Monday, 14 June 2021

Captain Fleming and the secret war units

HENLEY Rotary Club welcomed assistant district governor Alistair Knox and two guests to its meeting this week.

The speaker was Robert Lobley, who gave a talk entitled “Peter Fleming and the Stay Behind Units”.

This was about the period following the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940 when 65,000 military vehicles and 445 tanks were abandoned. Some 226 British ships, including six destroyers and 146 aircraft, were lost in battle. However, as a testament to tenacity coupled with careful planning, 33,8226 troops were rescued.

The country stood alone in a state of despair and near panic, expecting an invasion to quickly follow but new Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave an incredible speech and was able to salvage a sort of victory from this painful defeat.

Churchill foresaw the need for a hidden guerilla army and to this end, Colonel Colin Gubbins was engaged to establish a new very secret force called the GHQ Auxiliary Units to fight behind enemy lines in the event of the expected invasion. Col Gubbins appointed several officers he knew to help him, including Captain Peter Fleming, from Nettlebed.

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