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Sold: James Bond-style bomb manuals for Churchill’s ‘secret army’

Published: October 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm
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Sabotage manuals issued to members of a secret unit formed during the Second World War have sold at auction for more than £2,000.


The manuals, disguised as old calendars and fertiliser guides, detail how to make explosives and set booby traps.

They were issued to members of the Auxiliary Unit wing of the Home Guard, formed in 1940 following the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, when Churchill was convinced that a Nazi invasion was imminent.

Unit members were tasked with sabotaging German supply lines if the Nazi’s managed to enter Britain. Trained in sabotage, fighting and bomb-making, it was anticipated they would hide in their bunkers and from there launch surprise attacks.

The prime minister ordered a network of hidden bunkers to be erected around the country.

Members were expected to shoot themselves rather than be captured alive by the Germans.

Keeping the identities of the Auxiliary Unit members a secret was crucial to their survival. So clandestine were the units, their existence did not become public knowledge until several years after the end of the war.

To keep the units top secret during the conflict, manuals were hidden in plain sight.

One, disguised as The Countryman’s Diary 1939, details how to make booby traps and grenades, and how to kill German troops using household items.

The ‘diary’ was sponsored by fictional company Highworth's Fertilisers, named after the Wiltshire town near to where the units trained.

Another, labelled Calendar 1937, describes how to make bombs. It was thought that if the Germans invaded they would not think to look in an out-of-date calendar.

But had they turned the first page, they would have seen the word “Secret” written in red ink.

Both documents were expected to sell for between £500 and £800, but today fetched £1,020 each.

The documents were once owned by Louis Pugh, the chemical factory owner tasked with heading the sabotage division of his local cell. Pugh built a base at Gibbets Oak Farm in Tenterden, Kent.

Jeannette May, senior valuer at Eastbourne Auction Rooms, told historyextra: “It’s a pleasure to deal with these items. It’s forgotten history, real James Bond stuff.


“There are very few manuals in existence because the units were top secret. Members would not even have known of other units set up in, say, the next village.”


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