AUX. UNITS WEAPONS 1944
Although the men did not know it there were now serious questions being raised in the War Office over the continued need for the Auxiliary Units. They began to overplay their hand as a ‘secret’ organisation and their expectations over receiving priority in arms and ammunition sealed their fate.
No.77 Smoke grenade.
When thrown, the lead-weighted fabric tape unwound and pulled out the pin in the bakelite fuze casing.
In June 1944, after a period when the Auxiliary Units were presented with a multitude of booby-trap devices and new weapns, Training Officer Nigel Oxenden recommended that the patrols returned to the basic kit list of 1940/1 and only carry the recently-introduced No.77 phosphorous grenade and new Welrod pistol as weapons.
The No. 77 grenade was a more stable alternative to the SIP grenade but was primarily a smoke grenade, described as ‘hand percussion smoke grenade’, it consisted of 8oz of white phosphorous in a compact metal container and used the same 'allways' fuse as the No.69 grenade. The grenade is generally believed to have come into service with the army from mid 1943, although it was included in Small Arms Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No. 13, Grenade (1942) and there are claims that prototypes were used by No.4 Commando at Dieppe in August 1942. It was primarily designed to produce an instantaneous, but short duration, smoke screen. Being phosphorous, it did however, like the No.76 grenade, have an anti-personnel effect. For the Auxiliary Units patrols, this combination of instant and noxious smoke was an excellent way to discourage pursuit. It was only on 3 November 1943 that the Auxiliary Units placed an order for 50,000 No. 77 grenades (exceeding their issue recommendation by 2,500%), which was characteristic of the continuing self- belief of the Auxiliary Units HQ in their importance. There then followed a bitter correspondence with Q Branch of the War Office which escalated to the Director of Infantry and the Under-Secretary of State. Such a dispute was contrary to the advice given by Oxenden not to draw attention to their existence in the War Office and, although they eventually won this particular battle, may well have played a part in their final downfall. They received 2,000 for training purposes in mid-December and the other 50,000 finally began to be distributed from 4 February 1944 (three months after the original request). Confusion over any earlier issue to the Auxiliary Units may have arisen because it appears in the Auxiliary Units manual Countryman's Diary 1939 - which was, in fact, not published until June 1944. As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that this grenade was ever issued to the Home Guard.
.32 calibre Welrod. A highly effective silenced weapon, recommended for use at point blank range. Entered service with SOE in 1943. Although recommended for use by the Auxiliary Units in 1944, there is no evidence that it was ever actually issued to the operational patrols.
The Welrod was a .32 calibre bolt-action silenced pistol. It entered service with SOE in 1943 and reputedly continued to be used by the SAS into the 1980s. This was a weapon to be used at extreme close range, with the firm advice being to place the muzzle against the target to ensure a silent kill (he expanding propellant gas might then cause more damage than the actual bullet). As such, it would have been equivalent to the use of a knife.
The development of the Welrod was part of a broader project by SOE and War Office to improve the range of silenced weapons to special forces. Interestingly, there is no evidence of the use by the Auxiliary Units of its predecessors in the time when arguably it would have been most use. By 1939, both the long- and short-barrelled Colt Woodman could be fitted with a Parker-Hale suppressor and were advertised as such for public sale. In 1942 SOE began issuing the highly-successful silenced High Standard Model B with its OSS variant (the Hi-Standard HDM) continuing in use by the CIA into the 1990s. If a silenced pistol was a priority it begs the question why these were not distributed to the Auxiliary Units rather than wait to 1944 when, realistically, the chance of them being used in action had passed.
Nonetheless, in June 1944 Nigel Oxenden harking back to the early Auxiliary Units when they were tasked with nighttime sabotage operations, offered a hope that the suppressed Welrod might be issued to Auxiliary Units as their only firearm. Oxenden had otherwise maintained ‘There are strong arguments against the carrying of firearms on night operations. One shot could betray the presence of the patrol and turn the attack into a headlong rout’. Oxenden was writing even as the disbanding of the Auxiliary Units was being agreed, when that role had passed, and there was certainly no general issue. It may only have been supplied to some of the surviving Scout sections on a trial basis.
PIAT anti-tank gun
The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon Final approval for the weapon came on August 31st, 1942 and entered service in 1943, first seeing action in Tunisia and Sicily. Some 115,000 were constructed. The PIAT was 39 inches long and weighed 32 pounds (empty). A powerful spring carrying a spigot ignited a charge at the base of the projectile. The resulting force of the discharge both launched the missile and absorbed the huge recoil which itself then re-cocked the mechanism, Firing a 2.5lb hollow charge projectile, it had an effective direct fire range of 115 yards (105 meters) and was capable of penetrating 75mm of armour.
The priority for such weapons in 1943 was clearly with the army and, despite the claim made by Lampe in 1968 and still maintained on a number of websites, no evidence has been found for its use by the Auxiliary Units and the claim remains a mystery. As it was such a heavy and awkward weapon it seems unlikely that any veteran would have failed to mention its use.