George Raymond (Home Guard) (1912-2015)

George Raymond was a life-long farmer but served during the war as the highly trained member of the Meerhay Auxiliary Unit Patrol – Churchill’s so-called ‘secret army’.

The patrol trained locally on Hewstock Farm, owned by George and his brother Ernest, who was also in the unit.

Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team member Will Ward said Mr Raymond wished all his comrades had had a chance to be recognised before they died.

There were patrols at Symondsbury, Whitchurch Canonicorum and Shipton Gorge.

Mr Ward said: “George felt that the rest of the units never got recognition Beaminster did just by the pure chance because he’d lived long enough for the secrecy to be lifted.

“He felt like he was taking credit for something that wasn’t all his to take.”

he patrols were trained to blow up key targets – like Beaminster Tunnel to cause maximum disruption and Mapperton House in case it was used as a German HQ

Mr Ward added: “They were taught how to wrap explosives around petrol tanks so it wouldn’t take very much explosive and would be just as effective as if it was a huge bomb. So you could blow up lots of trucks with what one man could carry.”

He said patrol members were so highly trained if they were called for the regular army they were approached to join the SAS.

He said: “It definitely wasn’t Dad’s Army.”

“The bit we forget these days is that we know we won the war and we know they didn’t invade. But in 1940 when these guys joined it was anything but a foregone conclusion.

“With the job that Mr Raymond had, had the German’s invaded he wouldn’t have stood much of a chance. They only gave them rations for a couple of weeks because that is how long they expected them to survive.”

The patrol trained at the local Aux Units HQ at Melcombe Bingham where they practised with revolvers and slept rough. They were taught how to silently despatch sentries. Mr Raymond remembered being deaf for several days having done so much firing.

Their original base was in a disused Lime kiln in woods above Ebenezer Cottage but later the army built a typical “Elephant” shelter close by with an entrance concealed by bushes and an escape tunnel made from concrete sewer pipes.

Mr Raymond, one of seven children, donated his battledress blouse and side cap to Beaminster Museum in 2001.

After the war Mr Raymond went back to doing a milk-round with his brother.

Dorset Echo – 22nd January 2013

Dorset farmer George Raymond celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by friends and family.

Mr Raymond, who has farmed in Gillingham and Beaminster, marked the milestone with a birthday party at the Bymead nursing home in Charmouth, where he now lives.

It was always on the cards that the former farmer would live to a ripe old age.

His father lived to 101 and he was one of seven children – five of whom passed their centenary.

Mr Raymond was born at home in Shipton Gorge on December 23, 1912.

After his mother died six years later in 1918 the family moved to Folly Farm in Gillingham.

By 1928 the family were farming at Chantry Farm in Beaminster.

In 1938 Mr Raymond and his brother Ernie started up a milk round in Beaminster and after milking their cows by hand they would bottle and deliver it twice a day.

In 1940 they moved to Hewstock Farm in Beaminster. Mr Raymond married Eileen Payne in 1962 and they celebrated their golden wedding in May 2012.

After 42 years Mr Raymond gave up the milk round and retired to enjoy his garden and meeting his farming friends for fish and chips on a Friday in Yeovil.

He had a stroke in 2004 and is now living with Mrs Raymond at Bymead House in Charmouth.

His nephew Andrew said: “George and Eileen had no children of their own.

“They treated me as their son. He is a friendly man and would be happy to do things just on the strength of a handshake. He was a man of honour.”

Andrew said the family wanted to thank the staff at Bymead for his birthday party and everyone who sent cards and presents.




JC This is Jenny Cuthbert and I’m talking to George Raymond of Hewstock Farm.  

GR  Farm Cottage.

JC  Farm Cottage.  Now, George, can you tell me when you were born?

GR  December 23rd, 1912.

JC  1912?   Right.  And have you always been a farmer?

GR  Yes, and father before me.

JC  And always at Hewstock?

GR  Yes.  No, we were at Chantry before we came here and before that we were at Ibberton and before that we were at Gillingham.  And before that we were born at Shipton Gorge.

JC  So you’ve always been in this area.  

GR  Dorset.   Yes.

JC  A Dorset man.

GR  Yes.  Always had spring water out of the Dorset hills.

JC  Well, it’s obviously done you good.

GR  Yes, it has.  That’s right.

JC Now, there are two things I’d like to talk to you about.  One of the things is the Home Guard during the war and your secret bit of the Home Guard.  

