The Last Ditch

Title:                      The Last Ditch

Author:                  David Lampe

Lampe, David (1968). The Last Ditch. New York: Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    68015314

D759 .L28 1968


Date Updated:  November 16, 2015

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The Auxiliary Units were organized by the British to carry out guerrilla warfare in the event that the Germans invaded and occupied Britain in 1940. They became one model for the creation of resistance on the Continent, and it was here that Gubbins, later of SOE fame, gained experience as the man in charge of creating this British underground army. The Last Ditch was a try to write of the Auxiliary Units as a main topic; up to then they had been mentioned only briefly in such works as Peter Fleming’s Operation Sea Lion.[2]The organization, training, and planning for what are called stay-behind organizations (for intelligence gathering, resistance, psychological warfare, sabotage, etc., in enemy-occupied areas) are not to be found in intelligence literature as the main subject of a work, so Lampe’s book is unique in this regard. Fleming himself was the first commander of the first auxiliary unit; in his review of Lampe’ s work in Book World he found Lampe’ s opinion of the military capabilities of the Auxiliary Units much higher than any held at the time. He was of the view that “accuracy was not [Lampe’s] strong point” and said that in the areas familiar to him (Fleming), Lampe’s treatments “seldom contain more than a grain of truth and often less.” Lampe had previously written on the Danish resistance movement.[3]

Some comments by Roy Berkeley:[4]

From Bedford Street, continue across it to New Row. Turn left at St Martin’s Lane; this will take you to Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery, especially with its splendid new addition, is worth a visit, as is the National Portrait Gallery where you can see Stephen Ward’s portrait of Christine Keeler. Or you can rest inside .St Martin-in-the-Fields, perhaps at a midday concert. On to Whitehall, with its long line of government buildings. To your left is 7 Whitehall Place. This is where Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, was first located, we learn from a Blue Plaque on the building. Unannounced to the passing i public, however, is that this is also where Colin Gubbins (see Site 71 64 Baker Street) began the Auxiliary Units of WWII. These civilian units were trained for intelligence and subversion work in Britain should Germany invade and conquer. Ultimately the units comprised 5,000 men—miners, gamekeepers, poachers, stalkers, farmers, parsons, innkeepers, blacksmiths—“who had the ability to blend when necessary into the countryside around them, to keep a secret, to live rough and, if necessary, to go on fighting as they would be taught to fight until they triumphed or were killed,” as David Lampe writes in The Last Ditch.[5]

Each unit of this underground army built its own hideout, literally underground: a thousand of them in the woods and fields and cliffs of Britain. With a Home Guard designation as cover, the men received the best training and the newest weapons and explosives. It is a measure of the patriotism of these men that Lampe’s revealing book, published in 1968, could refer to this resistance force as one of the best-kept secrets of WWII; one forgotten cache of weapons was turned in as late as 1964 by a recruit who had tended his .munitions faithfully for 20 years after the Auxiliary Units were dissolved. Like the best of the SOE agents who followed them, the Auxiliary Units were prepared to die resisting the Germans—and were prepared to take the secrets of their organization with them.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 280

[2] Fleming, Peter (1957, 1977). Operation Sea Lion: The Projected Invasion of England In 1940, An Account of The German Preparations And The British Countermeasures. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press. [Reprint of the ed. published by Simon and Schuster, New York. LCCN: 76056777]

[3] Lampe, David (1960, 2011). Hitler’s Savage Canary: A History of the Danish Resistance in World War II. New York: Skyhorse Pub.

[4] See Berkeley, Roy (1994). A Spy’s London. London: Leo Cooper, Pp. 278-279

[5] Lampe, David (1968). The Last Ditch. New York: Putnam’s Sons


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