Isle of Sheppey
There were at least two patrols, and possibly a third, based on the Isle of Sheppey and under the command of Lt. William G Johnson, a dairy farmer at Cowstead Corner and owner of Holm Place Dairy in Sheerness. With the help of a nearby farmer, named Howting, he set about raising his first patrol, centred on the Queenborough area. The men chosen all worked in the dockyards or on the industrial estates; the idea being to destroy these facilities in the event of an invasion.
Queenborough Patrol - code name unknown
Ernie Beer - Stanley Avenue, Queenborough
Peter Woolley - Harold Street, Queenborough
Jack Donald - High Street, Queenborough (dockyard worker)
Frank Wallace - Harold Street, Queenborough (ex-Regular)
John Collis - High Street, Queenborough (butcher)
Jack Quaintance - High Street, Queenborough (chemical factory worker)
The Patrol Leader was Frank Wallace, an ex-Royal Signals despatch rider invalided out after a motorcycle accident in Palestine. Jack Donald joined the Royal Navy in 1944, followed by Jack Quaintance in 1945.
According to official records, two other men were recruited in November and December 1940 - H. Rayner, from Noreen Avenue, Minster, and Harry Oliver, from Stanley Avenue, Queenborough. S J Harcup was recruited in November 1941. All were former members of the 30th Kent Home Guard Battalion. Nothing more is known about their activities. The information on the Queenborough Patrol has come from Jack Quaintance, the only known surviving member of any of the Isle of Sheppey Patrols.
“At the beginning of the war I worked in a chemical factory in Sheerness, where I was also a messenger for the ARP wardens. I joined the Queenborough Home Guard when I was 16. Before the war I was a member of the local small-bore shooting club so I could already handle a rifle.
“In 1941 I was approached by a local farmer, Lieutenant W G Johnson, who asked if I wanted to join some rough stuff. I signed the Official Secrets Act and reported to a farm at Cowstead Corner belonging to Lt. Johnson. Our OB was under the stockyard, but it was never finished and we never used it.
“We never went to Coleshill but were trained in secret by Lovat Scouts and Royal Engineers at Harty and at The Garth, Bilting, where the CO was Captain McNicholl of the London Scottish TA. He had an Alsatian dog. I also met Captain Thomas Neame at The Garth.
“We were shown how to make vicious booby traps such as a hole full of sharp flints in the side of a bank activated by a trip wire. Perfect for killing motorcycle riders and foot soldiers. We also put booby traps under cushions and attached explosives to the toilet chains inside water cisterns. Good joke and Jerry loses his head.
“We were armed with .38 Smith and Wesson revolvers from the US Navy, Fairbairn Sykes commando knives, Thompson .45 sub machine guns with box magazines, .300 Remington rifles, and 9mm Sten guns. We carried the Stens as you would a shotgun and shoot at string-pull targets. We also had a Winchester .22 bolt action rifle with 5-shot magazine, silencer and telescopic sights for taking out German officers. Jolly good tool, very tradesman-like. I enjoyed shooting it.
“No-one from our day-to-day lives knew who we were or what we had been trained to do. Secrecy was our creed. Our training was as realistic as possible and we would raid installations on the Island guarded by Regulars and Home Guard. The sentries were armed with live ammunition and didn’t know we were coming. If we had been seen we would have been shot.
“If the Germans had invaded we didn’t expect to last long, but we were young and well prepared to get on with the job. Let the bastards come. In the beginning we believed the Germans would come at any moment, but as the war went on this subsided. Prior to D - Day in June 1940 we were offered a crash course in parachuting and told that we were going to be dropped behind German lines in Normandy, but nothing came of it.
“We were eventually stood down in November 1944 and returned to our normal lives. We never received any official recognition at the time, but I later received the Defence Medal. I joined the Royal Navy early 1945 and served on HMS Ajax. As soon as the war ended we were sent to the River Platte, Uruguay, to pick up the German sailors from the Graf Spee. I later served in Palestine and Israel.”
Eastchurch Patrol - code name unknown
E Taylor - Charltonville, Brambledown
R A King - Old Rides, Eastchurch
W G Wright - Elliotts Farm, Harty
T E Sage - Old Rides Farm, Eastchurch
According to Jack Quaintance, the urban and rural patrols met once at Cowstead Corner. He never saw the farmers again. The group may have been compromised somehow in October 1943 when all the members were transferred back to their former Home Guard units. Another member may have been V H Studd from Mocketts Farm, Harty, who was recruited in July 1942 and left a year later in June 1943.
Minster Patrol - code name unknown
J W Page - Wall End Farm, Minster
H W J Howard - Barton Hill Road, Minster
H J Howard - Barton Hill Road, Minster
H Martin - Halfway Road, Minster
J I Fulljames - Halfway House, Sheerness
The two Howards from Barton Hill Road, Minster, were father and son.