The following articles appeared on the last pages of PURBECK! Journal and form the editor’s axe and grindstone – he gets a little emotional…

From edition 3. Besom.

Compassion – Let’s Have It!

Nick Viney and the work of BESOM

This man is Nick Viney and he is the Purbeck coordinator of a little-known body called Besom.

Besom (pron. bee-som) is the kind of organisation most people won’t have heard of until they need it. For the most part, this national charity operates under the radar, content to simply get on with what it does without any fuss: provide practical support by donating furniture and white goods to those in financial distress.

And there’s plenty of distress around. Let us not dwell on rising unemployment, the rising real-cost of living, demonstrably gross inequality or rolling funding cuts to welfare services. ‘Austerity’ is a word only too well-understood by the growing ranks of the disenfranchised in our communities. As successive governments abrogate their duty of compassion to the electorate and the common wealth is funnelled into the pockets of the greedy elite (the ‘1%’), it’s left to folk like those at Besom to stem the flow of a haemorrhaging society: the Big Bleeding Society in action, if you will.

The three-man crew also sometimes carry out tasks around the house or garden. Even minor improvements, says Nick, can make all the difference to a person’s well-being, especially if incapacitated by old age or poor health. Worry – it can get you down. Nick laments that, previously, this service was funded to be undertaken by trades people or ‘white van’ drivers, thereby providing employment and circling government (tax) funds back into the community.

Clients are referred to Besom by Social Services, best placed to determine if help is required. Nick drives his car and trailer, ‘the Besom-mobile’, to collect furniture donated by the public or deliver it where needed. It’s not a removal service; furniture and electrical goods must be in good order and conform to the correct safety requirements. Nick calls upon two assistants who, likewise, give their time and muscle to the cause out of the goodness of their hearts; despite his entitlement, he refuses to draw on Besom’s funds to compensate fuel or other costs. A far cry from the behaviour witnessed in Whitehall over recent years and it’s unlikely we’ll see any landed MPs with fridges for the cause protruding from the backs of their Range Rovers any time soon.

Someone nominate this man for office!

If you would like to donate to Besom, visit or, if in Purbeck, call Nick directly on 07766 352 062


From edition 4.

Memorial to the Langton six, Langton Matravers

“Be like Dad, Keep Mum”

The Auxiliers motto

Unveiling of a Commemorative Plaque  to the Langton Matravers Auxiliary Unit, 27 October 2012.

With its patriarchal overtones and colloquial reference, it’s a motto that doesn’t sit altogether comfortably in today’s vernacular, yet for brevity and wit, and for pure aptness, it’s hard to beat. These were the watchwords for the seven-man ‘Auxiliary Units’ that were liberally peppered throughout southwest England during the Second World War.

The banal, dismissive ‘auxiliary’ gives a deceptively inverse indication of how important these units actually were to post-invasion plans – not a soul outside the operation was to know of their existence. ‘The Auxiliers’, as they became known, were established by direction of the wartime PM Winston Churchill, no stranger to guerrilla tactics, for post-invasion, counter-insurgency activities. Their mission? Maximum disruption. Blow-up aerodromes, rail-lines and bridges, and carry out assassinations (of our own!); hobbling the enemy’s movements and stifling access to intelligence as the allied forces re-group just south of London. And none of the sevens knew of the other’s whereabouts or personnel.

It is still a joke among small communities today that even minor flatulence does not go unreported. The Langton seven were assigned to a subterranean Operational Base in Harman’s Cross. All the units were highly trained and often very well equipped; state of the art Thompson sub-machine guns, Smith and Wesson revolvers and the iconic Fairbairn-Sykes double-edged commando dagger. They were also experts in irregular munitions and home-made explosives. Tellingly, they were only ever supplied with a fortnight’s worth of rations – simply not expected to survive the feuersbrunst. If that wasn’t enough to keep them busy, the Official Secrets Act meant that, until recently, they lived with the threat of custodial recriminations or – who knows, worse?, should indiscretion cloud their judgement.

Secrecy’s cloak is like a black hole – we can’t see it, we can’t put our finger on it, but we know something’s there by it somehow being missing. Speculation, suspicion, they inevitably follow this sensation and so it was between the families and friends these brave men, some of whom suffered terrible accusations. Spouses did not take kindly to unexplained absences; many were branded cowards, shirkers and worse and their families suffered in ignorance for decades. Most Auxiliers took their secret to the grave, some made a record much later in their lives, but it is due to the recent declassification of files documenting the formation of the SAS that this enormous, hidden sacrifice has become public (A Purbeck Secret, edition II).

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