A selection of World War II sabotage manuals cleverly disguised as diaries and calendars was sold at Eastbourne Auction Rooms for more than £2,000 last week.
The manuals were issued to members of Winston Churchill’s secret Auxiliary Unit, which was formed in 1940, and detailed how to make explosives and set booby traps.
One of the two manuals that sold at auction was concealed as The Countryman’s Diary 1939 sponsored by Highworth’s Fertilisers – a fictional company named after the Wiltshire town near where the units trained.
Inside the ‘diary’ is information on the training and abilities of the guerrilla units, including how to kill German troops using household items.
The Auxiliary Unit was formed following the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk when Churchill was convinced that a Nazi invasion was imminent.
Keeping the identities of the Auxiliary Unit members a secret was crucial to their survival, hence the need for their manuals to be hidden in plain sight. So clandestine were the units, their existence did not become public knowledge until several years after the end of the war.
The other manual was simply camouflaged as a 1937 calendar, although had the word ‘secret’ emblazoned in red letters on the opening page.
It was expected the documents would sell for between £500 and £800 as a pair but ended up fetching £1,020 each.
Jeannette May, senior valuer at Eastbourne Auction Rooms, said, “It’s a pleasure to deal with these items. It’s forgotten history, real James Bond stuff.
“There are very few manuals in existence because the units were top secret. Members would not even have known of other units set up in, say, the next village.”
The manuals belonged to a Louis Pugh, who owned a chemical factory and commanded a unit in Kent.
He built a base and stocked it with weaponry but was quickly forced to abandon it after it was discovered by a couple of courting lovers.
The manuals were sold alongside photographs, three booby trap mechanisms and several medals.