Members of the South Hampshire MVT and the Solent Overlord Clubs braved the weather for a run out to the New Forest to visit some of the WW2 airfields. Having had problems with my Jeep I decided it was unwise to take it so was not going to join the group. Knowing my problems a good friend rocked up Sunday morning and asked if I would like to ride shotgun in his Jeep for the run, a very quick ‘yes please’ was my reply.
We met up with about ten other vehicles at Windover roundabout then headed through Southampton to meet up with the rest of the group at Ashurst in the New Forest.
I counted 28 vehicles at the meet up point and here we had the first casualty, one of Paul Edwards Jeeps had blown a hose pipe off, looked like a cracked block or blown head gasket could be the problem. Paul stayed with his son to await recovery. Warrick lost all the lights on his vehicle, so we were three down.
We headed off to our first stop which was RAF Needs Oar Point located near Lymington, which was a temporary advanced landing ground constructed in 1943. It was used in 1944 by Squadrons of the 146 wing with Hawker Typhoons to support the Normandy landings. It consisted of two landing strips with mesh pinned to the ground. A battery of Anti-Aircraft guns defended the airfield. It was dismantled in 1945 and returned to farmland.
After a short drive we arrived at RAF Lymington, this was another temporary advanced landing ground constructed in 1943, again consisting of two landing strips with steel mesh pinned to the ground. The airfield was first used by the American 50th Fighter group with their P47 Thunderbolts. This again was to support the landings in Normandy. This airfield was also dismantled in 1945 although a small part remains together with a hanger, which is now used by light aircraft.
A very pleasant drive through the Forest brought us to RAF Beaulieu which was one of five airfields built in the New Forest with three concrete runways, hangers and dispersal pans, the others being Stoney Cross, Ibsley, Holmsley South, and Hurn.
RAF Beaulieu was opened in August 1942. It was used by the RAF until March 1944 when the American 365th Fighter Squadron with the P47 Thunderbolts arrived, ready for the Normandy invasion. In July the USAAF 323rd Bombardment Group took over the airfield with B26 Marauders. It was closed in November 1959.
We, together with two other vehicles lost the convoy at this point, due to traffic. Unfortunately we missed the next stop. They stopped at RAF Holmsley South which was opened in 1942 and used by RAF bomber command and later by the Americans. It closed in 1946, some of the dispersal pans remain and can be seen at the Holmsley campsite. They also passed by RAF Winkton and RAF Bisterne.
We managed to rejoin the group at the site of RAF Ibsley which opened in February 1941. The RAF operated from the airfield using Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires. Later the Americans flew P38 Lightings and P47 thunderbolts from here.
After the airfield was returned to the original owner of the land it became a motor racing circuit, which opened in 1951 and closed in 1955. Two very notable drivers raced here, John Surtees and Colin Chapman. Another claim to fame for the RAF Ibsley is that it was where the war time classic film ‘First of the Few’ flying scenes were filmed.
Driving along through the New Forest we attracted a great deal of attention from holiday makers who seemed very pleased to see a convoy of around 25 WW2 military vehicles passing by, many pictures and videos were taken by them. Our last stop was RAF Stoney Cross which was opened in November 1942 and was operated by the RAF, both fighter and bomber command used the airfield. The Americans took over Stoney Cross in April 1944 and it closed in January 1948.
From Stoney Cross we all made our own way back home. A big thank you to Dan and Simon for planning the route and Chris Harris for driving me about all day. And thank you to all who attended the run, some driving many miles to join us. It was a very enjoyable day out to the New Forest Airfields.