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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Britain's Secret Army - Chapter 2

by Tony French

Contributed by 
Tony French
People in story: 
Charles French
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Sandringham and Dersingham Unit - Britain's Secret Army
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 November 2003

Acknowledgements: The Last Ditch (Lampe), Churchill's Secret Army (Cocks), Resistance (Foot), The Times, Daily Telegraph

Recruitment would have to be done in absolute secrecy. It was decided to pinpoint the most likely men through the Home Guard without, in many cases, informing the Home Guard officers. Gubbins was looking for men who “know the forests, the woods, the mines, the old closed shafts, the hills, the moors, the glens - people who know their stuff.” He could arrange deferments from military service for key civilians. He showed a preference for veterans of the First World War.

Recruitment was successful. It included poachers and gamekeepers,ghillies, stalkers, verderers from the New Forest, farmers and their workers, and miners. Sometimes it included parsons, physicians and Council workers. They were men with deep knowledge of the countryside. They would blend into it. They would be secretive, able to live rough and, when the time came, they would fight until they triumphed or were killed.

All members had to sign oaths of secrecy within the Official Secrets Act in an atmosphere which kept them from telling their wives and families.

That was the case with my father. In those far from easy times the less the men’s families knew, the better it was for them and for the Resistance itself.

They were told that they were members of certain battalions. In the South it was the 203rd. Those battalions do not appear in any official lists. No-one in the Resistance was enrolled, officially, in anything and could never have claimed the protection afforded by the Geneva Convention.

Later, when the Resistance was disbanded the members were told to say nothing as they might be needed again in the future. They were to maintain secrecy.

This they did for many years. They became the forgotten men, no medals, no citations. But there were gestures of thanks from those on high, who knew what had been done - just in case.

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Resistance and Occupation Category
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