World War II veterans, families and volunteers celebrated at New Forest castle

Hurst Castle World War II event

Published Friday 1 November 2013

Veterans, families and volunteers who have shed light on the New Forest’s wartime past have been celebrated at a special event.

The New Forest Remembers World War II Project held a celebration day at Hurst Castle near Keyhaven yesterday (31 October), to thank dozens of oral history contributors, and the volunteers who have recorded their wartime stories for a digital archive, as well as scour the New Forest for archaeological remains from the period.

Run by the New Forest National Park Authority with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Exxon Mobil at Fawley, the project has also unearthed previously unseen photographs and artefacts, providing revealing insights into the New Forest’s Prisoner of War (PoW) camps, preparations for D-Day and the wartime lives of service people and local families.

Some of the untold stories were highlighted in talks at the event as well as in a travelling display of the project’s discoveries, which will soon be available for community groups, schools and libraries.

The two-year project has revealed how good relationships often were between German and Italian PoWs and the local population.

As a young child Margaret Norcliffe was given a hand carved horse and cart model called ‘Dobbin’ from an Italian PoW called Tony when the army used her father’s garage to repair military vehicles.

Margaret, nee Cox from Highcliffe in Dorset, said: ‘The Prisoners of War used to make wooden toy animals for local children from off cuts, and I was lucky enough to be given one. It’s a well-loved toy, passed on to my children and my grandchildren. It’s funny to think it’s now a part of history.'Pamela ‘Bunny’ Borthwick, from Beaulieu, enlisted as a Wren and witnessed some of the vast preparations for D-Day.

But her most distinct memory came when she first saw war arrive at the New Forest:  ‘I was walking to Beaulieu village saw the sky turn black with a huge swarm of German planes and bombers. It seemed there were hundreds of them. Then a couple of Spitfires came and harried them as they turned towards Southampton. That’s when I realised the war is real, this is happening.’

The highlight of the day was the recognition of more than 100 regular project volunteers who have recorded more than 48 hours of oral histories as well as taking part in archaeological field surveys and archive research.

Hampshire Deputy Lieutenant Hallam Mills and National Park Authority chairman Julian Johnson awarded the volunteers certificates and badges of gold, silver and bronze for contributing 300, 150 or 50 hours towards the project.

Wendy Wiseman from East End in the New Forest, who spent more than 300 hours on project field surveys, said: ‘It’s so enjoyable and interesting. I find now that when I go out for walks I keep looking at the ground to see if there is any archaeology to be seen.’

Julian Johnson, chairman of the National Park Authority, said: ‘The work of the volunteers has been crucial in recording the wealth of stories, photos, maps and artefacts that have emerged through the project. They have been invaluable and they deserve this recognition. The project would not have been such a success without them, and would have been impossible without the funding and support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exxon Mobil, English Heritage and many other partners.’

As well as World War II talks and films, guests at the event were also able to fly a Spitfire in the New Forest WWII Flight Simulator built by RAF Ibsley Airfield Heritage Trust.

Hurst Castle’s history as a wartime coastal defence fort was also highlighted in tours of the castle’s World War II NAAFI, Hurst Point Lighthouse and Garrison Theatre, which still has many of the original features used to entertain the troops. Friends of Hurst Castle are looking for funds to help waterproof the NAAFI area so they can renovate the space and open it to the public.

Dr Andy Brown, planning & conservation director for English Heritage, said: 'I'm so pleased that English Heritage expert staff have been able to contribute to this fantastic project. Partnerships and collaborative projects like New Forest Remembers World War II is where the future lies for our heritage. The volunteers who have worked so hard to bring the forgotten stories of the war back into our collective consciousness are part of a growing army of people who are making a huge difference to heritage conservation and I salute them.'

Much of the New Forest Remembers WWII Project can be found online at a digital portal full of recorded interviews, photos, letters, diaries, film footage and animated 3D reconstructions. Members of the public can also add their stories and memories to the portal.

For more information go to


Picture caption: Margaret Norcliffe holding the horse and cart given to her by an Italian PoW called Tony.

About New Forest Remembers World War II Project

The New Forest Remembers World War II Project 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 or write to New Forest Remembers, New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington, SO41 9ZG.

For more information about the New Forest Remembers World War II Project go to

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 to find out more.

Media Contacts:

Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646639


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