WW2 New Forest Airfields Map & Locations
The New Forest and surrounding areas has a rich Second World War aviation history. During WW2 it was witness to huge activity. Below you can see a New Forest airfields map which shows the locations during WW2.
The inspiration for the map above is based on an idea I saw on the Friends of the New Forest Airfields website. They had created a similar map including Hamble and Eastleigh, but I wanted to make one with just the Second World War’s New Forest airfields on.
How many WW2 airfields are in the New Forest?
It is commonly said that there are 12 WW2 airfields in the New Forest, but this isn’t strictly true. For example, RAF Hurn and RAF Christchurch fell outside of the New Forest area. There were also other smaller operational airstrips which aren’t as well known and not included in that number.
But if you look at this New Forest airfields map above, I’ve decided to shows 12 airfields and airstrips (one of which was a flying boat station) used to help the war effort. I’ve put 12 on the map as these are the ones that were in most use during the Second World War, including Hurn and Christchurch.
You can also examine a New Forest Airfields map I made using Google, and use it to navigate to the sites from your phone or GPS device.
On the map you can see the following New Forest airfields from WW2.
- RAF Beaulieu (USAAF Station AAF 408)
- RAF Bisterne (USAAF Station AAF 415)
- RAF Calshot
- RAF Christchurch (USAAF Station AAF 416)
- RAF Holmsley South (USAAF Station AAF 455)
- RAF Hurn (USAAF Station AAF 492)
- RAF Ibsley (USAAF Station AAF 347)
- RAF Lymington (USAAF Station AAF 551)
- RAF Needs Oar Point
- RAF Stoney Cross (USAAF Station AAF 452)
- RAF Winkton (USAAF Station AAF 414)
- Sway Emergency Landing Ground
As I’ve mentioned, there were more airstrips than this in the New Forest area during WW2. I didn’t include them all on the map as some were of a very temporary nature consisting of a simple grass field to land in, perhaps with a couple of tents and airmen, all in the lead up to D-Day.
For example, Breamore House north of Fordingbridge had a grass airstrip for light aircraft which was used by the army when the mansion was occupied by the miliary, including General Patton. It also had a secondary grass airstrip 3 miles north of the house.
Ashley Walk bombing range near Fordingbridge also had two light aircraft airstrips which met to form a V shape. You can still see the outlines of them today on satellite imagery.
The airfields map also doesn’t include East Boldre airfield which closed in 1918.
The larger of the airfields included were Beaulieu, Holmsley South, Hurn, Ibsley, and Stoney Cross which were all built with three concrete runways and a full set of hangars, dispersal pans, supporting buildings, living areas, and infrastructure.
Whilst RAF Hurn (now Bournemouth International Airport) and RAF Christchurch’s’ advanced landing ground are located outside of the New Forest area, during WW2 they were operationally integrated with the other airfields and similar operations were carried out from there.
There were also four more Advanced Landing Grounds we’ve included; Bisterne, Winkton, Lymington and Needs Oar Point. These were constructed in late 1943, as temporary airfields, to support the D-Day invasion of France in June 1944. They had various types of metal tracking laid on grass for the runways.
Christchurch was another grass Advanced Landing Ground airfield in WWII which also housed the Airspeed aircraft factory, where Horsa glider prototypes were designed and tested.
Then there’s Sway. This was a small grass Emergency Landing Ground, and also used as a diversion and decoy airfield when Luftwaffe raids were expected at the major concrete runway airfields at Hurn, Ibsley, Holmsley South, Beaulieu and Stoney Cross.
And lastly, Calshot. This wasn’t an airfield as such, but instead a seaplane base, serving anti-submarine patrol squadrons, based along the western coasts of Britain, and was also a base for the RAF Air Sea Rescue launches, whose crews recovered ditched airmen from the English Channel.
The total number of servicemen and women working on the airfields in mid-1944 numbered around 25,000, with around 10,000 civilians supporting them daily in various supply and maintenance roles.
The temporary Advanced Landing Ground airfields were all closed by November following D-Day in June 1944. Their fighter bomber aircraft would then operate from similar airfields in France. Some were used as storage sites for several years.
The larger main WW2 New Forest airfields continued to supply the advancing armies and air forces in France. They would also receive and process returning servicemen and women and prisoners.
In the years immediately following WW2, the New Forest airfields played a critical part in the homecoming and processing of returning British POWs. Later in the 1940s, the main airfields played an important part in the Berlin Airlift and were instrumental in the creation of long-distance air routes to India and the Far East.
In the post-war period, due to the housing shortage caused by wartime bomb damage to local towns, New Forest councils arranged for temporary accommodation for their residents in remaining airfield Nissen huts. This was seen at Holmsley South, which became known locally as “Tin Town”, and also at Stoney Cross’ Long Beech site, and Beaulieu Airfield on what is now Roundhill Campsite. Families lived on these sites into the mid-1950s.
- Map design idea inspired by Friends of the New Forest Airfields. Visit fonfa.co.uk