PARHAM AIRFIELD MUSEUM
(Incorporating the 390th Bombardment Group Memorial Air Museum and the Museum of the British Resistance Organisation)
The Museum of the British Resistance Organisation was formally opened on 30th August 1997 by Col. J.W. Stuart Edmondson, one of Colin Gubbins' earliest Intelligence Officers. It was set up under the aegis of the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum at Parham, itself established for around 20 years and registered as a charity. The 390th had long received the benefit of co-operation from the landowners of this former W.W.II US airfield, farmers Percy and Herman Kindred who had been Auxiliers in the same patrol.
The 390th decided to express their appreciation of the Kindreds' benevolence by adding to their existing displays another to the Auxunits under the title British Resistance Organisation (BRO).
The Museum of the British Resistance Organisation (BRO) is dedicated to the men of the innocently named Auxiliary Units of World War Two and was established in August 1997.
These were the highly-trained and very determined 'stay behinds' who were to remain undetected in carefully constructed 'bunkers' (Operating Bases - OBs) as the invading German Army made its way through Britain. These 'part-timers' (who in those dire circumstances would be decidedly full-time and facing an increasingly uncertain future) would then reconnoitre their area, establish their targets and destroy them using timed explosives.
For morale and propaganda reasons - not to mention their own security - the 'stay behind' Auxiliaries were a closely-guarded secret. It would not 'do' for the general population to know that an organised resistance movement was in training and in place ready for the unthinkable.
Outside, alongside the control tower is a reconstruction of an underground OB, based upon the example known to have been at Stratford St Andrew. The public are able to tour this – brought up to ground level for ease of access and landscaped over - and appreciate the cramped and dismal conditions that the Auxiliaries had to work in.
The museum faced immense difficulties in researching the background of the Auxiliaries and other aspects of the UK's resistance organisation. Some files do indeed exist and others have yet to be found. Former members of the Auxiliaries are very reluctant to talk but are becoming more so as the word gets out.
A breakthrough came when a Ministry of Defence official deemed some material on the Auxiliaries to be of "limited residual sensitivity" and with the paperwork to hand to this effect, the job of tracing the structure and work of the BRO could gain some impetus. Around 5000 people were trained to work in groups of six and it is believed that some 400 0Bs were created.
To raise funds for the museum, Andy Taylor has researched and compiled a book on the subject and it is compelling reading. This is centred around an original document written by Major N V Oxenden MC in October 1944, as the 'bones' of an official history of the Auxiliaries part in the BRO. This document was tracked down to the Channel Isles and now can be shared by one and all.
Illustrated and with excellent notes to explain elements of Oxenden's text:
contains fascinating gems, such as their training manual was printed and distributed with the title Calendar 1937! Poachers were deemed to be ideal potential recruits as they knew the local area well and were already well versed in 'stealthy' movement.
Oxenden's text gives a good insight into what work the Auxiliaries were expected to get up to if the enemy swept past and did not uncover them:
... in every way the most paying is the landing ground, since fuel dumps - the only other target as vulnerable - may be established anywhere. Aircraft are easy to damage and, owing to their necessary dispersal, are hard to guard. A patrol should therefore be formed near each airfield…
The BRO museum at Framlingham holds a wealth of material and much more is held for future display. The 390th and their friends are to be congratulated on establishing such an important exhibition and for taking on the role of co-ordinator of knowledge on the subject and for keeping former members in touch with one another.
Unexpectedly, the amount of incoming information and exhibits proliferated from Auxiliers and their families who had experienced 50 years or more without recognition. More than 40 audio tapes have been collected together with many unique exhibits. The Museum is now the focal point nationally for Auxunit information and has benefited from the most willing and helpful co-operation from supporters throughout the United Kingdom. They have also been able to supply advice and information to the media whenever they have enquired, in an effort designed to produce accurate programmes rather than the over-dramatised and speculative work which had so often previously misrepresented the true role of the GHQ Auxiliary Units of W.W.II.
The BRO unit has acquired a wide array of exhibits across the board. It is possible to see photographs of the officers and men of the Auxiliary Units, information of their weaponry and original examples of the time pencils, fuses and crimping mechanism, etc. of the explosives with which they were familiar. The new display will include examples of dead-letter boxes and intelligence instruction dossiers employed by the Special Duties Section; and as far as possible practical details of the radio communications network installed by the Royal Corp of Signals.
From Easter until the end of October they are open on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays; and during school holidays on Wednesdays as well. Admission is free. Parking is plentiful and refreshments available. The souvenirs on sale are relevant to both the 390th and the BRO, the latter being recent additions and are in the form of mementoes.
The Museum is around 15 miles north of Ipswich and is well signposted ('AIR MUSEUM') from the A12 near Wickham Market.
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