GR  Yes, well you’ve had all that……………

JC  We’ve had quite a lot of it.  There was the article in the newspaper and I’ve read all about that…………..

GR  I told the Bridport News to put down Symondsbury and Whitchurch as well and Chideock, but they never put that in see.

JC  Oh, didn’t they?

GR  No, I told her definitely put that in.  I said because they’ll read it and they’ll wonder why I hadn’t told them of it. 

JC  Oh, so they were at those places as well?  I didn’t realise that.

GR  We only knew those three or four in ………..our headquarters were at Whitchurch and we did all meet down there sometimes and have lectures and we had a written paper examination one day down there, and we only knew about those, but there were lots more all round Dorset.  We thought it was just here close to the coast see but they were all over England.  

JC  So the whole country had their ordinary Home Guard and then these Auxiliary Units.  That’s what they were called wasn’t it?

GR  That’s right.  Six or eight men.

JC  And how many were in the Beaminster…………..

GR  Six.

JC  There were six of you?   Now, what I’d like to know is were you called a Fighting Patrol, is that what you did?  Were you here in case we were invaded?

GR  Oh yes, that was the idea.  Churchill said we were going to fight them in the air and on the sea and on the land and in the hills.  And that’s when he said that, he meant he was going to start these local ones you see because if they had flew in and pitched down they’d have commandeered the farms for food, and the transport, and everything and we were supposed to attack them soon as they dropped down.  Not wanting them to use the transport to go inland.  And then our local Home Guard would have come on and dealt with them.

JC  Did the local Home Guard know anything about you lot?  Did they know that you were a group here.

GR  No, no, no.  None of them knew.  

JC  So it was really secret?

GR  When John Wakely spoke to me he said, ‘George and Ernie I want to talk to you but you must not say anything what I’ve said to you, not even to your parents.  It’s absolutely a secret job’.  And so we never told anyone.


JC  Gosh.  And did you have to wear any sorts of uniform?  

GR  Well, we had the two or three on our shoulder here and a little badge.  That’s right.  I give my tunic and the…….  who was it, Kathleen Whitley (?) give the badge and I give me hat to the museum.

JC  And I’m going to put those in an exhibition this summer.  We’re going to do an exhibition all about Beaminster during the war years.  And so your uniform is going to be there on display.  Now, when I read about the secret armies and the Auxilliaries……… did you get a little booklet to tell you what you were supposed to do, or did you have to remember everything?

GR  Oh we had to remember it.

JC  Nothing written down?

GR  No, no. 

JC  And how did they train you?

GR  Well, John Wakely, he had to train us you see.  John would go to certain meetings and that, and then he’d come back and trained us in what we had to do.  And then we’d just go out at night and go and look round another farm to see that, if they’d pitched there, how we could attack them see.  The idea was for we to put the plastic, the explosives were like a pound of sausages.  And you could put it half way round a tree and put a fuse to it and it would blow a tree across a road.

JC  Exciting stuff.

GR  And we had to work in pairs.  A pair of us would go to that farm there, if they’d got some vehicles there, and in the dead of night and crawl along and put the explosive on them to blow them up to stop them using them.  That was the idea.

JC  And did you have to keep your explosives and things at home?  Or were they kept at your base.

GR  Oh, kept up there, yes.

JC  At your Operational Base?  An OB?

GR  Yes. That’s right.

JC  And everything kept there? 

GR  That’s right.  First of all, when we started we had an old lime kiln and we had to crawl in there to use that to start with, and then the army built this underground shelter afterwards.  Yes. That’s what it was.

JC  Now, the kind of things you did, did you actually have to plan blocking the roads with trees?  Did you know where you thought the Germans might come or did you look at the whole area?

GR  Oh, no.  We had to pick up local knowledge to know where they were likely to be see.  Somebody told John, for an exercise then, he said ‘George, I’ve just heard that the enemy’s landing up other side of the tunnel’ he said.  ‘I want you to go up there and have a look and see where they are’.  So I had to go out that night and go up by a roundabout way and see where they were, in which farm yard they were in.  And I went up round there see and I had to be very careful not for them to see me because sometimes they would throw up a flare.  So on my way back I met with two sentries and they asked me questions but I managed to put them off.

JC  So were they Home Guard sentries?

GR  Well, I don’t really know who they were.  I don’t think John knew they were going to be there.

