New Forest Wartime Airfields

World War I and World War II Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force airfields in the New Forest. Most of the airfields were turned back to Forest land or farm land after World War 2. It is possible to walk freely over those returned to Forest land, they also happen to be most of the big ones, like Beaulieu, Stoney Cross, Holmsley South and Ashley Walk. There were also a great number of dummy airfields, dummy Army camps and decoy Naval sites built in the New Forest during World War 2. They were used to try and lure German bombers away from their intended targets or to otherwise deceive German aerial reconnaissance.
RAF Ashley Walk [Aerial view] (Woodgreen Dummy airfield and Secret Bombing Range) and Millersford, New Forest, Experimental Station. A small runway for light aircraft also existed. A copy of a U-Boat Pen was built to test new bombs on; this still remains although covered in earth. This was recently (January 2014) the subject of an archaeology survey by Wessex Archaeology to discover more about the“Ministry of Home Security Target” to use its Official Wartime title. It is not thought to be a U-boat Pen anymore but a high quality concrete bomb target which the Grand Slam earthquake bomb, nicknamed Ten Ton Tess was tested on.
The famous Barnes-Wallace  Bouncing Bomb used in the Dambuster raids was tested here. A wall was built to mimic the dam walls against which the Bouncing Bomb was hurled. From the air, the aiming circles and target can still clearly be seen although the wall and concrete pans were removed some years ago.

Woodgreen Decoy airfield Q161A. The dummy airfield (of the ‘Q’ type) was a deception used to mimic the lights of an airfield to try and deflect German bombers from the real RAF Ibsley airfield which was nearby. Fragments of runway lights can still be found in the long grass. Location SU 185 162. It was documented as active on the 12th August 1942.

There were also 2 associated light aircraft landing strips in the shape of a V not far from where the Fighting Cocks pub near Godshill is situated. They are a bit tricky to see now, but they show up as straight clearings in the gorse when viewed from the ground.
There is a short book about this site “Ashley Walk Its Bombing Range Landscape and History” ISBN 0 9523888 5 5 that gives lots of detail and a map of the range.

RAF Beaulieu (Major Airfield) [Aerial view] USAAF Station 408. This is very visible from the air and on the ground. No buildings remain but dispersal points, taxi-ways and a small section of the runway are still in use today as car-parks for New Forest walkers.

RAF Bisterne (Advanced Landing Ground) Temporary D-Day airfield. USAAF Station 415. 371st Fighter Group (9AF), 7th March to 23 June 1944. Moved to France June 1944. Units 404th (which operated from Ibsley, 21 April to 1st  May 1944), 405th, 406th. Flying P-47’s. Very difficult to see this one from the air now. It was returned to farm land.

RNAS Calshot (Flying Boat) [Aerial view] Hangers and many buildings still remain. This was at first a Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) and later a RAF station.

RAF Christchurch (Minor Airfield) USAAF Station 416. Now an industrial estate, nothing remains of the original Airfield. The only clue is some of the roads have aviation related names e.g. “Airfield Way”.

RAF Holmsley South (Major Airfield) [Aerial view] USAAF Station 455. Located 4.5 miles south-east of Ringwood on A35. 349th Bombardment Group (9AF), 24th July to 25th August 1944. Moved from Boreham. Moved to France, August 1944. Units: 584th, 585th, 586th, 587th. Aircraft: B-26. Much of this airfield is still visible. Part of it is now a New Forest campsite. Parts of runways, aircraft dispersal points and taxi-ways are still quite obvious. In addition there are bunkers and buildings still scattered around the vicinity. There is also a War Memorial.

RAF Hurn (Major Airfield) USAAF Station 492. 397th Bombardment Group (9AF), 5th August to 20th August 1944. Moved from Rivenhall. Moved to France August 1944. Units: 596th, 597th, 598th, 599th. Aircraft B-26. Now an international airport (Bournemouth International).

RAF Ibsley (Major Airfield) USAAF Station 347. Now a gravel pit, so not many traces remain. Although the control tower remains, visible from the old main gate to the base. Also, some other buildings still remain on the perimeter buried in the undergrowth. There is also an underground Battle Headquarters on a hill overlooking the airfield in Newlands plantation, owned by the National Trust. 
“Situated high on hill overlooking old airfield. (M. Osborne lists the structure as a Battle Headquarters with two observation cupolas). (Source: Field Visit 1995/09/15)
Battle Headquarters in a high position overlooking the former Ibsley Airfield... Most of the structure is below ground level apart from the observation posts. The main roof over the office, toilet and runners areas is visible on the surface as an asphalt path between the two observation posts. The roof of the PBX Room is not visible, so is possibly buried more deeply. The western observation post has observation slits on all four sides. The eastern observation post has slits only on the north, south and east sides. The roofs of the observation posts and main roof are constructed of concrete on plank shuttering, covered in black render, asphalt based. The apertures in the observation posts' roofs are formed of corrugated iron shuttering held in place by steel girders. The concrete floors of the observation posts are 1.22m above the floors of the office, etc. The internal ceiling height is 2.18m, except in the observation posts which are 1.97m. The concrete ceiling is white and the walls cream, the blue paint visible today having been daubed recently. The internal walls are of brick, but there may be a concrete wall around the whole structure. (Source: Field Visit 1998/09/20)” Council for British Archaeology

RAF Lymington  (Advanced Landing Ground) USAAF Station 551. It is near the hamlet of South Baddesley. It was a temporary D-Day airfield used by the United States Army Air Force. It’s a private grass airstrip and farmland now.

