RAF Beaulieu butt

How a Strange Hump in the New Forest Might Have Helped the War Effort

As you travel on the B3054 from Hatchett Pond towards Lymington, you might notice a large gorse-covered mound on the heathland. It’s on the right-hand side, around half a mile on from the Beaulieu Heath entrance into the old airfield.          

It’s very recognisable as it has a walking track through the middle of it. You can see photos of it above.  

I’d often drive past this myself, and used to think it was a tumulus, (Bronze age burial site) which isn’t an unusual sight in the New Forest. 

That was until I started looking deeper into the wartime history of the area. For the last few years, I’ve been researching RAF Beaulieu and the New Forest airfields. This is what led me to realise what this gorse-covered mound was.

It was designed as a shooting butt for the airfield

It’s man-made and appeared in late 1942. It was dug out of the heathland, with the resulting gravel piled up into a small hill as part of the construction of RAF Beaulieu. It was designed to become what’s known as a “Shoot-In Butt”. 

These were common on airfields during WW2. They were for aircraft to practice shooting into to test their weapons. In RAF Beaulieu’s case, the idea was for fighter or bomber planes to taxi into position on the edge of the airfield, face the Shoot-In Butt and then fire at a target. 

However, whether the Beaulieu Shoot-in Butt was used during the war is open to debate. Unlike other practice areas on Beaulieu Airfield, I can find no evidence of it ever being fired at. If the RAF and USAAF aircraft did use it for practice, the issue of the village of Pilley being behind it, and its proximity to the roadside had to be major considerations. 

Because of this, I suspect it was never actually used.

hump views
It’s possible to stand on the hump and look across the heathland.

Also, it shouldn’t be there today. In the late 1950s, buildings and equipment from the airfield was auctioned off to the public. I’m led to believe that the mound of gravel was also sold, but the chap who purchased it never came and removed it for reasons only he knows.

So, we’re stuck with this strange gorse-covered mound or small hill that might, or might not, have helped the war effort. 

Fast forward to present day, and many locals affectionately call it the “hump” or the “mound” as I have done in this article. The reason you see tracks over it is because it’s a popular point on a walk. People naturally want to climb up to the top, as it offers amazing views. You can see for miles around, go try it yourself!

In rainy months, a large pond also develops behind it. This is a result of the gravel being originally dug out and then piled up to create the Shoot-In Butt. 

If you’d like to find out more and watch a video, visit rafbeaulieu.co.uk and type “hump” into the search bar.

If you have any stories or accounts of WW2 in the New Forest and Waterside, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch.

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