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Secret history of Herefordshire's WWII resistance revealed
IMAGINE sitting at the dinner table with your family, happy and content, when you get the message that you have to leave and may never see them again.
When a number of Herefordshire men joined others all around the country in signing up to the British Resistance Organisation, or Auxiliary Units (AU) as they were known during the Second World War, they knew this was a likely possibility.
The AUs were created by Winston Churchill and formed of around 3,500 highly trained volunteers nationwide who were either too old or young to go to war and who had intimate knowledge of their local area, such as farmers or gamekeepers.
Tom Sykes and his team at Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team have been digging in to the history of the six Herefordshire patrols - Leominster, Bromyard, Symonds Yat, Walls Hill near Ledbury, Letton and Dinedor.
They know the names of many members of the Herefordshire-based auxiliaries even though family members may not have known about their relative's involvement.
Tom, who began his research five years ago, said: "When the men signed up they knew it was a suicide mission. They would be called upon in the event of a German invasion and would go directly to their underground bases without telling even their closest family members. When at their bases with the other volunteers, they would have to wait until the invading troops passed over them before beginning their sabotage mission to give the regular forces chance to counter-attack.
"Because they could tell no one about their task, AU members would often have to put up with other townsfolk or villagers calling them cowards for apparently not doing their bit in the war."
If they were captured by the enemy they would kill themselves, and although it never came to this as Britain was never invaded, there were men prepared to take the risk.
Tom, who lives in Coleshill where the AUs headquarters were, said sometimes AU members would receive orders that would mean killing a member of their own family.
The 36-year-old said: "They would have an envelope containing their orders which would be opened if the time came. If your order was to kill the chief of police because he was involved with the enemy, and he happened to be your uncle, you would have to make a choice whether you were prepared to do that or not.
"There is now a network of us around the country researching areas of the UK to find out what we can about the AU, which isn't easy due to the secrecy surrounding it. But it is so amazing to find all of this out - almost every day we get an email revealing something new."
The team need a dedicated Herefordshire researcher. If you want to find out more or suspect a family member was part of the resistance, visit www.coleshillhouse.com or call 0872 0459940.
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