The following information was very kindly provided by David Blair and he has granted us permission to quote it here and we are greatly indebted to him for this.
David is writing a book on the Auxiliary Units of WW2 who were based in Scotland. David would appreciate any information anyone can give him on these Units and on the Intelligence Officers based there. If you do have information you would like to share please leave a comment at the end of this web page, or click here to contact us by e-mail.
Auxiliary units based at Blairmore House and general information relating to the units.
The house was the HQ and training centre for a number of Auxunits in the north east.
Intelligence officers (IO) based at Blairmore House (any information on them most welcome) Aberdeenshire:
Capt Hamish Torrance: July 1940- April 1941 (Highland Light Infantry/SOE)
Capt R.A.G. Gordon-Lennox (Reginald Arthur Charles) Late 1941-? (Scots Guards)
Capt Ian Benson Stewart 27TH Sept 1943- 8th Nov 1943 (Camerons)
Capt R.M. Cameron 22nd 1944- April-20th June 1944 (A&SH)
Intelligence officers were seconded on special Duty to Auxunits for a set period or even their entire wartime commission, a close relationship formed between them and the Group/Patrol Leader, who chosen on his own merits started to recruit others into the patrol, most patrols were about 6/7 in numbers some were larger or smaller depending on the area recruited from. Later on in the war members were ‘poached’ from the Home Guard, Auxunits did wear a uniform and insignia, but came under the guise or cover of the HG, nothing to show they were special or in any way connected, they wore the same battledress of any other army unit, including HG shoulder titles, the name ‘Auxiliary unit’ was non-descript and unassuming, shoulder insignia worn for Scotland being 201 with their county initials below. Three battalions formed, Scotland being 201, which covered Northumberland as well, the rest being 202/3 covering the south.
Most members of the units were recruited by word of mouth and on recommendation, their intimate knowledge of the local area standing them in good stead, within the 6/7 man units most members were from a farming background or working as gamekeepers or in some kind of reserved occupation, having signed the official secrets act of the time thus enabling them to enter into a very secretive organisation all members sworn to secrecy for almost a life time, certainly the case in some former members, who have taken those secrets to their graves. Blairmore House was one of small number of large estate mansion houses taken over or acquired by the War Department early in the war, quite unassuming hidden away from the public and ideal locations for the training of the Auxiliary units.
For the units in Scotland the training was the same as their south of the borders counterparts, a national syllabus created to train units in clandestine warfare, some local commanders changing things slightly to accommodate their own operational requirements and geographical areas likely to be a prime site for any invasion force arriving, one has to remember they would not fight the enemy head on in repelling an invasion, Auxiliary Units would go to ground probably just prior to any invasion; code words or other means of alerting them to the pending invasion would have been sent and all units stood to’ having occupied their underground bases, known as Operational bases, which were constructed mostly by Royal Engineers and the men of the respective patrol themselves, most would have some construction joinery and other related skills to enable them to work unsupervised and fitting out the base with all they would require to live and sleep underground.
The life expectancy in theatre once the Germans arrived and the units started their clandestine work was estimated to be approximately 2 weeks, a sobering thought indeed and a comparison can be made with the Resistance groups in Europe once they had been compromised and a search ensued to find their bases and arms caches, as well as the retribution met out to villagers for attacks on vehicle or rail convoys as well as the killing of high profile German Officers, which in the Auxunits case was high on their ‘kill list’ and weapons were issued for such situations as well as killing quislings who could betray such patrols and their OB’s.
The north east of Scotland was a likely area for any invasion, in fact most of the east coast of Britain was a potential invasion site, patrols were mostly distributed a distance in land but not exclusively. Some were situated in elaborate locations and some ingenuity as to the actual construction was called for.
Training was intense for the units, Blairmore House had its own training area where men could receive instruction from a 12 man Regular Unit known as Scout Sections, covering weapon handling to silent killing camouflage and concealment, demolitions and navigation as well as living off the land. In fact the unit at Blairmore house was affectionately known as the ‘Blairmore Demolition Company’ probably an in house name.
Having been formed in 1940, the units started to be wound down around late 1943 and stood down in 1944, most members returning to their own full time jobs and some volunteering for and joining the Special Air Service (SAS) who were recruiting and building up numbers as well as training for the invasion of Europe. Some of those who did join and were on operations in Europe prior to D-day and beyond were killed in action in France.
A poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice not just if this country had been invaded in 1940/1, but of those who came forward and volunteered to join the Regular Forces……