RAF Needs Oar Point    (Advanced Landing Ground) Temporary D-Day airfield. RAF Hawker Typhoon aircraft flew from here. Also difficult to see from the air now. It is farm land again.

RAF Stoney Cross    (Major Airfield) USAAF Station 452. Much of this airfield is still visible both from the air and on the ground. Taxi-ways, dispersal points and runways are still in evidence. The runways and taxi-ways have been turned into roads and dispersal points are car-parks for the New Forest.

RAF Sopley (RAF Radar Station) [Arial view] Sopley was created in 1940 and was in use until the late 1980‘s. It consists of two sites. The underground radar site and an accommodation camp nearby at Bransgore, with huts, guard room, garages etc. Both the underground site and above ground camp are decommissioned and are in private hands.

RAF Sway    (Emergency Landing Ground)

RAF Winkton    (Advanced Landing Ground) Temporary D-Day airfield. USAAF Station 414, Located Three miles north-east of Christchurch, Hants. 404th Fighter Group (9AF), 4th April to 6th July 1944. Moved to France July 1944. Units: 506th, 507th, 508th. Flying P-47 Thunderbolt’s. See also external link:  Winkton Advanced Landing Ground

East Boldre (World War 1 “Great War”) Royal Flying Corps airfield, this was at first a private commercial airfield before being taken over. Early flight was very dangerous, East Boldre Church holds the graves of those who died during training.

Sometime ago I came across information of an alleged airfield at Holmsley  (World War 1 “Great War”) Royal Flying Corps airfield, this was supposedly south of the A35 road, opposite the later RAF Holmsley South. It was reportedly abandoned early on though due to the marshy ground. I have since lost my source document which I think was a website that is no longer being published. As it stands no document I have access to lists a RFC airfield being there so it should be treated with doubt that there was one. In addition, the local churchyard (Hinton) doesn’t have any RFC casualties in it, which is unusual due to the dangerous nature of early flying. The body of opinion of those on the Web who specialise in flying matters is against it too.

The temporary D-Day airfields are difficult to see now as they were only there for a few months and were of temporary construction; using perforated steel for the runway.
Although the airfields were designated “Royal Air Force” (RAF), USAAF, Czechoslovak, Polish, Canadians and other Allied forces flew missions from them.

History Note: The Royal Air Force (RAF) was created on the 1st April 1918. The forerunner was the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), a part of the British Army.

Deception Bombing Sites And Airfields
Ridley Plain Decoy Airfield Q160A, Burley (WW2) [] Dummy airfield or ‘Airfield Bombing Decoy Q160A’. This was a decoy airfield for RAF Hurn to deflect enemy bombers from bombing Hurn. It was later used as a decoy for RAF Holmsley South. It was in use during 1942 and was of the ‘Q’ type decoy which simulated an airfield at night via lights arranged to look like an airfield. Nothing now remains of it. Location : SU 210 072.

Verwood Decoy Airfield Q160B [] There was a decoy at Verwood (Q160B) for RAF Hurn. English Heritage state this of Verwood - “Aerial photography from 1981 shows an uncovered control building standing on the site in reasonable condition, with its south-east entrance fronted by a blast wall.”. Verwood was of the ‘Q’ type decoy. It was first used as a decoy for RAF Hurn and later for RAF Ibsley and was documented in use in 1942. Location : SU 100 066.

Denny Lodge Starfish Bombing Decoy SF17B, Beaulieu [] Civil Bombing Decoy C93B alias Starfish Bombing Decoy SF17B. World War 2 bombing decoy, built in January 1941 as a permanent Starfish site. Its job was to try and lure enemy bombers away from their intended target of Southampton. This was done by lighting controlled fires to give the impression of a town on fire from a bombing raid. It was also the site of a ‘QL’ decoy, which simulated the lights of an army camp, which was built in late 1942. Location: SU 409 038.

Longdown Starfish Bombing Decoy SF17A, Near Beaulieu Road Station [] World War 2, Starfish Bombing Decoy SF17A. Built as a permanent Starfish site to protect Southampton, associated with Denny Lodge Starfish Bombing Decoy SF17B. Near Decoy Pond Farm. The road to the car park to the south on the Lyndhurst to Ipley Cross road is of military construction. Location SU 356 084.

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Friday, 21 June 2013