Suffolk Scout Section

Supporting regiment
The Suffolk Regiment
About

Suffolk and Essex was initially a single area within the Auxiliary Units structure. The first Intelligence Officer for the area, Captain Andrew Croft, recalled that he was sent a lieutenant and about a dozen soldiers to help him. It is thought that this was the Suffolk Scout Section. Captain Croft left Auxiliary Units in early December 1940, confirming that the Scout Section was in place by then.

The Scout Section was made of Regular Army soldiers with a Lieutenant in command. Their role was train the Home Guard patrols, but also to go to ground themselves in the event of an invasion.

Geoff Bowery recalled seeing a notice in his barracks looking for volunteers for Special Military duties. After signing up there was an interview before he was accepted. He recalled meeting the other men and being taken in a 3 ton lorry to Cransford via Wickham Market and Framlingham from Gibraltar barracks in Bury St Edmunds.

The first training given was a lecture from Lieutenant McIntyre, the day after the men arrived. Subsequently they were trained to a high standard of fitness. The men mostly wore denims for training rather than battledress and had two sets of the former so they could be used continuously.

Geoff Bowery recalled attending a course at Coleshill House, presumably one of the special Scout Section ones. They were shown plastic explosive and the instructor demonstrated rolling it around, then lit the end, causing a firework like flare but no explosion. For that a detonator was necessary.

He also recalled Captain Henderson as pistol instructor. Geoff asked him when they would see action. His response was to shout "NOW!" and fire into the ground about an inch from Geoff's boot!

Geoff Bowery also recalled training the Home Guard patrols at Cransford. This was at weekends.

In common with many areas there was a Royal Engineers Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) attached. He was Scottish and was very good at designing the trapdoors.

At times NCOs from other regiments would be posted for a fortnight. Geoff recalled a Wiltshire Regiment Sergeant as one of these.

Pictures
Image
Caption & credit
Suffolk Scout Section ( J Warwicker)
Image
Caption & credit
Suffolk Scout Section members with Mark V bicycles (J Warwicker)
Operational Base

The patrol had several bases or “funk holes” as they knew them. One was near Halesworth. This had a very good trapdoor in the forest floor. On exiting, there was a small ring in a recessed tin. When pulled gently the door would swing down and hold in position. A wooden device would hold it in position.

Another was near Woodbridge on the edge of a valley. A slit was constructed in amongst the gnarled tree roots to look out over the road 30 yards away. It is thought that the remains of this Scout Section Operational Base (OB) may have been identified. It is around 20 minutes drive from Cransford, but almost an hour by bicycle and 3 hours on foot. Of course the men would not be familiar to the locals if this was the case.

It is located in a woodland that is surrounded by fields on all sides. An old cart track skirting the woodland in the east is about 150m distant from the OB site, which is located about 20 metres to the south of a narrow path traversing the woodland from east to west.

About 20 metres south of a narrow track traversing the woodland, there are three marked depressions in the ground, filled with twigs, branches and tree stumps. Sweeping the level ground in-between two of the depressions with a metal detector indicated that something was underneath there. On closer inspection revealed the rounded shape of the end of a corrugated iron Nissen-type hut, buried under about 60 cm of soil.

The structure was originally entered through a drop-down shaft (filled in/collapsed) by the south-eastern corner. The shaft was lined with corrugated sheeting, much of which is still in place.

An approx 3m/10ft long passage (collapsed) leads from the entrance shaft to what appears to have been an antechamber. The earthen walls of this chamber (collapsed) appear to have been stabilised with wire mesh, much of it still in place.

The main chamber is 12 ft long and in good condition, but filled with an approx 50 cm deep layer of sand that has trickled in through the doorways at both ends. The walls were originally painted off-white (standard army issue off-white lead paint) much of which is still in place.

The main chamber was accessed through a central doorway.
Both earthen end walls of the main chamber were lined with corrugated sheeting, some still in place.

A ceramic ventilation pipe can be seen emerging into the chamber immediately beside (to the west of) the entrance doorway.
The main chamber was exited through a central doorway, immediately adjoined by a 5m/16ft long escape tunnel (collapsed apart from an approx 1m long section that is blocked/inaccessible).

Both doorways into the main chamber are inaccessible due to tree stumps having been placed there.

Geoff Bowery recalled the construction of OBs from corrugated iron sections as being like building a prefab house. The timber was jointed 4x2 and the shaft built separately with a trapdoor escape as well. The ventilation system brought cool air in at the bottom as hot rose out the top. Often the Pioneer Corps would be brought in to excavate the hole.

Another known site that could be a Scout Section OB is located near the southern edge of a private woodland that is adjoined by farmland owned by Hasketon Hall Farm. Apparently the OB was either filled in or removed at an early stage. According to information lodged at British Resistance Organisation Museum at Parham, the OB was not used due to waterlogged ground conditions. In 1996, BROM recorders described the site as a large hollow in the ground.

The section practiced lying up in the OBs for 2 or 3 days at a time. They didn’t have toilets or cooking equipment, though they were issued with primus stoves.

Brian Ward had discovered the location in 1943, when, as teenager he had visited the woodland with his brother, in the hope of catching a rabbit for the pot. The two boys came upon what looked like a manhole cover and whilst still wondering what it might do here in the middle of the woods, they heard male voices from below, and ran away. Apparently the patrol members had assembled in their OB, neglecting to disguise the hatch covering the entrance to it.

 

Scout section personnel
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Lieutenant John T Bush 04 Aug 1940 Unknown
Lieutenant Kenneth McIntyre Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Sergeant Geoff Bowring Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Sergeant John Steward Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Corporal Cyril Hall Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Corporal Joe Oldfield Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Worby Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Ralph Bailey Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Clarke Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Leach Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Joe Middleton Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Private Urqhart Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Other personnel

The section would have consisted of a Lieutentant, a Sergeant, a Corporal and 9 private soldiers with a driver batman for the officer and driver for the section’s lorry. 

Weapons and Equipment

Geoff Bowery recalled that the week after they arrived, lorry loads of detonators, tools, maps compasses and weapons arrived at their base. Initially these included rifles, but they were withdrawn ad replaced with .38 Smith and Wesson revolvers. Geoff was given a Thompson submachine gun but found it too heavy. The men all received Commando fighting knives. There was US made DuPont nitro-glycerine and later plastic explosive. He also recalled trials with a spigot mortar (possibly the PIAT – rather than the Home Guard version) and the Sticky bomb.

Transport

The platoon was issued with a Bedford 15 cwt truck to help move larger objects.

Geoff Bowery recalled the issue of two small Triumph motorcycles. The section practised riding these on back lanes and plotted suitable routes of the area. They were very independent and used their initiative.

A photo shows the patrol in winter 1940 with a couple of Mk V Army bicycles in the background. The bicycles were standard issue for Scout Sections.

References

With Britain in Mortal Danger, John Warwicker

Churchill's Underground Army, John Warwicker

Geoff Bowery - recordings made by the British Resistance Organisation Museum, Parham, Suffolk

Evelyn Simak & Adrian Pye,  Brian Ward, Ipswich