World War II
New Forest Remembers - Untold Stories of World War II
Few people realise the important role that the New Forest played in World War II. Its strategic location on the south coast meant that the New Forest was crucial in a range of operations and was home to a wide range of World War II installations. Whilst some of these are still visible today, many have been hidden by soil and vegetation or lost during land management activities.
It is estimated that the current archaeological records provide details of only a small proportion of the actual sites and artefacts that are present in the Forest. Similarly, at present there is a wealth of untapped information about the World War II activities in the memories of those who were living in the New Forest at the time, whether they be evacuees, local residents, or military personnel either from this country or from abroad. These people are now reaching their 80s and 90s and so it is critical to capture these memories during the next few years, to ensure that they can inform the understanding of future generations.
Current interpretation and general communication about World War II in the New Forest is also limited to a number of well-known sites, which further increases the bias in knowledge about our recent past. So despite a resurging interest in local history and information about World War II, the important role that the New Forest played during the period remains generally unknown by both visitors and residents alike.
In 2011 this gap in our knowledge, a growing demand for information about this period and the importance of the evidence being lost was recognised by the Heritage Lottery Fund, who awarded the New Forest National Park Authority over £550,000 to run the 'New Forest Remembers: Untold Stories of World War II' project. Further match funding and volunteer time increased the overall pot to £750,000.
The New Forest Remembers Project is working to address the lack of survey work, knowledge and understanding about the New Forest's role in World War II and aims to bring the war years alive for a wide range of people including residents, visitors, school children and community groups, offering a wide range of volunteering opportunities. All of the information gathered during the project will be published in a final report or on our Interactive Portal, which allows the community to engage with their World War II heritage.
Click on the image above to be taken to the interactive digital portal