The Secret History of the British Werewolf

It’s a question often posed by historians and enthusiasts the world over – what if Hitler had won the Second World War? Well, one thing’s now for sure, if the Nazi jackboot firmly established itself on the English mainland there would have been trouble.

The Auxiliary badge

The Auxiliary badge

Much has been written about Hitler’s Werewolves – groups of resistance fighters sworn to keep the fight going after the Allied victory. In reality, they were a disorganised bunch which was largely ineffective in terms of opposition. They lacked structure and resources.

The same can’t quite be said of their British counterparts, who are finally getting the recognition that they undoubtedly deserve.

Churchill had once vowed to ‘set Europe ablaze’ through commando operations in the early stages of the war when Britain’s military resources were scant and they were struggling to establish themselves on a war footing. He wanted the same guerilla warfare to be conducted in the event of a Nazi occupation of Britain.

His ‘secret army’ – the Auxiliary Unit – was founded in 1940 by Colonel Colin Gubbins.It numbered four thousand brave volunteers, who were ordered to disappear and report to hidden bases if wartime church bells rang to warn of enemy invasion.

Colonel Colin Gubbins

Colonel Colin Gubbins

Trained at Coleshill, in Oxfordshire, each Auxiliary cell was issued with sealed orders. Their role was to disrupt the enemy’s supply chain, take out strategic targets and execute collaborators. As well as unarmed combat, volunteers were trained in making booby traps and explosives, and how to blow up fuel dumps.

Most of its members worked in the countryside and many of them were in specialist occupations which were prohibited from joining the regular Forces.

They were chosen for their knowledge of the local area and ability with a weapon. Unable to tell anyone about their activities, Auxiliary Unit members disguised their real mission by pretending to belong to the Home Guard.

The unit was disbanded in 1944 when the threat of invasion had waned. Several of its members went on to join the SAS, while others saw action in France.

Now, however, the Royal British Legion has decided to honour these unsung heroes and have invited members of the Auxiliary units to parade with regular ex-serviceman at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in November.

It’s been a long time coming, but Churchill’s secret army looks like it will finally get the credit it deserves.

About historywithatwist

I am a journalist, author and book editor. I have published five novels - four (Tan, The Golden Grave, A Time of Traitors and Patriots' Blood) set during the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, and the fifth (High Crimes), a modern thriller. I'm a history enthusiast who loves a good yarn.
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2 Responses to The Secret History of the British Werewolf

  1. dstroebel says:

    Very interesting story. Don’t know your knowledge on the Krupp works in Essen, but what if Gustav Krupp von Bohlen had never married Bertha Krupp in 1906 and aligned the Krupp works with the Nazi Party and Hitler? Bertha is on record criticizing her husband’s association with the Nazi’s. Her brother-in-law, Tilo von Wilmosky, did time in a concentration camp as a result of the attempted assasination of Hitler in July 1944. Thank you, sir.


  2. jjtoner says:

    Gubbins was head of the SOE (Secret Operations Executive), Churchill’s favourite spy agency. The poor cousin of the Secret Intelligence Services (MI5 and MI6), they conducted all the British ‘dirty tricks’ during WW2. He was a larger-than-life individual, popular with the women and a prodigious drinker, by all accounts. He was constantly refused permission to join any of the established London gentlemen’s clubs. I believe he served in Ireland at some point, before the war, and learned a lot of his ‘dirty tricks’ from the Irish rebels.


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