Britain’s Secret Defences: Civilian Saboteurs, Spies and Assassins during the Second World War


HAD Britain been invaded during World War Two, it would have meant that the RAF and possibly the Royal Navy had been smashed. With Nazi jackboots marching inland over British soil, only the bloodied remnants of the Army, and a then poorly armed Home Guard would have been left to face the mighty German juggernaut. Stirring, powerful stuff – but of course, only a mythologised and partial theorisation.

In the last 25 years, the shackles of secrecy have slightly slipped on what surprises Britain’s defenders had in store for the Wehrmacht. The German war machine had exhibited its ruthlessness across mainland Europe and the planned greeting it was to receive would have been no more merciful.

Raised in the heady summer of 1940, perhaps the best known element of this reception committee were the Auxiliary Units, often dubbed ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’. Despite growing interest in the 1990s, for some years, their role was often misunderstood, even gaining the erroneous moniker the ‘British Resistance Organisation’. Aux units were a short-term, underground guerrilla force, essentially a sort of ‘Home Guard SAS’, designed to sabotage the rear echelons of a German invasion, with an operational expectancy of two weeks.

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