The 12 Day Army
The patrols wore the army of the Home Guard as a disguise to ensure no one outside the unit knew of their existence. In the event of an invasion, the men wouldn’t fight the Germans face-to-face. Instead, church bells would signal the arrival of the enemy and the soldiers would slip away from their civilian jobs and start the resistance in plain clothes so as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the population.
Each patrol had its secret base several feet underground. Every member was trained in the use of explosives, and the men used weapons such as guns, knives and sniper rifles. Bomb training included the use of phosphorus bombs, booby traps, and Molotov Cocktails. They were ordered to cause as much disruption to the Germans as possible. This involved ambushing the enemy and sabotaging their installations for as long as possible. The men were also shown how to attach magnetic clamps fitted with gelignite to railway lines and tanks.
Although the troops were never called into action, their bravery can not be understated. Any German invading force would have numbered at least 200,000, and the resistance members were told not to surrender or get captured. If they were surrounded by the Nazis, they had to die fighting or commit suicide. Unlike regular army grenades, which had a seven-second fuse, the Auxiliary Unit had four-second fuses. This increased the risk of death to the thrower but decreased the possibility of the grenade getting thrown back. Also, each man was given a gallon of rum.
The volunteers were under no illusions as to their fate in the event of an invasion. They were given an average life expectancy of just 12 days, so every single person viewed it as a suicide mission. Other tasks included killing collaborators and key figures such as police chiefs because they could be tortured into revealing crucial information.
A Tragic Lack of Recognition
The very nature of the Auxiliary Unit meant the men never received credit. They couldn’t even tell their families about the resistance, so the soldiers were often subject to abuse in their local areas. Other residents would mock them for not joining the war effort. In some cases, the auxiliaries were handed a white feather, a sign of cowardice. On Thursday evenings, the men would leave their homes and travel to Coleshill for a weekend of intense training.
There are probably fewer than 100 veterans alive today, and they are still bitter over the lack of recognition from the British Government. After World War II, the only acknowledgment the men received was a small badge bearing the number of one of the three battalions (201, 202, and 203). Finally being allowed to march past the Cenotaph in 2013 during Remembrance Sunday was an emotional day for the remaining resistance members. It is a shame that their efforts have been overlooked for so long but as more details emerge, the brave members of the Auxiliary Units may finally get the credit they deserve.