Malcolm Atkin Military Research
Some year ago a rusty Thompson M1A1 sub-machine gun was recovered from a well in Mellor, Stockport. (NB the site is on private property with no public access). It was discovered after the property owners were told a story of a teenager one night helping a group of men hide an arms cache there during the war. The material was placed on a ledge half way down the well but the Thompson had evidently slipped off and escaped recovery at the end of the war. Subsequent excavation revealed 300 rounds of live .45ACP ammunition as well as ammunition for a .455 revolver.
Auxiliary Units and Home Guard were both issued with Thompsons - but they are usually thought of as the early Thompson M1928A1 (top illustration). The Auxiliary Unit Thompsons were withdrawn in September 1942 in favour of the new Sten gun. Some Home Guard had been issued with the Sten as early as March 1942. The Thompson M1A1 (bottom illustration) was only introduced to British service in 1943.
Further research has established that the Mellor Thompson was hidden in 1943 as part of a secret arms cache organised by a local corporal in the Home Guard, who was clearly involved in 'extra-curricular' activities. He approached the teenager, who was an underage member of his Home Guard platoon, to ask if there was a hiding place for some material on his parent's isolated property. Once he had led a party of men to the well at 3am one morning, the boy was told to make himself scarce and the incident was never mentioned again.
The corporal was presumably a member of clandestine unit operating in 1943 and issued with the latest weaponry. The weapon was not of a type used by the Auxiliary Units - who are not, in any case, known to have operated in this area. The site is, however only c.30 miles from the known SIS resistance cell at Matlock, Derbyshire. There, the wireless operator of this period knew that there were arms caches for the use of the network - but did not know their location. Evidence from elsewhere has also identified the recruitment of Home Guard who were given special training at Altcar on Merseyside, but were then told to blend back into their unit until their services were required after occupation.
The logical conclusion is that the Mellor Thompson was part of an SIS Section VII arms cache and is further evidence for the presence of this resistance organisation across the country. The cell also appears to have used a Webley MkVI revolver of .455 calibre. Although originating in WW1, this was still an official issue in WW2 and many were also in the private hands of ex-WW1 officers. It was heavy and unweildy but had enormous stopping power. This was in comparison to the replacement Webley Mk IV which was lighter to carry - but whose under-powered .38 round was reputed to be incapable of penetrating a wet army greatcoat!
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