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The system of 8-man patrols operating from buried ‘operational bases’ was not introduced until mid-August 1940.  The first iteration in July had placed the men under the responsibility of local LDV commanders who would consequently have been responsible for their supply. It was not, therefore, until August that the Auxiliary Units directly faced the problems of the supply of their men and then they faced a temporary ban until 1 September on the supply of arms to the Auxiliary Units. Even them, until late May 1941, local Territorial Army Associations (TAAs), who were responsible for the administration of the Home Guard within their counties, held  the supplies of clothing, arms, ammunition and equipment for Auxiliary Units. This may have been responsible for some of the delays in issue. Only from late May 1941 was the responsibility for holding supplies formally transferred to the local HQs of the Auxiliary Units.

Auxiliary Units manual Countryman's Diary 1939 (published June 1944, just as the decision was taken to disband the organisation) showing 'Unit Charge' comprising 8oz gelignite with plastic explosive primer and two No.10 time pencils.

Etract from Countryman's Diary 1939 (1944)


Plastic Explosive

The most urgent weapon for the Auxiliary Units was explosives and the most advanced type currently available was the new plastic explosive 'plastic HE' or PE2. Technically, the first commercial plastic-type  explosive was Nobel 808, invented in 1875. But from 1939 scientists of Section D and Woolwich Arsenal were working on an improvement  – more stable, better mouldable and easier to attach  to a target,  faster and even more powerful. It also did not give the user a dreadful headache! When used as a primer with gelignite, the end explosion was four times more powerful and this cost-effective way of using the new explosive was used  in the early years of the war when supplies were limited. Seen initially as a tool for sabotage rather than the bulk supplies required by regular forces, Section D supplied its agents in Sweden with  small quantities of  the  explosive in November 1939 and   in May 1940,  730lb were hidden in a cache in Norway, 129lb were left with the Dutch resistance and 1,107lb in secret French arms dumps.


As far as is known, Lampe's assertion that the Auxiliary Units were the first British troops to receive PE2 is correct (although notice of its distribution had been  first given to units in June 1939). However, it would be surprising if it had not been included in the  explosives supplied to the Independent Companies for their intended sabotage operations in Norway during April - May 1940  or to the specialist explosives saboteurs of the Section D's own Home Defence Scheme in May/June 1940.  The  threat of invasion to Britain in  late May caused a rapid increase in production and most  of the  existing stocks at that time were then supplied to the Auxiliary Units as being the most likely unit of the British army to require compact explosives packs. By 25 August  Section D Technical Section at Aston House claim to have had supplied them with  7,200lb. Curiously, Training Officer Nigel Oxenden maintains that by the Summer of 1941 plastic explosive was no longer used by the Auxiliary Units, replaced entirely by the less satisfactory Nobel 808-type gelignite, although its us was still copied from earlier manuals into the Auxiliary Units manual Countryman’s Diary 1939, published in June 1944. This change  may reflect a recognition that the explosives were increasingly unlikely to be used in action and could be better deployed elsewhere.


Concealed Explosives 

The use of explosives disguised as coal was yet another of Lampe’s  claims for the Auxiliary Units.  These, along with explosives disguised as animal dung and  iron ore was an early piece of research carried out by Section D at its research laboratories in Aston House. The Brown Book of Section D, distributed  from late 1939 to its agents abroad, refers to explosives concealed in pieces of coal or logs of wood.  


In October 1939, Section  D considered using ‘exploding iron ore’ to sabotage the loading facilities at Oxelösund and the ore transport system in Sweden. In June 1940 Section D and MI(R) established a joint store in Alexandria with six tons of ‘toys’ including Section D plastic explosives designed to look like camel droppings. In September 1940 Section D officer Geoffrey Frodsham  had  a stock of ‘explosive coal’ in his  room in Zagreb intended to sabotage railway engines. With this long history and Section D organising sabotage across Scandinavia and the Balkans, particularly targeting railways where 'exploding coal' could be surreptitiously tossed into a locomotive coal tender, there is no reason to suggest that such booby traps were first used by the Auxiliary Units.   A version was, however, included in their first supply packs.   Oxenden explained: ‘The first dumps, ... included, besides 10lbs of Plastic Explosive and a mass of feeble and uncertain incendiaries, a hollow bronze casting of a lump of coal that could  hold two ounces of H.E. and a detonator’. The reference to a bronze casting is interesting. The early experiments by Section D used real coal and necessitated the invention of a special borer that could cut through the coal without it splitting. 


