Record number of visitors for World War II exhibition

Denny Sawmill WWII

Published Friday 3 May 2013

A record number of people visited a World War II exhibition which shed new light on the New Forest’s pivotal role during the war.

Nearly 9,000 people visited the New Forest Remembers World War II exhibition at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst during April – about three times as many as would normally be expected for a month-long display.

Run by the New Forest National Park Authority, the free exhibition included dozens of personal photographs and letters as well as a scrapbook made by German prisoners of war whilst at Setley Camp near Brockenhurst, which has been featured widely in local and national media.

The temporary display also included a previously unseen diary entry from His Majesty King George VI, detailing how in the run up to the Normandy landings he paid a secret visit to inspect D-Day landing craft at the Exbury Estate, which was requisitioned as a naval training base called HMS Mastodon.

Visitor figures for the Gallery at the New Forest Centre showed 8,995 people visited the exhibition during its run from March 23 to April 28. This compares to 2,903 visitors for the Bygone Brockenhurst exhibition during January and February and 2,847 visits to the National Trust exhibition through February and March.

Hilary Marshall, centre manager at the New Forest Centre, said: ‘This was the most popular exhibition we’ve ever had at the Centre. It was such a fascinating display that many people came back for repeat visits, leaving comments in our visitors’ book saying about how thought provoking and poignant it was.’

The exhibition has also prompted more people to come forward to enrich the known history of the New Forest during the period. Jackie Ley spotted her grandmother Bella Ley in a display photo of some previously unknown workers at Denny Sawmill near Lyndhurst in 1940.

Jackie, from Lyndhurst, said: ‘I saw that the exhibition was on and knew my nan was in the Land Army. I wondered whether she’d be in the display, and lo and behold there she was in two photos. She didn’t say much to me about her life during the war, so it was lovely to discover more about her.’

Wartime memories and family histories are a crucial part of the New Forest Remembers: untold stories of World War II Project run by the New Forest National Park Authority, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and ExxonMobil at the Fawley Refinery.

The two-year project aims to record the archaeology, history and living memories of the New Forest during the war years and make this information available on a website where members of the public can also add their stories and memories. The Interactive Portal is full of recorded interviews, photos, letters, diaries, film footage and animated 3D reconstructions.

Julian Johnson, chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘I’m delighted the exhibition proved such a success and that it’s encouraged even more people to come forward with their own or their family’s history for the Interactive Portal. It is a wonderful opportunity for people to engage even further with this historic era which changed so many peoples’ lives.’

Work is now underway, preparing for a permanent World War II exhibit within the main museum at the New Forest Centre, revealing even more fascinating stories about what it was like to live through the conflict.

To visit the Interactive Portal and for more information about the New Forest Remembers WWII Project go to www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/wwii.

Picture Caption: Workers at Denny Sawmill with Jackie Ley’s grandmother Bella seated in the front row, second from left.

Picture Credit: D W Bond

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About New Forest Remembers – untold stories of World War II

The ‘New Forest Remembers - untold stories of World War II’ is a Heritage Lottery Fund project. It is hosted by the New Forest National Park Authority, and supported by a wide range of organisations, including ExxonMobil and English Heritage, both financially and through staff time.

The project is carrying out essential archaeological surveying of part of the New Forest National Park including an airborne infra-red LiDAR survey (light detection and ranging), mapping work and field surveys.

An outreach programme is being designed to encourage local communities, groups and organisations to get involved. Teaching resources and educational activities will also be developed to link World War II archaeology with the National Curriculum.

If you have your own story for the New Forest Remembers Project, you can contact the team at 01590 646600, email archaeology@newforestnpa.gov.uk or write to New Forest Remembers, New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington, SO41 9ZG.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

•    Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect

•    Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

•    Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contacts:

Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646639

Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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