JC  So what excuse did you give them for why you were out?

GR  I expect Headquarters told them to go there you see.  Unknown to us you see.  Yes.

JC  So what excuse did you give them………………..?

GR  Oh I told them I’d been up there hedging and I was going back to milk the cows.


JC  And they believed you?

GR  Yes.

JC  That’s excellent   Now, what did the other five people do?   Were they all country men?  Were they all farmers?  I know John Wakely was a farmer

GR  Yes.  John and the chap up the top of the hill there, Reg?  I forget his name now.  And I and Ernie and John and……  two who were in at the start with us were called up so then we had two farm workers from Jimmy Sprackling’s farm where they knew all up round Beaminster Downs see because they had land up there.  So we knew all the whole area around here.  Symondsbury knew it all round there and Whitchurch down there. Thats how it was covered.  Like that.  

JC  Right, so everybody did their own local area and knew it really well.

GR  Yes, that’s right.

JC  Fascinating.  How long were you in this for?  When did they stand down?  Did they keep going all through the war?

GR  No.  ’43 or ’44?  ’44 when we stood down.  When the threat of invasion was over.  It started in the spring of 1940, that’s right, because we were out Chantry then, then we come up during Autumn 1940 and went on ’til ’43 I think.  That’s when we were disbanded, then.  Yes.

JC  And, everybody still kept it a secret?  Even after you were disbanded?  All these years?

GR  Yes.  Nobody never said a word to anybody about it see.  

JC  That’s amazing isn’t it?

GR  Yes it was, wasn’t it?  And those two boys that went up there and found it, where our old OB was, see, they went away and they never told their parents.  They never told anybody because they were afraid if the schoolmaster found out he’d give them the cane.  So they kept it a secret until I let it out see.

JC  So even though they’d found the OB they didn’t tell anybody?

GR  No, they didn’t see.

JC  Gosh.  Well nowadays, of course, if you want to you can find out a little bit about Auxilliary Units on the computer, on the Internet, but obviously its only quite new isn’t it that people have found out about it?

GR  Oh yes.  That’s right.  Because my friend at Sherborne see, he hasn’t told anybody nothing about it.  No.  We absolutely………….. a secret was a secret those days see.


JC  And also, well during your long career and work on a farm.  What I’d like to talk about as well, is how farming changed over all this time.

GR  Oh yes.  Two World Wars have helped it on.

JC  Right.  Because it must have been very different during the war years and then afterwards.  So when did you start farming.  How old were you?

GR  Well, soon as I left school at 16.  Then of course, we helped before then.  yes.

JC  And have your family always been in farming?

GR  Yes.  Both my parents had been in farming for years before.

JC  And were you dairy farmers or…………..

GR  Yes.

JC  Always dairy farmers.

GR  You had some arable because you had to grow wheat, barley or oats to feed the animals with and we grew that and took it down to the local mill for him to grind it.  

JC  And as you’d been farming up to the Second World War, how did things change because I’ve heard about something called the War Agricultural Committee.  Did they tell you a lot about what you had to do or did you just get on with it?

GR  No. They told us more or less what we had to do but most farmers did it without any telling.  Of course there were some who were a bit obstinate and didn’t want to grow any potatoes because if they had light soils they didn’t want to do that.  And so that’s when they put their foot on them.  And said ‘You’ve got light soil, you’ve got to grow potatoes. ‘ 

JC  So they really insisted?

GR  Yes, but we had………. our local advisor round here, well she was a farmer’s daughter or relation, and she was doing a bit for the Agricultural Committee before, but she come round one day, she wrote and said she’d be coming, ‘I want to walk round your farm and see what you’re growing and what you’re doing.’  So she come down.  I went out and she said ‘Well we needn’t go right out the yonder grounds if we can see them from here.’  So we went out round and I said, you know, ‘Grass here, grass there and corn there and corn there.’ Then I said ‘We’ll go across the road.  Do you want to go across the road in that hilly ground?’ and she said ‘Can I see all of it from here?’  I said ‘Well not quite all, there’s one out over what you can’t see what’s very hilly’.  And I said ‘We put beef animals out here because it’s not suitable to keep driving the cows across.’  And so she said ‘Well you’re doing quite the right thing.’  Most farmers were doing the right thing, see, but just a few obstinate ones.  And there was a farmer out there who had two sons and he wouldn’t sort of comply with what they wanted him to do so they took the farm away from them and the Agricultural people run it themselves.