WW2 Magnesium Incendiary

Magnesium Incendiary 1941-2


The predecessor of the Auxiliary Units, the Home Defence Scheme of Section D, relied on incendiary devices rather than explosives as, in the time thought available before invasion, these required little training for its civilian operatives and could be easily hidden.  There were also advantages in that, placed  so that the fire would quickly get out of control, incendiary devices could have a more powerful impact than explosives, cause additional confusion, and could be used to create effective diversions.  They would be  particularly useful in destroying the key targets of enemy fuel dumps.


The Auxiliary Units continued to be supplied with incendiaries which could be used alone, in combination or with explosives and delay fuses.  In 1940 there were  Tyesules -  five-inch long gelatin capsules filled with paraffin and with one half coated in the chemical used to make match heads. These could be tied around magnesium incendiaries (large and small) to increase the effectiveness of the latter. There were also the AW phosphorous bombs (SIP grenades - see below) although their glasses bottles were more dangerous to carry on a mission. 

MI(R) Booby Traps

Booby Trap Switches 

No.1 Switch (Pull)

No.2 Switch (Pressure)

No.3 Switch (Release)

Invented by MI(R) in late 1939/40 and issued to conventional forces and later to Auxiliary Units as standard stores. 

Booby Trap Switches Nos 1, 2 and 3

The No.1 (Pull), No.2 (Pressure) and No.3 (Release) Switches were issued to troops from 1940. They are not mentioned in the original manual Calendar 1937 (1940) although 50 Pressure switches are, however, listed as being supplied by Section D to the Auxiliary Units in July and it is presumed more quickly followed. Both the No.1 and No.2 Switches  were then described in Calendar 1938, published in 1942.  The Switches were designed by MI(R) for general issue by troops, not just to clandestine forces. Stuart Macrae of the technical section explained that MI(R)c ‘was to run a more or less legitimate outfit which was to produce unusual but legitimate weapons, the gentlemen concerned all being in uniform and therefore not to be confused with saboteurs’. The pressure, pull release and AP switches, together with the L Delay switch were consequently all classed as standard stores. 

No.8 AP Switch

Switch No.8 AP. Designed in Spring 1940 as an anti-personnel device. Buried vertically in the ground, it would fire a bullet when trodden upon and was consequently known as the de-bollocker. (Photo: Dave Sampson).

Switch, No.8  Anti-Personnel

Designed by MI(R) and issued in spring 1940 as a simple anti-personnel device that could be carried by all troops.  A short spring-loaded tube with a pressure-sensitive trigger  fired a modified .303 rifle cartridge (with a pointed steel bullet).  With the tube buried in the ground, the tip of the bullet lay half an inch above the ground and when trodden upon would release the compression spring and striker.  The short delay in firing gave it the nickname ‘the debollicker’ or ‘castrator’. 1,439,450 were produced at a cost of 2s each plus 1s for the cartridge.  This  may be the device referred to in some Auxiliary Units lists as the ‘Autumn Crocus’ but there is no evidence for Lampe’s statement  that they received it before anyone else. It is not mentioned in the 1940 manual Calendar 1937 and is first mentioned in the 1942 Calendar 1938.

No.10 Time Pencils and case

No.10 Time Pencils and tin.

In this early pattern, the time delay was denoted by coloured bands. Red = 0.5hrs and White = 1.5hrs.

No.10 Time Pencils

In June 1939 Section D developed the No.10 Time Pencil. The early versions comprised a 5.75 in long  tube made in three sections of copper, aluminium and brass, with a detonator attached over one end. A thin wire held back a spring-loaded steel striker. A glass ampoule containing an aqueous solution of copper chloride (developed by Bailey) would be broken by squeezing the copper barrel and would dissolve the wire at a set rate, determined by the concentration of the acid, and release the striker which would in turn ignite a detonator and set off the main charge. To avoid failure, the advice was to use them in pairs. Some of the   prototypes were given to the Poles and their copies then brought back by Gubbins, leading to some confusing accounts of their origin. The first production batch of 3,700 time pencils was delivered to Section D in September 1939 and continued thereafter. They were supplied to the Finnish army in March 1940, in the closing stages of the  winter war and to Section D contacts across Poland, Scandinavia and the Balkans. Some  were left with the Dutch resistance in May 1940 and were   hidden in arms caches left in France in late  May 1940. Some were even delivered to Germany. Johannes Jahn was an ITF member in Germany who was recruited to Section D in January 1940 for sabotage in Germany. Having been supplied with explosives  and Time Pencils, he was believed responsible in April for the derailment of a goods train between Aachen and Cologne. Time Pencils were also used in the first sabotage expedition to Norway in May 1940, which damaged a power station, with  500 then left in a hidden arms cache.  


