New Forest Airfields Memorial
Standing on western boundary of the site of the wartime RAF Holmsley South airfield is the New Forest Airfields Memorial. It was unveiled on August 16, 2002, and is dedicated to all of the Second World War pilots and crew who operated from the twelve New Forest airfields.
You can visit the New Forest Airfields Memorial at: Black Lane, Bransgore, Hampshire, BH23 8EA. The road is off the A35 between Christchurch and Lyndhurst. There are brown tourist signs to the Memorial on both the A35 trunk road and on Lyndhurst Road.
Click here to see the location on Google or navigate using the map below. It can be accessed all year round, and there is no cost in seeing it.
On the front of the memorial are slate coloured tiles displaying the names of the twelve New Forest airfields; Beaulieu, Bisterne, Calshot, Christchurch, Holmsley South, Hurn, Ibsley, Lymington, Needs Oar Point, Stoney Cross, Sway, and Winkton.
The stone memorial also incorporates a wartime Dakota propeller donated by CFS Aviation of Baginton in Coventry. During the Second World War, Dakotas are known to have flown from Christchurch, Ibsley, and Stoney Cross. They were also used post-war at RAF Beaulieu during parachute tests.
It’s also said that there is a time capsule incorporated into the structure containing books, letters, and other items of memorabilia pertinent to the New Forest airfields. This is to be opened fifty years from the date the memorial was unveiled, on August 16, 2052.
The memorial area is contained within a small fenced enclosure. Within that is a large stone plinth upon which a stone map of the New Forest airfields is placed. The map has the following inscription:
NEW FOREST AIRFIELDS 1939 – 1945
In grateful remembrance of all personnel, service, and civilian, British, Commonwealth, Empire, and Allied who served on the New Forest airfields during and immediately after WW2.
Handy Hint: Click here to see the exact positions of the New Forest Airfields on our map.
Attached to the fencing are also several metal plaques in memory of airmen and air force squadrons including Captain Darrell R Lindsay and the 404th USAAF fighter group who flew from Winkton airfield.
The design of the memorial was conceived and planned by Basil White, a local architect from Sopley who sadly died before the memorial was completed.
The memorial was raised by the Friends of the New Forest Airfields organisation, who are also responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. I also recommend a visit to their museum which is a short drive from the memorial.
How the New Forest Airfields Memorial was conceived
The idea of having a monument in memory of the New Forest airfields was initially conceived in early 1995, when John Leete met with Les White, author of aviation book, “The Lure of the Blue”. They both shared an interest in local wartime history.
The two men discussed the possibility of creating a large memorial to the New Forest airfields, which would complement the plaques that were already placed at the individual airfields by Alan Brown. The original idea was to create a cairn-like structure, using materials retrieved from the sites of the disused airfields, and then place it at Lyndhurst which was a relatively central point in the New Forest.
Despite sponsorship and press support, the idea of the memorial being constructed in Lyndhurst was turned down by the New Forest District Council.
However, all was not lost, as local aviation enthusiast, Bernard Baily donated the current location situated next to the disused RAF Holmsley South airfield.
The idea could now proceed, and in May of 1996, John Leete, Bernard Baily, Les White, and architect Basil White, met to make plans. This resulted in setting up as a charity status to help raise funds and putting forward a planning application.
The application was initially refused by the NFDC, but in January 1997, the go-ahead was given for the memorial to be built after the plan and design was revised to be a “more modest monument” after local councillors condemned the original plan for being “too ostentatious”.
Councillor Gwen Rickus had been one of those who had originally opposed the memorial, but changed her mind after seeing the revised design:
“The original plan was rather garish for such a sensitive site, which is just across the road from a nature reserve. The new structure is more compact, and the materials used in its construction will be totally sympathetic to their surroundings. I’ve always been happy with the idea of a memorial, but I want it to be compatible with the countryside, and this one will be.”
The efforts of the team were now focussed on raising money, materials, and manpower to construct the memorial on Black Lane in Bransgore.
Many different people helped, including financial contributions. Those that donated money included local people and businesses and even some contributors in the United States, meaning construction of the memorial could begin.
Despite a few setbacks, the New Forest Airfields Memorial was finally unveiled on the morning of August 16, 2002. The ten foot memorial made from Portland and Ashlar stone was revealed to a large crowd, with the unveiling including a fly past by the Red Arrows.
Les White addressed the crowd, including the following quote from his speech:
“This monument should not only be seen as a commemoration of events of sixty years ago. It should remind us that had it not been for those we honour and remember with pride today, and millions like them, our lives may well have been lived under the heel of tyranny. It should also serve as an inspiration to live our lives in accordance with the principles for which our country and its allies fought and paid so dearly.”
There were also addresses by a representative from the USAAF and a RAF veteran from the Second World War.
Two years later in June 2004, Major Harold Shook, a USAAF veteran who flew from Winkton Airfield, visited the memorial. He unveiled a metal information board detailing the history of Winkton Airfield that was fixed to the iron fence railings. He then made a short speech expressing his thanks for the recognition of the airfield’s history and the role of the 404th Fighter Group.
The metal information board was designed and produced by Alan Brown, the Lyndhurst aviation historian and author, who was present with his wife Margaret.
- With thanks to John Leete and FONFA