JC  And they were allowed to do that during wartime?

GR  Yes, that’s right.  And they had a lot of girls learning out there.  Land, that’s what they done there.


JC  Now, did you have a Land Girl on your farm?

GR  Yes.  She lodged down in the town and come up every day.

JC  And how did you find having a Land Girl because I know some farmers said ‘Oh these girls can’t do the job’.  

GR  No, we didn’t take any notice of them whatever.

JC  Was she a good worker for you?

GR  Yes, she was.  That’s right.  Yes, she done everything what we wanted for her to do and that, see.  Yes.  Of course labour was short, the men were short on the farms and when we were going more in for the hay it would be a bit of competition in a way whose brain thought we were going to have a week’s fine weather to start haymaking.  So, father would never start a new job on a Friday.  He’d wait until Saturday.  So if we thought it were going to be fine he’d go out there.  He’d say wake me up about 4.30 a.m., and say ‘Geoge go and get the horses in and I’ll have a cup of tea’, and then we’d go up there in the fields with the two horses and I had to lead one of them to start with to keep the proper distance from the hedge you see and father would sit on the machine and he’d say, ‘Please God send us good luck for our haymaking.’  And then he’d put it in gear and off we’d go.  And he’d cut the whole field see and then I’d stop there for a bit until the horses got used to it then I’d go on back and help Ernie with the milking.

JC  And was all the milking done by hand?

GR  Yes.

JC  All hand milking?

GR  Oh yes, all done by hand then, that’s right.

JC  And how long would it take?  How big was your dairy herd?

GR  Oh a couple of hours each morning and at night I suppose.  That’s about it I expect see.

JC  And where did the milk go to?

GR  It went to the Milk Factory usually but when they wouldn’t give the price for the milk we kept it home and separated it and sent the cream to Salter and Stokes.  At Chard.  They come and collected about twice a week see.

JC  So what did you do with the left overs.

GR  Oh we fed it to the cows and pigs and fowls then see.  Yes, that’s right.

JC  And when did you go on to machine milking?  When did that come?

GR  Oh, 19… what was that?  19….. I don’t know.  I forget offhand.

JC  After the war?

GR  Oh yes, yes.  After the war.

JC  So you were still hand milking all through the war?

GR  Yes, that’s right.  As far as I know now.  Yes, we come up here in 1940.  Oh yes, we were hand milking then for two or three  years after that.  Machine milking didn’t come in to everybody not until, I don’t know, 1960 odd.  

JC  So you must have seen all these changes in farming.   So what do you think of farming today?

GR  Oh, ’tis going to ruin isn’t it today.  Yes.  I don’t whatever’s going to happen to it I’m sure.  And they say, like with me, I don’t know what………………… my nephew’s looking out to it for me but he said ‘I expect you’ll have to put one field into – oh what do you call it – let it grow wild…….. ?

JC  Set aside?

GR  Set aside, that’s right, spoil it.  He said ‘You might have to even plough up another field.  I don’t know’, he said, ‘What they’re going to tell you to do’.  And now here it is, nearly in April now, the time we hoped to know what we’re going to do.

JC  Well, it sounds like a tough job still.

GR  And like with the Foot & Mouth Disease, see, that come from Headquarters.  If they’d let Dorchester deal with all the local Dorset people they could have done it easy as anything see.  Because Andrew wrote for a licence see to move cows that were over here, some cows that had calved, back to Corscombe and move some young stock from Corscombe over here.  So when he applied for the licence they said ‘Well, if you want to move one lot from there to there, why can’t they stop like they are?’   Well one lot had been milked you see and others were young stock.   And a girl were on the phone early about it and she said ‘You know I don’t know nothing at all about farming.’  So Andrew told her a good bit about it and she said ‘You’re the best one I’ve met to tell me anything about farming.’

JC  Really?

GR  Yes, that’s right.  So that’s why it was a mix up with the Foot & Mouth Disease.  If they’d let Dorset people deal with each county it would have been much quicker but when he applied for a licence he had to send there, well then  he’d get someone ring up from somewhere else and then somebody else would ring up with another silly question.  And it took a long time to get anything done then.

JC  So now there’s just as much regulation as there was in the war time?

GR  Yes.  That’s right.  

JC  You don’t get left to do it yourself.

Well that’s lovely George, you have your coffee or it will be stone cold, and thank you very much for that.