©WWII UK British Resistance Organisation


Background Information

On May 14th 1940 Anthony Eden broadcast an appeal for Local Defence Volunteers to come forward, soon to be renamed the Home Guard.

The authorities, having weighed up the situation so painfully learned during the invasion of Europe decided once the Germans had landed no amount of barricades, bottomless pits and poorly armed troops could ever hope to hold off a well trained enemy for long.
It was decided to form some twenty odd "Auxiliary Units" which were to include regular army soldiers and picked members of the Home Guard.

The formation of these units was left to Col Colin Gubbins (Military Intelligence Research) and they were to become known as 202 Battalion or the BRO (British Resistance Organisation)


202 Battalion was part of the 202nd GHQ Reserve Battalion. 201st covered Scotland and Northumberland, 202nd down to the Thames - Severn and 203rd south of that.
The Auxiliaries wore Home Guard uniform but they would have raised their suspicions had they worn local insignia or no badges at all, so the 'fiction' of a GHQ Reserve was created to give them some cover.

The men then had a legitimate badge to wear and their officers could correspond with Area Headquarters without having to mention Auxiliary Units.


Intricate plans were drawn up, so that once the enemy had landed, men of 202 Battalion would not fight amongst the other Home Guard, but slip away to previously built hiding places to await the call to action.

They would only come out of hiding once the bulk of the enemy had moved on and to cause as much disruption as possible, guerrilla warfare. They were never planned to be more than a nuisance, slowing down the Germans while the regular army regrouped.

Six man patrols were set up in vulnerable coastal areas all around the UK. Each member of the patrol had to know his area well and had to be able to survive of the land.
Regular Army officers, known as Intelligence Officers were seconded to recruit patrols and train them in the art of setting explosives, sabotage and combat.

About 3000 people were involved in the BRO, going about their daily working life before secretly slipping off to an underground hideout to train at night.
By September 1940 the units were at full strength ready to take on the might of any invaders to our shores
However, they had the best eqpt going and often tested new weapons before they were released to the Army,
Sticky Bombs and plastic explosives were all used by the BRO before the Army or Special Forces.
The men of the BRO were all trained to make and set explosives charges and boobytraps to kill silently. They were often used to test the defences of the RAF and USAF airfield, leaving sticky notes on planes to show they had successfully bypassed the guards. Whilst the Home Guard were drilling with Broom Sticks the BRO were training with more sophisticated equipment such as Rifles, Sten Guns etc.
In 1942 the BRO was given Home Guard cover which meant they had a proper uniform to wear during the day.
It was not uncommon for the men of the Home Guard, to be totally unaware of their colleagues other role.

Members of the BRO were not expected to survive for more that ten days once they performed an act of sabotage. If Europe (Poland & France) was anything to go by, the Germans would exact retribution swiftly.
They would typically select ten or twelve of the local villagers out for execution, and as an example too the rest of the population.
The men concerned might also have been inadvertently caught in the roundup.
The BRO members were supposed to be secret but it is hard to believe that the regular Home Guard would not suspect anything, when six members of its platoon appeared to go AWOL at the same time.
In reality, their identity was in the hands of their own colleagues, perhaps family members and scared villagers.

Churchill gave the codeword "Cromwell" for the imminent invasion of the British Isles. Subsequently on 7th September 1940 the codeword was issued and Church bells rang throughout the land. 1.5 million Home Guard troops were mobilised. BRO members were instructed to gather all the food they could muster from home and report to their respective hide-outs. Fortunately they stayed only for 2 days as the alarm was soon withdrawn.

It is rumoured in some instances they were given the means to commit suicide to avoid being captured and tortured.
The chances of them being successful in stalling the German Army were very slight. Some Auxiliary Units were given permission to kill local collaborator's if they felt security was being put at risk.

The BRO stood down in 1944, fortunately never having to put their training into practice.
At the time of Stand Down, volunteers were told that "no public recognition would be possible due to the secret nature of their duties" and that, since no written records of service had been kept, they were not eligible for the Defence Medal.

The BRO in Bures

During 1940 when the Auxiliary Units were set up, Gordon Drake Snr was requested to set up such a unit in Bures and become its Commanding Officer. He was drafted with finding five or six men who were fit and had intimate knowledge of the local area.

The selected six men consisted of:

Gordon Drake Snr - CO
Pat Baker - Sergeant
Frederick Smith
David Chambers
Gordon Webber
H Norton


Suffolk 202 Battalion

The unit for some reason, had a CO and PC for a group of three men
No idea why !

Company Commander: Capt Tylor, The Hall Lamarsh
Platoon Commander: Sgt Gray, The Hall Lamarsh

Pat Baker - Sergeant
H Norton
Gordon Webber

Company Commander: Capt Harris, Boxford
Platoon Commander: Sgt Bird, Overhall Farm, Bures
Gordon Drake Snr - CO
David Chambers
Fred Smith

Gordon Webber recalls how they built their underground shelter capable of holding the six men on private property in the grounds of Little Bevills along the Sudbury Road.
The first suggestion was to locate it at Parsonage Hall because Dr Wood the owner was a keen supporter of the Home Guard, unfortunately it would have been too exposed.
The Observation Bunker (BO) had a primus stove and oil lamps for heat and light. They unit was equipped with magnetic bombs for use on vehicles and tanks, together with Molotov Cocktails and petrol.
The only other personal weapons were a knife and a cal38 revolver. Records indicate they often had joint exercises with other units from the local area.

Gordon Drake recalls, "we has a quarter of a ton of high explosives and a couple of hundred hand grenades"

kelvedon vicarage

Official training was carried out on Sundays over at "River House" at Earls Colne, where they were trained in the use explosives and guerilla warfare. Official records show this to be River House beside the River Colne.

Kelvedon Vicarage (left) was the Headquarters of the Resistance Organisation in East Anglia

Courtesy of David Lampe

Gordon Drake also attened a training excercise at Wiltshire.
This would have been at Coleshill, the UK headquarters for the "Secret Army"


Left - artists impression of a typical BRO underground bunker equipped with oil lamps, bedding and food supplies.
Ventilation was by means of a camouflaged shaft acting as a chimney.

Usually a Tilley Lamp was hung near to the ventilation shaft in order to force the circulation of air inside the bunker.

Munitions were secretly deployed around the countryside for easy access.

Eventually the need for such an organisation receded when the enemy was on the defensive and the unit was disbanded in 1940 - thankfully, a shot never fired in anger.
Today surviving members of the BRO are very proud of their potential role in the war and still hold on to their secrets, some 60 years later.

Read this personal interview with Gordon Drake

Acknowledgment to:-
Gordon Webber, Azure Anderson.
"East Anglia at War" by Derek Johnson.
"The Last Ditch" by David Lampe
David Waller, BRO Museum Parham,
Logo courtesy of BRO website