World War II bomb manuals reveal techniques used by Churchill’s ‘secret army’

Countrymen's diary and Calendar 1937
The Countrymen’s Diary and the Calendar dated 1937 were among the disguised bomb manuals used by Churchhill’s “secret army” during the World War II. The manuals reveal techniques on how to make homemade bombs and where to plant them.

On first glance, they look like old calendars, diaries or fertilizer manuals. But as readers flip the pages, the manual provides crucial and comprehensive information for bombers.

The BBC News reports that the manual was designed for Winston Churchill’s “secret army”. The manual reveals technique on how to create bombs and where to strategically plant them to create more damage to enemies.

The information contained in the manual was a military secret. So were the identities of the members of the “secret army”. Keeping their identities a secret was crucial to the survival of the members of the unit and to the military success of their mission.

The Countryman’s Diary 1939 is one of the two secret bomb manuals disguised as diaries auctioned at the Eastbourne Auction Rooms. The “diary” was created by Highworth’s Fertilisers, a  company owned by Louis Pugh.

The company was named after a town in Wiltshire town where the members of the “secret army” are trained. Louis Pugh then commanded the unit at Tenterden, Kent. The unit acted like guerrillas.

The Countryman’s Diary contained tips on how to create bombs using items which could be found in a common household. The diary also contained steps on how to plant the bombs as booby traps or as effective killers of Nazi soldiers.

After the evacuation at Dunkirk, Winston Churchill became convinced of an impending German invasion. One of the units he immediately formed in 1940 was the secret bomb unit.

The members of the unit were originally members of the Home Guard. These soldiers were then organized into cells that operate independently mainly to sabotage and wreak havoc on German supply lines.

Bombing and guerrilla warfare were thus highly suited to their mission. Aside from sabotage, they were also trained to carry out assassinations. The units also comprise the British Resistance Movement.

Bombing Techniques Revealed

Highworth’s Fertilisers was a chemical factory which made a good cover for the commander of the unit, Pugh, who specialized in the production of bombs.

Most of his men were locals. They were trained at Wiltshire. After training, they based at the Gibbets Oak Farm. Their base is stocked with the manuals and the weaponry.

The manuals, however, were discovered accidentally by lovers according to Jeannette May, a senior valuer at the Eastbourne Auction Rooms.

“Pugh took everything back to his house and stored it, while they built a second base. However, he had a young family at the time and was really worried about the repercussions, for his family and village, if the Germans had invaded and discovered it,” May said.

“It was estimated that the life expectancy for a member of one of the units – had the Germans landed – would’ve been 10 to 14 days,” May explained further.

According to May, the historical items connected to the “secret army” include the manuals, photographs, three booby traps, and medals. The manuals are expected to be auctioned at around £500 to £800. They are the rarest among the items in display.

Secret They Brought to Their Grave

The identities of the members of the unit as well as the covers of the manual were carefully planned to disguise them as everyday items that the Germans would probably ignore if they do their searches.

“Perhaps they chose 1937 as the date as they imagine a German sifting through possessions in 1940 would ignore it,” May explained.

The inconspicuous items are in fact manuals that are deadly to Germans.

One of the manuals contain the following tips:

“The essential point is that for outdoor booby traps you must aim at killing by splinters – not by blast. Another very good method is to use an old motorcycle cylinder filled with gelignite. The fins fly very well.”

The units under the “secret army” were disbanded when the threat of the German invasion passed. Pugh joined the RAF where he was known as Flt Lt Pugh.

According to May, Pugh’s stepson passed on the manuals and the other items to the auction house. However, information about the “secret army” still remains more of a mystery with the passing of Pugh in 1984.

“Many of them kept it a secret until their deaths – they just wouldn’t talk about it,” May finally said.



Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE