RAF Fawley: The Airfield That Never Was

I’ve been researching the history of the New Forest’s wartime airfields for several years, and occasionally this work turns up something unexpected. One of the more unexpected documents I’ve seen in archives during this period is a proposed plan for WW2 airfield being built just south of Fawley and Blackfield, near the Langley area.

Before I show you that plan though, just a little background. 

When war broke out in 1939, only nine airfields in Britain had hard concrete runways. Most airfields were grass runways, which were completely unsuitable for heavy and medium range bombers that would soon be called into action. 

In 1940 the Air Ministry were looking for sites across the south coast to build airfields to support the war effort. As most readers of this blog will know, many airfields were built in Hampshire and the New Forest (here’s a list) to help with WW2, some with concrete runways, and some were temporary with steel mesh tracking laid down. The larger airfields with concrete runways had familiar names such as Beaulieu, Holmsley South, Stoney Cross and so on.

But it appears there was one site that had been considered for an airfield at that time, but was never built. You can see a plan of that below.

RAF Fawley Airfield Proposal from 1940

It’s a proposed airfield in the Langley and Blackfield area, close to Fawley. 

At some point, representatives from the Air Ministry would have come to the area to survey the site. Given that the airfield was never constructed for war, we have to assume that ultimately the site was deemed not suitable.

I’ve drawn over a Google map below to help orientate you as to where it would have been if it had been constructed.

Come the end of 1942, ten airfields were being built a week in the UK, resulting in more than 600 airfields in the country by the end of the war, all of varying types and sizes.

If this airfield near Fawley had been built, I can only assume what it might have been called. It might have been RAF Fawley given that was the closest largest area to it. Or maybe it would have been RAF Blackfield, or RAF Langley. I don’t know at this point and will continue to see if more documents come up with further information. 

It appears that this area was still in the minds of the Air Ministry after the Second World War. A scan of a 1955 Air Ministry data sheet was uploaded to the Airfield Research Group forum a few years ago, and it shows a Fawley airfield. You can see that scan below.

1955 data plan showing Fawley airfield

The circular symbol used is one to depict a landing ground without concrete runways. That means it would have been either grass, or an area with steel mesh laid down. It also says, “NOT S/G”. Could that mean “not suitable / grass”? Beneath the icon it says “POT”, could that mean “potential”? Again, I don’t know the answers to these two, but we know that no airfield was built.

But if you look closely at the scan and the location that circular symbol is printed over, it’s not on the same area as the wartime plan shown further up the page. Instead, it’s showing that this 1955 Fawley Airfield is west of Hardley and Holbury, on Beaulieu Heath south of Dibden Purlieu and near Hill Top. 

Based on this, it appears that this area generally, stretching from Langley up to the Waterside area of the New Forest, was earmarked as a possible location for an airfield, both during the war, and in the post-war period. 

And that airfield, if built, would possibly have been called RAF Fawley.

But, without me finding further written documentation in the archives, so far, a lot of what I have described above, is me making assumptions based purely off seeing two maps. If you know more, I would love to hear from you.

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