COLESHILL HOUSE – TRAIN­ING HQ

History of War - - BRITAIN’S SECRET ARMY -

Early train­ing was un­der­taken by each in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, sup­ported by dis­guised train­ing man­u­als, which at first sight ap­peared to be in­no­cent cal­en­dars, or farm­ing hand­books

In late 1940, Gub­bins moved his HQ from White­hall, to Coleshill House in the small ham­let of Coleshill on the Ox­ford­shire/wilt­shire bor­der. Coleshill was also used as the train­ing cen­tre for Pa­trols through­out the coun­try.

Such was the se­crecy that sur­rounded the Aux­il­iary Units, that those at­tend­ing cour­ses were in­structed to get a train to the nearby town of High­worth, and told to re­port to the lo­cal Post Of­fice, where they had to give the post­mistress, Ma­bel Stranks, a pass­word. She would then call Coleshill House who would send a ve­hi­cle, which would drive a con­vo­luted route back to the stately home be­fore off-load­ing the vol­un­teers. Such was the se­ri­ous­ness with which Ma­bel took her role, when Mont­gomery came to visit, he too was sub­jected to the same vet­ting process and forced to wait some­time while she con­firmed his cre­den­tials.

When the Aux­il­iaries reached Coleshill House, they spent week­ends train­ing in all as­pects of sab­o­tage and guer­rilla war­fare. Nav­i­gat­ing through the coun­try­side at night, ex­plo­sives train­ing, un­armed com­bat, fir­ing ranges, learn­ing to be com­fort­able stay­ing in OBS, and much more. A core train­ing staff stayed in the house with the Aux­il­iaries bil­leted in the sta­bles. The train­ing was of the high­est level, much more so than the reg­u­lar Home Guard. Many of the tech­niques learnt by the Aux­il­iaries were also passed onto the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive (SOE) later in the war (Gub­bins and Flem­ing were to leave the Aux­il­iary Units at the end of 1940 to start SOE). In­deed, some Aux­il­iaries were re­cruited into the SAS due to their high level of train­ing and ap­ti­tude.

Pic­ture of Coleshill House taken by pho­tog­ra­pher Charles Latham

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