Keeping the Buchan area safe

An operational bunker. Copyright
An operational bunker. Copyright

An appeal to uncover Buchan’s World War Two role in the event of a German invasion, has produced a fascinating insight into the British Resistance Organisation - or Auxiliary units as they were know.

The units comprised volunteers who were too old or too young to be called up, or in reserved occupations.

They were hand-picked because of their intimate knowledge of their local surrounding areas and were often farmers, gamekeepers or poachers.

In an email to the Buchanie at the end of December, British Resistance Archive/Coleshill Auxillary Research Team county information officer for Aberdeenshire, Alan Stewart, provided us with a wealth of detail on the Buchan unit.

The patrol included Military Liaison, Capt Gordon-Lennox and was called the Peterhead Patrol. It was first founded in 1940.

The patrol comprised Sgt Tom Catto, Draper Shop owner (Peterhead); Cpl Norman Tait, storeman at Cross and Blackwell (Peterhead); Private Tom Alexander, doorman of Regal Cinema, Peterhead; Private Charles Clay. assistant frocer, Duncan’s of Peterhead; Private David Gordon, apprentice butcher, Booths of Peterhead; Private Norman Watson and Private David Wilson.

The Group Commander was Lieut. J.L Low, headmaster from Old Deer, and 2nd Lieut was A. Forbes of Fraserburgh.

The original OB, was located in the cellar of the tower in St Peter’s Cemetery,South Road. The tower was built in the early 1800s as a lookout for grave robbers.

The main OB when built was located in a field at Inverugie on land at Mount Pleasant, Inverugie.

The patrol targeted an area in close proximity to RAF Peterhead (Longside), road bridges over the River Ugie, the main railway to Maud junction, then onto Aberdeen / Fraserbugh. Coastal port of Peterhead nearby, with likely invasion beaches to the north of Peterhead.

It is understood that Tom Catto went away for training for a week, possibly Blairmore or Coleshill.

The weapons used by the patrol were unknown, although William Catto recalls as a 9/10 year-old his father having a locked drawer with a revolver in it.

The patrol were basically young men, around 17/18 years old. Tom Catto was turned down from call-up due to health reasons and joined the home guard in Peterhead.

He was in the home guard from the start of the war, but somehow got invited to join the auxiliary units. Tom and the others only wore a uniform at weekends.

The patrol met at Tom’s house midweek at Grange Gardens, Peterhead. Capt Gordon-Lennox was a regular visitor to the house.

As the patrol members had shops, the meetings often had sausages and chocolate biscuits where were limited due to wartime rationing.

William also recalls Rora and Auchmacoy being mentioned by his father a lot. Auchmacoy is an estate near Ellon, and the area Lt Alexander Fraser stayed. He was the group commander of Group 7 and involved in Ellon Auxiliary unit.

In August 1944, Tom Catto went to Balmoral Castle to protect the Royal family for a week.

During this week, Tom attended a staff dance at Balmoral. Being at a dance in the presence of the Royal family (although not meeting them), was something Tom was very proud of.

William, does recall his father having a 201 battalion lapel badge, and still has it somewhere. He added that his late brother had manuals on explosives but was unsure where they are or came from.