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. If you have not visited them, please do, it’s a great museum, opening times available on fonfa.co.uk – please do support them.
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 / RNAS Calshot
- RAF Christchurch (USAAF Station AAF 416)
- RAF Holmsley South airfield (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 airfield (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.
In addition to this, there were also decoy (or dummy) airfields created in the New Forest, designed to draw bombs away from genuine airfields. Those dummy airfields were located in Verwood (Moors Valley, Woodgreen (near Millersford), Ridley Plain, and Sway.
The larger of the airfields were Beaulieu airfield, RAF Holmsley South airfield, 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.
Handy Hint: The 12 airfields are all represented on the New Forest Airfields Memorial.
Whilst RAF Hurn (now Bournemouth International Airport) and RAF Christchurch’s’ advanced landing ground are located outside of the New Forest boundaries, 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, Christchurch, Lymington, Needs Oar Point, and Winkton advanced landing ground. 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. The metal tracking used on these World War II airfields included pierced steel planking (PSP) and American bar and rod tracking.
Then there’s Sway. This was a small grass Emergency Landing Ground (ELG) which didn’t have steel runways like Needs Oar Point or other ALGs. It was 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 the last of the twelve airfields is Calshot. This wasn’t an airfield as such, but instead a seaplane and floating boat base. During the Second World War, Calshot was primarily used for maintenance and repairs of flying boats.
After the war there was a housing shortage. Men were coming home to Britain, many cities and towns had been bombed, meaning houses were destroyed. This meant a housing shortage, so New Forest councils arranged for temporary accommodation in remaining airfield Nissen huts on the local World War Two airfields. This was seen at RAF 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.
If you want to see a “then vs now” comparison of the New Forest WW2 airfields from wartime to modern day, please check out the video I created below.
- Map design idea inspired by Friends of the New Forest Airfields. Visit fonfa.co.uk