As with plastic explosives, under the  imminent threat of invasion,  production increased dramatically after Dunkirk (which has led to earlier production being overlooked) and distribution  shifted  to supply forces in Britain, with a stated supply of 67,400 to the Auxiliary Units  by  25 August. They were designed work with military stores and explosives and so were not supplied to the HDS,  it being stressed that the SIS organisations had to be ready to operate without outside support (so there was an emphasis on incendiary devices able to be renewed after occupation).  By the end of 1940 over a million No.10 Time Pencils had been  produced.

No.36M grenade and training grenade

No.36M Mills Grenade with white dummy training grenade in background. 

No.36M Mills Grenade

The standard British army grenade from the 1930s. It is a 1lb 11oz weight fragmentation grenade with a 4 or 7 second fuse and a principal blast zone radius of 20yds.  Fragments could, however, potentially travel up to 100 yards and as it could only be thrown a distance of 25 - 35yds it was recommended to be thrown from behind cover.  This grenade was in very short supply in 1940 but is included in the 1940 Calendar 1937 (as it was, optimistically,  in early Home Guard manuals).  A progress report to the Prime Minister of 4 September 1940 advised that 'the distribution of arms has been held up pending decisions on policy a high level' but 10,000 grenades were expected to be supplied in the next 10 days.How many were actually issued to the Auxiliary Units at this time is not known. 

Home Guard with P17 rifle and family

The .300 calibre P17 (M1917) rifle became the iconic weapon of the Home Guard and two were also provided for each patrol.  It is differentiated from the otherwise identical .303 calibre  P14 by the red band painted on forestock.


M1917 (P17) Rifle 

The M1917 (known in Home Guard service as the P17) was a US modification in .300 calibre   of the British .303 calibre Pattern 1914  (P14) rifle (listed officially  in British Service as Rifle No. 3). It was  accurate but heavy and, had a 5 round magazine (as did most contemporary rifles)  as compared to the 10 round magazine of the British SMLE. It was the main rifle of US forces during the First World War but was then replaced by the Garand. Even so, some US artillery units in the Tunisian campaign used the P17 and it continued to be issued to rear echelon troops throughout the war. 


In June 1940  an order was placed with the US government  for 500,000  M1917 (P17) rifles, specifically  for the Home Guard in order to relieve pressure on the limited number of British .303 calibre rifles. It  became their iconic weapon. Two  P17 rifles were  issued to each Auxiliary Units  patrol but there is no evidence that, as has been claimed in 2022, this precedes the issue to the Home Guard.  Special trains were used to distribute the first consignment of 12,000 carried on  SS Eastern Prince around the country on 8 July 1940. By the end of July 500,000 had arrived in the country and by February 1941   733,710 P17 rifles had been distributed to the Home Guard.   


To prevent delay, the first shipments to the Home Guard on 8 July were still covered in a heavy coating of  protective cosmoline and memoirs of the Home Guard consistently refer to the effort needed to clean them ready for action. In later shipments the rifles were cleaned centrally before distribution and such referees disappear. As no Auxiliary Units veteran has mentioned cleaning off the heavy cosmoline grease whilst in a patrol  it may be presumed they arrived in Auxiliary Units service sometime in August or later, after the introduction of the patrol system. The report to the Prime Minister on 8 August states ‘the men are equipped with rifles and grenades’  which, whilst an exaggeration (some patrols did not receive their rifles until October) gives the likely date of earliest distribution. Although not 'the first' to receive the P17, an August delivery of the rifle to the Auxiliary Units is interesting. It came before the delivery of other firearms, despite it being widely considered unsuitable for their role. The reasoning behind the long and heavy rifles was certainly a mystery to the men and a March 1941 note on patrol methodology simply stated ‘rifles and bayonets are not suitable for the tasks undertaken by scout patrols’.   Training Officer Nigel Oxenden commented : ‘American rifles, on a scale of two per patrol, were an early issue, nobody quite knew why, and this item was never afterwards changed.’   The rifles only became useful and ‘came into their own’ (Oxenden)  from the summer of 1942, when the Auxiliary Units had the less covert mission as a reconnaissance force against the threat of German commando raids but even now this threat was mainly met by an increase in the issue of  the now readily-available Sten gun. But in 1940 a rifle was still the mark of a soldier and this is seen most clearly in the fact that when the C-in-C Home Forces made the Home Guard a priority to receive the Thompson sub-machine Gun it wa because this would allow Home Guard Ross rifles to be released to the Field Army. 


