Home Guard patrol

An extract from the writings of Mr. Roberts

The sites chosen for patrol and sentry huts were sited on high ground with a commanding view of the countryside from the hut, or in the immediate vicinity. Later it was at Higher Whitely where a rendezvous was decided upon if something happened which prevented our ordinary positions to be tenable.

Patrols were organised during the hours of darkness, based on the hut on Bradworthy Moor, generally consisting of four men, two to remain in the hut and occasionally keep a lookout in its vicinity until dawn when they would be joined by the pair of guards detailed for duty on a prescribed route as an outer patrol.

The hut duty men would be relieved after about four hours by another two guards taking their place, the first men then made for home and bed, generally about 2 a.m.

The same applied to the n.c.o. in charge. There were often visits to the hut during the night by patrolling Air Raid Wardens especially during the cold winter weather when a roaring fire was appreciated.

Bicycles generally came into this, rifles strapped to them if not carried on our backs, and a start was made, generally from the village around ten o'clock.

It was not intended to be a hasty patrol, we had time in plenty before we were due on Bradworthy Moor. I have said that the idea of all possible observation could be conducted from elevated positions better than elsewhere, the route chosen bore this in mind.

From the village to Blatchborough Cross we had the countryside southwards to keep an eye on and if there was an air raid on Plymouth we could see the reflection of fires, notice the bursting of anti-aircraft shells around enemy planes and the searchlights trying to pin point them.

Under suitable conditions the distant rumble of warfare could be heard.

Blatchborough Cross was certainly a vantage point, but a better observation point was on the ancient barrow nearby on which stands the memorial to the late F.M. Collier Esq. due west of Ryall gate.

The magnificent view obtained from here on a clear day embraces Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Cornish heights from east, south and west to a sight of the sea from Padstow to Hartland Point in places.

Of course our night observation obliterated the daylight view but it is surprising to find out how much one can detect when the eye becomes accustomed to darkness when looking over the landscape.

Enemy action by aircraft was frequent during the time to which this refers, flashes from dropped bombs within this large area could be noted in clear weather.

We must consider that the time is around midnight and we are due to move on our way to slowly proceed from Trentworthy Cross, Forda Cross, Loat Mead and Dural Cross.

Provided the atmospheric condition was favourable the stretch of road from Dural Cross to Horton Cross afforded an observation post whereby we could gaze toward South Wales.

The important industries of that region were often the target of enemy bombers and when there was activity in that direction we would hear the drone of aircraft going and returning.

There was a possibility of an odd bomber getting rid of its load anywhere rather than take it back to base, or a crippled plane coming down and parachutes bringing down members of the crew.

This was what we were to look out for and promptly report. We were also to take the necessary precaution before rushing into precipitate action should such an occasion confront us.

The time is passing and we move on to Quoit Gate thence to the high ground around Higher Whiteley to Muddy Corner. During the summer months perhaps the dawn will be breaking, and that peculiar light around dawn is very noticeable.

Our night’s duty nearly done we get back to the hut on the Moor and the time has come to dismiss. Home for breakfast and then another day’s work.

What has been described has related to a fair weather patrol but it must be remembered that rain, gales and frost often put things where it was not possible to observe anything.

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