Plea for public to help find secret Second World War bunkers

Hundreds of ‘Scallywag’ underground hideouts lie undiscovered in British countryside

Sir Winston Churchill making the victory sign.
OFF/AFP via Getty Images

Members of the public are being urged to help unearth hundreds of lost bunkers that were intended to form Britain’s last line of defence in the event of a wartime invasion.

The WWII hideouts were dug shortly after the 1940 retreat from Dunkirk, when Winston Churchill ordered the formation of a “secret resistance movement” known as the British Auxiliary Unit (BAU), The Telegraph reports.

Nicknamed the “Scallywags”, the “shadowy band of armed saboteurs” were to be a secret resistance movement against any German invasion and would have operated “out of hundreds of underground bunkers hidden throughout the countryside”, the paper adds.

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But the BAU were never called into action and the bunkers were abandoned and forgotten after the War - until now.

Professor Peter Doyle, a military historian at South Bank University, is part of a new project to find and excavate the hideaways before they are lost for good.

The secrecy surrounding the BAU meant that members “had no military status, no uniforms and there are very few official records of their activities”, Doyle told The Telegraph.

They were recruited from “people who knew the land, poachers, gamekeepers and farmers”, he added, and “would have hidden out in the underground bunkers which were stocked with arms and supplies”.

These “extraordinary individuals” were given a life expectancy of just 12 days in the event of an invasion, write Doyle and fellow researchers in an article published on The Conversation last month.

Yet despite their willingness to lay down their lives for their country, their stories remain largely unknown.

“But their legacy lives on, hidden within the spartan underground bunkers they would have conducted their lethal work from,” the experts write.

“And while almost all of these remote hideouts remain lost in the British countryside, we recently uncovered one in Suffolk – complete with some some of the precious artefacts its occupiers left behind.”

The team have videoed footage from inside the bunker to offer members of the public a glimpse into the Scallywags’ secret mission.

And Doyle hopes to find more of the lost hideaways, with the help of volunteers.

“We need people to be our eyes and ears in the countryside and let us know if they think they have spotted one of these structures,” he told The Telegraph.

If you are interested in helping with the search, contact Andy Chatterton at the British Resistance Archive on

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