Even the P17 could not escape the mythology that has surrounded most aspects of the Auxiliary Units. Bob Millard recounted in 2008 to the Bath Blitz Memorial Project  that his patrol had two P17 rifles ‘which we scrounged, or won, from the Home Guard. I don't know whether they knew they had disappeared or not but they turned up in the patrol’. There is no reason to suppose this legend was correct but in view of  claims in 2022 that the Auxiliers received the rifle before the Home Guard, it may be noted that Millard believed these rifles were obtained from the Home Guard.

Browning Automatic Rifle

Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).  The first automatic weapon supplied to the Auxiliary Units and the main light machine gun of the Home Guard

M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle 

The .300 calibre Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) had a history going back to the First World War, but only became  a standard issue to US forces  in 1938 as a light machine gun.  Technically a cross between a rifle and a light machine gun with a 20-round magazine, in effect it was seen as an approximate equivalent of the British Bren gun. 25,000 BARs were included in the June 1940  contract between the USA and Britain and it became the standard light machine gun of the Home Guard. Along with the P17 rifle, the first shipments of arms from the USA to the Home Guard included the BAR, with  2,000 BAR issued by 23 July 1940 and 7,400 by 26 July. Each was supplied with 750 rounds of ammunition. As with the P17 rifles, delays were caused by the onerous task of having to de-grease them. 


This became the first automatic support  weapon to be supplied to each  Auxiliary Units patrol but was heavy and cumbersome to take on patrol. There is no evidence that the Auxiliary Units  (as recently claimed in 2022) received it before the Home Guard although HQ might have had at least one for training purposes from mid-August. The 4 September 1940 syllabus for the weekend courses had a clear focus on training with the BAR but a progress report to the Prime Minister on the same day  advised that 'the distribution of arms has been held up pending decisions on policy a high level'. Consequently 500 BARs were expected to be finally delivered in the next ten days. At the time there were c.400 patrols in the country. Given its unsuitability for their work, it is  interesting that it was not replaced by the Thompson sub-machine gun until after May 1941. 

Pre-WW2 and WW2 Clasp Knives

Britain had no tradition of officially  issuing fighting knives. The early Scout Sections of the XII Corps Observation Unit made do with their pre-war issue clasp knives.  These substantial knives had a spearpoint blade and were more suited to the purpose than the 1940 and later clasp knife with sheepsfoot blade. 

Types of fighting knife issued to the Auxiliary Units

Rodgers commercial sheath knife (1940)

2nd pattern Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife (1941)

3rd pattern Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife (1943)

Rogers sheath knife and FS Fighting Knives

Fighting Knives

Knives were the obvious choice in the primary task of the Auxiliary Units patrols in creeping silently onto a target, with the possibility of having to eliminate sentries. A specialist fighting knife  was not in the tradition of the British army, although in the First World War many soldiers had become accomplished in making their own ‘trench knife’ from discarded bayonets or even broken swords.  At the start of the Second World War many of these still survived  and many Home Guard enthusiastically continued the tradition and made their own knives or simply  bought a stout sheath knife from a local gun shop. In 1940 at  the Osterley Home Guard training school and in the publications of Wintringham, Levy and Langdon-Davies, the Home Guard were exhorted to equip themselves with a long slender fighting knife and many answered the call, buying up and converting the surplus bayonets that were still on public sale.Initially, the Auxiliers also had to find their own knives although some Intelligence Officers may have made their own arrangements, buying up stocks of cheap sheath knives from local retailers. The West Surrey 'Battle Patrol' of XII Corps Observation Unit simply made do with their pre-war issue army clasp knives.  One Dorset Auxilier was even issued with a Stanley kitchen knife!  Even later, some Intelligence Officers gave the Auxiliers the task of making their own fighting knife as a test - as in the training of the early Commandos. The first knives officially supplied by the War Office did not arrive until the end of August. These were the the cheapest sheath knives they could find! The Joseph Rodgers  knife had a flimsy-looking  5.6 inch clipped blade,  jigged bone scale handle and a cast alloy guard. This was a widely-available type, marketed by the Army and Navy Stores and reputedly already provided to local patrols by an Intelligence Officer in the South West. The first contract with Joseph Rodgers for 300 knives was not placed until 20 August.  This was followed on 14 September 1940 with a  contract to provide 1,000 more hunting knives specifying  for ‘Aux Units’.  A further order for 1,100 of the same knife was made on 6 November. 2,400 of these knives were therefore supplied by the end of 1940, enough for the current strength of Auxiliers. Far from the trope of Gubbins' 'blank cheque' to supply the Auxiliary Units, these knives retailed in 1939-40  for just  3/6d and were bought by the War Office for a contract price of 2/10d each. By comparison, a good quality 4.5 inch Rodgers sheath knife retailed for 9/6d and an order for 1,500 hunting knives from Wilkinson Sword on 14 November 1940 for SOE / commandos was priced at 13/6d each.​ 


In 1940, the Auxiliary Units were perhaps not thought likely to survive long enough to make any more substantial investment worthwhile and it is quite likely that the earlier Home Defence Scheme was issued with the same type of knife. As the risk of invasion lessened, however, ironically their equipment improved! From mid-1941 the Auxiliary Units began to be issued with the Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife, which soon became iconic of commando and airborne forces (although in action many men  preferred the more rugged and multi-functional commercially-available alternatives). There is no evidence, as Lampe claimed, that the Auxiliary Units received the first FS knives. Even now, some Auxiliers were asked to buy their own. It is not generally appreciated that the FS knife went on public sale from June 1942 and, unsurprisingly, many regular troops and the  Home Guard (especially their commando units) soon began to equip themselves with this, or one of  the wide  range of alternatives which quickly emerged. Consequently, the discovery of a fighting knife in the attic of a deceased relative does not necessarily mean they had served in one of the special forces, although many an old soldier might have woven a story of derring-do around them.

NB The distinctive Joseph Rodgers  sheath knife is now widely sold as having 'Auxiliary Units connections' with a premium price to match.  This type of knife (also made by William Rodgers) was produced in huge numbers before,  during, and after the war and so any claim of a direct Auxiliary Units connection must be treated cautiously.

Colt Official and Colt 1903 pistols

Two types of handguns issued to the Home Defence Scheme and Auxiliary Units.

Colt 'Official Police' .38 revolver

Colt 1903 .32 automatic


In August 1940, Churchill famously added a marginal note to one of Gubbins’ weekly reports, 'these men are to have revolvers.' The precedent had been set earlier with the six-man sabotage teams of the Section D Home Defence Scheme who had already been equipped from 31 May with unattributable .38 Colt revolvers or .32 automatics together with  80 rounds of ammunition. Some of these may well have been retained by early Auxiliary Units cells which were formed from the HDS. Otherwise, handguns were only issued to the Auxiliary Units from September. Despite Churchill's intervention,  a progress report to the Prime Minister of 4 September 1940 advised that 'the distribution of arms has been held up pending decisions on policy a high level'. Consequently 400 pistols were expected to be finally delivered in the next ten days. it is tempting to suggest that these were the 400 .32 Colt automatics supplied to the Auxiliary Units. By the end of September a 100% issue of .38 handguns had been made, mainly US Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers  but also with Colt and Beretta .32 automatics. According to Training Officer Nigel Oxenden, the ammunition followed much later and was on a much smaller scale than that supplied earlier to the HDS (12 rounds) - presumably because their role was anticipated to be only short term. The revolvers therefore only had a  symbolic value during the invasion threat of 1940.


The revolvers became the main  defining firearm  that demonstrated the status of the Auxiliary Units to others. Indeed, they had to be dissuaded from openly toting their revolvers on the train to the Coleshill training courses as the sight of Home Guard other ranks with revolvers excited obvious curiousity. Hand guns were in short supply in the early years of the war and the rest of the Home Guard initially relied on those souvenir weapons from the First World War already owned by officers or their families.  There was a consequent underestimate in the original reported numbers because many were nervous of admitting to an unlicensed firearm! The official supply eventually increased but there was never a general issue to other ranks. It seems likely the early issue of pistols and revolvers to the Auxiliary Units  shared in the miscellany of handguns that were procured by the government from the stocks of British gun dealers or those being sourced by SIS from around the world. This procurement was continued by SOE  from 1941 onwards as well as the thousands from the USA purchased under lend-lease. Although one of the initial defining elements of the Auxiliary Units' status, eventually they played a part in their downfall. Rather than keep a low profile to avoid scrutiny over their diminishing role (as Oxenden advised), they persisted in making demands for priority treatment in the supply of arms. On 2 February  1944 the Auxiliary Units had to be firmly  told that they did not have priority for .38 pistol ammunition over field army units. 

