SMHS project: Warningcamp Auxiliary Unit

26 Mar 2011

In 2011, SMHS was offered a very rare opportunity to conduct an excavation of a 1940 Auxiliary Unit Operational Base (OB) at Warningcamp in Sussex.

The Auxiliary Units were a highly-secret branch of the Home Guard, formed as a resistance organisation. Members were hand-picked and selected on account of their expert local knowledge and reliability in maintaining the strictest secrecy about their activity.

In the event of German invasion of the UK, the Auxiliary Units would take to their underground bases and emerge after dark to commit acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare against the enemy.

The rarity of these bases is such that the chance to excavate the site was very gratefully received by the Society.

Warningcamp Auxiliary Unit

The structure had completely collapsed in on itself and been backfilled over the years by spoil and domestic rubbish, but the original escape tunnel was mostly intact.

A 100% excavation to a depth of 3m below ground level was conducted over a period of five months, resulting in enough data being collated from the remains to construct a 3D computer interpretation, seen at right.

The structure comprised a rectangular wooden framework with an outer skin of corrugated iron. Four RSJs supported the roof, again, wood and corrugated iron.

The vertical shaft seen on the left was the main entrance; the other box-structure connects to the escape tunnel. Vertical drainpipes provided some sort of air ventilation to the occupants.

Finds included evidence of the locality being used by the Army as a training area during the war. In the OB itself evidence of wooden beams, RSJ girders, corrugated iron panels and wire mesh from bunk beds were uncovered. Even the chemical elsan toilet survived! Over 600 man-hours were invested in the excavation.

Further details cannot be published in order to protect the site and the landowner's privacy.

Photograph gallery

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