Secrets of the real ‘Dad’s Army’ revealed in World War II scrapbook

Home Guard, World War II

Published Wednesday 26 March 2014

A scrapbook of top secret orders, letters and hand drawn maps by a war-time Home Guard commander has revealed rare insights into the real ‘Dad’s Army’ of the New Forest.

The scrapbook compiled by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Morgan Crofton has been brought to light by his son Major Edward Crofton, as part of the New Forest Remembers World War II Project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

It contains secret defence plans and orders showing how the 9th (Forest) and 28th (Bay) Battalion would have harassed and hindered an invading German force including machine gun posts, tank traps, road blocks, snipers and mine field.

Home guard morgan crofton

Lt Col Morgan Crofton (centre, front row) with Hants 28 Battalion Home Guard at HQ New Milton

One of the book’s most detailed plans is a hand drawn map showing how the picturesque village of Beaulieu was turned into a defensive garrison of 44 men, five pillboxes, roadblocks and numerous firing positions from local buildings such as the Montagu Arms and a loopholed wall at Beaulieu Abbey.

Some remains can still be seen today, including four of five bunkers which can be seen in the village’s former dairy, mill, and garage. The date 1943 is also cast in iron on the bridge to mark when it was widened in the build up to D-Day to allow tanks and other heavy machinery through to loading areas such as the beach at Lepe.

Major Edward Crofton, from Petersfield but who grew up in Brockenhurst, said: 'A lot of the documents in the book were marked top secret so they probably shouldn't have been kept. But knowing my father I don't think many would have questioned him hoarding them. I'm very glad they were not binned. We're very lucky.'

Home Guard Crofton family

Members of the Crofton family with the Crofton scrapbook at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu

Unlike the comedy of the BBC series Dad’s Army, the scrapbook also reveals how seriously the Home Guard took their role and how they were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country.

In a document marked ‘secret’ called the New Forest Sector Defence Scheme, Home Guard troops are told: ‘All tps (troops) will be allotted a definite role and will hold their positions to the last man and last round. There will be no withdrawal.’

Gareth Owen, Education and Outreach Officer for the New Forest Remembers World War II Project, said: ‘We’re very grateful to the Crofton family for this unique collection full of top secret orders and maps that probably should have been destroyed once it was read. Yet they were kept and they offer a real insight into how the Home Guard operated in the New Forest.

‘The image we have of the Home Guard, due largely to Dad’s Army, is of a shambolic if well-intentioned group playing at being soldiers. However the documents in the Crofton book show how well-organised and dedicated the Home Guard were and how they were willing to give their lives to delay the advance of any invading German force.’

Over the past two years the New Forest Remembers World War II Project has unearthed more than 1,300 previously-unseen documents, maps and photos as well as record more than 72 hours of oral histories.

The entire project, including the contents of the Crofton book, is now been digitised into an online archive www.newforestww2.org, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Exxon Mobil at Fawley.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘The project has been a great success. Fascinating tales of royal visits, prisoners of war and secret bombing tests have come to light to give us a fuller picture of that time. Now, with the project nearing its end, the digital portal will provide a lasting legacy for future generations to discover more about this fascinating period.’

For more information on the Crofton scrapbook and the New Forest during World War II visit the interactive portal at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/wwii

To watch a video of yesterday's event visit our YouTube channel.

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Picture caption (top): The Crofton scrapbook being examined by (from l-r) Home Guard re-enactor Dale Johnson, Lt Col Sir Morgan Crofton's son Hugh Morgan and Gareth Owen from the New Forest Remembers World War II Project.

Background

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 archaeology@newforestnpa.gov.uk 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 www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/wwii

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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