The work of a Second World War Auxiliary Patrol has been remembered with the erection of a display board at a prominent footpath on the Hole Park Estate in Rolvenden, Kent.
The Home Guard was set up in May 1940 as Britain's 'last line of defence' against German invasion. It was in these desperate days that Winston Churchill instigated a highly secret organisation, the Auxiliary Units, that in the event of a successful invasion would have made up the British resistance.
A patrol of local men was raised in Rolvenden whose patrol base was an underground bunker located in woodland on the Hole Park Estate, built in 1940 by Welsh miners.
Few were allowed to know of its existence and everything preceded in the greatest secrecy. Many members of the patrol never spoke of their involvement for the rest of their lives, but Fungus Patrol, based in Rolvenden, served from 1940 until it merged with the Tenterden Patrol mid-war. Sworn to secrecy, their activities went largely unnoticed, with little or no recognition of their role in strengthening Britain. Post-war their bases were demolished and the units faded into history.
The board was the idea of, and funded by, Hole Park’s owner, Edward Barham, with a QR code offering passers-by the chance to access more information.
Mr Barham, a CLA member, said: "I had long been wondering how I could commemorate Fungus Patrol, whose base was in thick woodland on the estate. As the patrol fortunately saw no action and, so far as I am aware, no one was killed or injured, a typical memorial was inappropriate, so with encouragement from others I came up with the idea of linking a simple board to the website.
“As children in the 1970s, my brothers and I used to visit the base, prior to its collapse; perhaps we too could be heroes of the hour as we played games. It had been destroyed after the war but they had not done a very good job, so we could easily crawl into it.
“It makes me shiver to think how brave the members of the patrol were.”
Sadly, the existence of the patrol base was little known about until stories began slipping out in the late 20th century, such was the code of honour and silence made by those involved.
The Rolvenden patrol base location remains a secret, but the sign is located at a vantage point called ‘Top of the World’, looking out over the valley in which the base was located on footpath AT59, approximately half a mile north of The Bull pub in Rolvenden, at Grid Reference TQ843323.
Churchill’s Secret Army
Their role, once the invading forces had reached their part of the country, was to literally disappear to their operational bases (OBs) that were dug underground across the British countryside.
Each unit (made up of 5-6 men) would wait for the German army to pass over them and come out, mainly at night, to take out strategically important targets, ammunition and fuel dumps, transport links, assassinate high ranking German officers and even British collaborators.