No.76 SIP Grenade

No.76 Self Igniting Phosphorous (SIP) Grenade

No.76 (SIP) grenade

The No.76 Self-Igniting Phosphorus (SIP) grenade was invented by Albright and Wilson Ltd of Oldbury in association with Section D (and are therefore also known as ‘AW bombs’) in a desperate effort to provide an anti-tank grenade in 1940. It is a more sohisticated molotov cocktail, consisting of a half pint capacity glass bottle filled with a white phosphorus / benzene /water mixture. There was also a rubber strip that upon ignition would  make the burning liquid  sticky and more likely to stick to the side of a target. The bottle was then closed with a ‘crown cap’.  The grenade could be thrown by hand or later fired from the Northover Projector.  In June 1940 staff at Section D technical HQ  at  Aston House had taken a trial delivery of 5,000 SIP grenades from Albright and Wilson. They were sufficiently impressed to claim in their July report to have  to have quickly  distributed 4,000 of their stock to the Auxiliary Units HQ although this may have been an exaggeration. This may have been the source of Lampe's claim that the Auxiliary Units were 'the first to have phosphorous hand grenades' (p.78). 1,200 AW Bombs ar listed as being supplied by Section D to the Auxiliary Units in July 1940  but there is no evidence these were actually distributed until after 10 September. A progress report to the Prime Minister of 4 September 1940 advised that 'the distribution of arms has been held up pending decisions on policy a high level'. Consequently 5,000 AW Bombs  (possibly including the original 4,000 from Section D) were expected to be finally delivered in the next ten days. This delay did not stop a demonstration of the AW bomb being included in the syllubus for the ‘Auxiliary Units Weekend Courses for Home Guards’ produced on 4 September.  The first record of a distribution to the patrols is consequently  after a distribution to Home Forces and the LDV/Home Guard. Apart from the temporary ban on supplying arms to the patrols, another reason for delay was possibly due to concern as to where they would be stored and an understandable caution to see how Home Forces would first handle the volatile new grenade.


Meanwhile,  from mid-July, the SIP grenade had begun to be  distributed to Home Forces with the priority being frontline army anti-tank  defences and it is important to note that only 25% were allocated to the Home Guard at this time. Nonetheless, concerns were being raised by the Home Guard Inspectorate as early as 30 July over the storage of their SIP grenades, then described as 'Molotov bomb' but with an entry on 9 August making it clear they were discussing 'AW Bombs'. As it was vital to prevent the phosphorous from coming into contact with the air, at first they were simply buried by the Home Guard in garden trenches or in dustbins! Some were also submerged under water in ponds. Consequently the location of many caches was lost and they are still being discovered.  Six million SIP grenades were produced by August 1941 but by  then the army had been relieved to find better alternatives as an anti-tank weapon and the SIP grenade was now established  as a primarily Home Guard / Auxiliary Units grenade. 

Worcestershire Auxilier with club

Worcestershire Auxilier with wooden club

(courtesy Mick Wilks)

WW2 Home Guard club

WW2 Lead-weighted wooden truncheon, studded with hobnails.

Truncheons  and Coshes

One simple weapon of the Auxiliary Units was a lead-weighted wooden truncheons or rubber cosh. These were another inheritance from the savage trench fighting of the First World War.  For the Auxiliary Units they were an obvious weapon to use in silently eliminating enemy sentries and rubber truncheons had already been issued to cells of the Home Defence Scheme.  Their issue  in 1940 might have been driven by War Office economics as much as utility. Many Home Guard, who knew of their use in WW1 also took the initiative in making such weapons, some studded  with hobnails or six-inch nails. In the shortage of weapons within Home Forces they became an official issue and in  July 1941 the War Office circulated designs for cudgels made from 19-inch lengths of gas pipe with industrial gears or sprockets welded to one end, or 15-inch lengths of rubber hose filled with concrete. In September 1941, Home Guard units were  circulated with the offer of a 14-inch lead-weighted rubber truncheon weighing 1.25lb. These are a type previously issued to the HDS and also known to have been used by the  Auxiliary Units. It  would be interesting to know if this was the date of  a general issue  to the Auxiliary Units. The use of these crude weapons  went beyond the Auxiliary Units or Home Guard. General Pile, head of Anti-Aircraft Command admitted that due to the shortage of rifles his men, like the Home Guard, were issued with cudgels and pikes but ‘we were asked to keep quiet about having them too.’

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