BRITAIN’S ‘secret army’, who were trained in Oxfordshire during the Second World War, are to be honoured publicly for the first time.
The secret army, known as the British Resistance, was formed at Coleshill, near Faringdon, after the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 when a German invasion seemed imminent.
Their role was to stay behind and repel Nazi troops from behind their lines in a mission so secret they could not even tell their own families.
Issued with these top secret orders, there has previously been no official recognition of their bravery and dedication.
But historians at the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART) have been lobbying for members to be included in the Remembrance Sunday march past the Cenotaph in London and, this year, the Royal British Legion has agreed to recognise the 4,000 volunteers.
Founder of CART Tom Sykes said: “The Royal British Legion’s decision to allow members of the British Resistance members to march past the Cenotaph in November is probably the county’s final chance to thank these civilian volunteers.
“Every year we are losing more of these men and women, most of whom are taking their secrets to the grave.”
Ed Vaizey, MP for Didcot and Wantage, said: “I’m very pleased to hear that the British Resistance members will take part in the Remembrance Day parade.
“The resistance itself played a huge part in winning the war on the continent and it’s important that everyone’s contribution is recognised, especially when they put their lives at risk.”
The British Resistance was made up of the Auxiliary Units and Special Branch.
The Auxiliary Units were trained at the national headquarters at Coleshill.
Mr Sykes said: “The auxiliaries were highly trained. They were taught cutting-edge guerrilla warfare and used Thompson sub-machine guns before they were given to the British Army.”
Recruits were drawn from reserved occupations and those who were too old or young to be called up to the mainstream service. Their task was to disrupt and, where possible, destroy the enemy’s supply chain and take out strategic targets in their local areas.
Mr Sykes said: “Many were in reserved occupations during the war and therefore could not join the regular forces to do their bit.
“However, when the call came, they did not hesitate to join what essentially would have been a suicide mission to confront the enemy invader.”
They were supported by the Special Duty Sections, whose members were trained to identify vehicles and military units so they could go underground to pass on messages to combat sections of the Auxiliary Units.
- Andy Gwynne, who is organising the Remembrance march, is anxious to trace former members. He urged them to contact http://staybehinds.com or call 0872 045 9940.