it to stop very suddenly, throwing the cyclist on the road and the other two piled into a heap after him. Fortunately, nobody was seriously damaged, but the Sergeant gave them a good ticking off and they went off complaining, having to push the damaged bicycle.
It was shortly after this that I had my first experience with the Auxiliary Units. On sentry duty again, somebody turned up with a blackened face, smoking a cigarette, talking to the platoon officer. About 5 minutes later there was a sharp report behind the sandbagged hut. "Your sentries aren't much good", he said to the Platoon Officer. "I've just blown your hut up." It turned out he was a chap called Bert Dolman, who was in an Auxiliary Unit patrol.
My friend Anthony Bentley-Hunt got to hear of the Auxiliary Units before I did, and within a week he said to me "Do you want to join something which is a bit more exciting than the Home Guard?" and I said "Yes, I'm willing to try anything". So we went to a house in Bathwick Street where we met a chap called Jack Wyld. He asked us all about our families, about our knowledge of the neighbourhood, our knowledge of weapons. He produced a 9mm Baretta, I remember, which he field stripped in front of us and said "Can you put that back together again?" Fortunately, being of a practical nature and watching what he was doing, I could. "Right-ho" he said, "come back in a week".
When we went back in a week's time he said "I've had you checked out, and do you want to join my unit?" I said "Well what unit's that?" He said "It's called Auxiliary Units. Our job will be to go underground if there is an invasion, bob up behind the Germans, and act as saboteurs". Well, to a teenager, it sounded very interesting, so we said "Yes, we would". Before that though, before he mentioned it to us, he said "If you are going to join, I'm going to have to swear you to secrecy." So we were sworn to secrecy and had to sign the Official Secrets Act before we were told any details.
Fortunately for all of us the Auxiliary Units were never called upon to put into practice the clandestine skills which they had learnt. However in the words of their motto we were "ready when called". By 1942, mid 1942, the immediate threat of invasion had disappeared and we were allowed to volunteer out. So September 1942 I joined the Fleet Air Arm as aircrew. This involved me in anti-submarine patrols, attacks on The Tirpitz off Norway, and then eventually with the British Pacific Fleet working the Pacific with the Americans in their campaign against the Japanese mainland, but then that's another story...
Bob spent his later years devoting his time to educating the public on Auxiliary Units. Sadly ill health meant he was unable to take part in the first march past the Cenotaph by Auxiliers. A right he had campaigned hard for.
|Unit or location||Role||Posted from||until|
|Bathampton Patrol||Patrol member||27 May 1940||Sept 1942|
City of Bath Boy's School, Beehen Hill, Bath
Student later to became a Teacher
Known as Moon he was transferred to 5th Somerset Battalion Home Guard then joined Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy in September 1942 as Air Crew. He later lived in Leicestershire.
Known as Bob he was a school friend of Tony Bentley-Hunt and they played Rugby together. He visited Coleshill House to train a couple of times in 1941.
Bob's obituary in The Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10714392/Bob-Millard-obitua…
The late Bob Millard
Second World War Archive SWWEC