Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gone to Ground

In 1940 after the evacuation from Dunkirk, Britain prepared for and expected an invasion by Nazi Germany - an invasion, which for reasons known only to Hitler, thankfully never materialized.

As part of the British preparation for any such invasion Churchill ordered the formation of secret ‘stay behind’ resistance units. Personnel of the Home Guard and local volunteers were formed into top secret patrols throughout the entire country and trained to a high standard of efficiency in the use of explosives, booby traps, time-fuses, mines, and unarmed combat. These patrols were known as Auxiliary Units, which had approximately 3,500 members around Great Britain. They would operate from specially prepared underground bases set up countrywide. The bases were equipped and ready, the locations only known to those who would man them.

One of these men was Bill Watson of Duns, at the time a joiner in the Town but later to join the Police Force in Edinburgh before retiring to Peebles where he died a few years ago. Others in the unit were Robert Simm, Ralph Buglass, William Forrest and Andrew Fortune all unfortunately now deceased.

Prior to his death Bill Watson wrote a novel which was never published. This gripping yarn set in Duns relates to the formation and training of these units and also charts the revenge, sabotage and murder they delivered to the Nazis in occupied Britain.

While of course purely fictitious it brings home only too well what might have happened. While names have been changed it is suggested certain inhabitants of Duns can still be recognised and the locations are exact and precise – the writer’s own home receives a passing mention.

Coleshill Auxilliary Research Team – home of the British Resistance will be publishing the book which will be launched officially in Duns Library on Monday 29th August at 2:15pm.

David Blair, CART's Scottish Information Officer, will be at the library to give a short talk and discuss more about the Scottish patrols and afterwards members of Dunse History Society will talk on Duns during the last war and there will be a small exhibition. The launch is open to all and a limited amount of books price £9.99 will be for sale on the day.

Thanks to research done by Society members Davina Smart and John Murray living relatives of some of the members of the ‘cell’ have been tracked down and will be honoured guests on the day.

Ronald Morrison

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