New Forest at war

Tower base at Ibsley HF-DF station

The New Forest during World War II

Bomb testing site

Close to Godshill, in the north of the New Forest, is Ashley Walk. Today it is a peaceful area of heathland, but it had a very different atmosphere during World War II. Then known as Ashley Range, it was a 5,000 acre bombing range where the famous bouncing bomb was tested, and the landscape is still littered with craters.

It was also the testing site for 'Grand Slam' the largest bomb ever dropped on British soil - read the full story.


Evidence can also be seen today of the 12 airfields built during the Second World War.  They made a major contribution to the war effort: the Airfield Memorial at Holmsley, on the boundary of the former South Holmsley airfield, commemorates all those people who served on them.

Clandestine bases

The large houses along the Beaulieu River were appropriated by the War Cabinet and used for a range of clandestine organisations such as the hydrographic survey and commando units.  The Beaulieu River was used by over 500 landing craft and barges, and was the last view of England that some troops ever saw.

At Brockenhurst, the Balmer Lawn Hotel was requisitioned first as a staff college and then as the divisional headquarters of the Royal Marine Infantry Division.  Later on it was the location of many of Generals Montgomery and Eisenhower's meetings as they planned the D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944.


On the New Forest coast, Lepe also played a significant part in the D-Day campaign.  It provided a major departure point for troops, vehicles and supplies heading for the Normandy beaches. It was also a construction site for part of the pre-fabricated floating Mulberry Harbour: sections were towed across the English Channel and assembled off the coast of Normandy to speed up the unloading process on the French side.

  1. New Forest at war
  2. The New Forest during World War I
  3. The New Forest during World War II (you are here)


New Forest Remembers

Find out about the vital role the New Forest played in World War II and how you can get involved in the project.

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