Sincere thanks to Norman Davidson (Forestry Commission District Manager – retired) and Alan Stewart who gave permission to reproduce the following article.
The current photograph taken in 2011 shows Jimmy Reid standing in the remains of the Ba Hill Operational Base which is just above the second track in the wood. The site is now a distinct but shallow 4 foot hollow, rather like a borrow pit but one where a wall has been retained on the down side. Jimmy does remember sometime after he first came to the area in circa 1956, that a fence surrounded the site to keep cattle out and at some point the roof was removed or knocked in as there was concern that the cattle’s feet would punch holes in the fabric and become trapped. Jimmy has recollections that there were two other wartime structures in the wood but on last looking could not find any trace of them.
Jimmy is convinced that the current floor level is about 3 feet higher than the original base as the result of stock bringing in and knocking down debris and soil from above. The accumulation of 40 years of leaf and needle drop blown in by the wind will also have added significantly to the build up.
Operational Bases or OBs were secret underground bases built mainly in 1940 and 1941 during World War 2 from which Auxiliary Units could operate behind the enemy lines of occupation. Auxiliary Units was the name given to a force of civilian volunteers who were trained to carry out sabotage, guerrilla warfare and spying behind the enemy lines. They were intended to operate in patrol units of six to eight men led by a sergeant and coordinated by a local commander. The ideal recruits were people from the countryside professions who had a good knowledge of the local area, able to live off the land, be fit and have an ability to be trained in the necessary skills for guerrilla warfare. As such foresters, farmers and gamekeepers often filled large parts of their ranks.
The need for secrecy was paramount and volunteers were uniformed for cover as “Home Guard” but in time they were formed into three “GHQ Special Reserve Battalions” with the number 201 for Scotland and north England. The secrecy extended to the location of the OBs and although most were destroyed after the war some appear to have slipped through the net and were forgotten about. They were built by Royal Engineers or local contractors and classed as emergency food stores for anyone who happened to come across them. In the case of the Ba Hill Operational Base, the building work may have been carried out by Len Bullock who had building skills and was then based at Blairmore House, a Training, Intelligence and Communications Establishment.
Norman Shand (Cullen) was member of the Ba Hill Auxiliary Unit and recruited to the unit from the Home Guard in 1941. He remembers training in small arms and sten gun at Blairmore House, Glass. They also trained under live fire and were taught self defence and armed combat. The only other names of the patrol that he can remember are David Peddy (Sergeant), James Roberson, George Carmichael, David Low and Cecil Borthwick.