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.
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.
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.