Posted in Aviation History, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, Maritime History, Motoring History, Rural Heritage, Vintage, World War Two

New Forest Remembers – D-Day Commemorative Event June 2014

©Come Step Back In Time
Forces Sweetheart entertained the crowds at Lymington Town Railway Station. D-Day commemorative event, 21st June, 2014. ©Come Step Back In Time

I recently wrote an article and made a couple of short films about Hampshire’s role preparing for the Invasion of Europe in 1944. For that article, ‘DDay, 70 Years On: Hampshire Remembers’, click here.

This Summer there have been many D-Day commemorative activities taking place across Hampshire. On 21st June, I attended Lymington-Brockenhurst Community Rail Partnership’s immersive history event in the New Forest.  Visitors were given the opportunity to step back in time and experience life in 1940s rural Britain, quite fabulous it was too.

An ambitious undertaking, involving a number of different locations. Brockenhurst station, Lymington Town station, Brockenhurst village and Berthon Marina, Lymington all came alive with the sights and sounds of wartime Britain. Vintage vehicles from the era, restored D-Day vessels (HMS Medusa and Pilot Rescue Launch 441), retro-themed stalls, fair rides, dance displays, music, singing, specially designed heritage walks and much, much more.

In Brockenhurst Village Hall, there was also an evening showing of The Longest Day (1962) together with a fish and chip supper. The film is all about D-Day and based uponn the 1959 book, of the same name, by Cornelius Ryan.

In order to showcase, fully, this fabulous day of nostalgia and reflection, I made this short film.

  • ‘D-Day Commemorative Event – New Forest Remembers, 21.6.14’ created by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time.

On Lymington Town Quay there was a service of thanksgiving as well as the dedication of a plaque commemorating the departure of 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment (The Pompadours) for Normandy on 3rd June, 1944.  The plaque was unveiled by a representative of The Royal Anglian Regiment and Mr Maurice Crosswell JP, President of The Rotary Club of Lymington.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

The 2nd Battalions of the Essex, Glosters and South Wales Borderers were organised into 56th (independent Brigade) in January, 1944. On 25th May, 1944 the Essex moved into Camp B3 in the Beaulieu area, where it prepared for D-Day. Early morning PT and route marches ensured the physical fitness of all ranks with the emphasis now being placed on stimulating a sense of urgency. Training continued for street fighting, mine laying and clearance and weapon training, whilst night operations were extensively carried out. In short, the battalion was fighting fit and fit to fight. The camp was sealed and the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel JF Higson MC, briefed all ranks on their role in the invasion.

At 5.oo pm on 3rd June the battalion left camp and was taken to Lymington, where it embarked on Landing Craft Infantry (Large) for Southampton. Bad weather delayed the landings and the battalion finally sailed from Southampton for Normandy at 7.00 pm on 5th June. The evening was dull and overcast and although a heavy swell was running it was a quiet crossing. At 12.30pm the following day the battalion landed without casualties east of Le Hamel, which was still in enemy hands.

(Text above is from the back cover of a booklet produced especially for the ‘Plaque Dedication Service and Ceremony’ that took place at Lymington Quay, 21st June, 2014)

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

 

D-Day Veteran, Geoffrey William Dunstan attended the plaque unveiling ceremony and service at Lymington Quay. Geoffrey was 19, when he took part in D-Day. He was a member of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who took part in the assault on Sword Beach. ©Come Step Back In Time
D-Day Veteran, Geoffrey William Dunstan attended the plaque unveiling ceremony and service at Lymington Quay on 21st June, 2014. Geoffrey was 19 when he took part in D-Day. He was a member of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, one of the regiments that landed on Sword Beach. ©Come Step Back In Time.

In 1939, Brockenhurst station received the first cohort of evacuees, mainly from Southampton and Portsmouth. During World War Two, nearly five thousand child evacuees came to the New Forest. In order to commemorate this at the ‘New Forest Remembers’ event, local school children, dressed in period clothing, recreated the spectacle of evacuees arriving in the village during the war.

All evacuees would have been placed with local families who received ten shillings and sixpence to accommodate one child per week (£16 in today’s money). This fee was reduced to eight shillings and sixpence for two or more children at the same address. Villagers in the New Forest were not particularly well-off and all evacuees had to bring with them:

  • knife, fork, spoon, plate and mug;
  • comb, toothbrush, gas mask;
  • handkerchief, shoes, plimsolls, socks and a change of clothes.
©Come Step Back In Time
A 1937 Bedford Country Bus, an eleven seater vehicle which at the ‘New Forest Remembers’ event offered rides around the Lymington town for a small charitable donation. A wonderful experience for fans of vintage vehicles such as myself. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Inside the 1937 Bedford Country Bus. In 1939, the bus was used by the military to transport service personnel. In 1945, the vehicle was brought by Pentonville Prison for moving prisoners within the grounds. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Art Deco period detail inside the Bedford Country Bus, 1937. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
A stunning Deco light fitting inside the 1937 Bedford Country Bus. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Lovely ‘Dig For Victory’ display at Lymington station by Lymington Gardening Club and Lymington Flower Club. ©Come Step Back In Time

During World War Two, large areas of Open Forest, close to Brockenhurst – Wilverley Plain, Ober Heath, Longslade Bottom, Whitefield Moor – were ploughed over and crops planted. Approximately fourteen thousand allotments worth of land was utilised for the ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign. The crops grown ranged from cereals, potatoes, turnips to rapeseed and flax.

©Come Step Back In Time
Lymington Town station’s waiting-room where the clock had been turned back 70 years to 1944.  ©Come Step Back In Time
DSCF0437
One of my favourite vintage vehicle exhibits at Brockenhurst station. A rare 1933, Austin 16/6 Westminster Sports Saloon. Only 50 were produced and 3 are still in existence. It was first registered in Somerset in 1933. During World War Two it was used as an Air Raid Warden’s Field Office in Holders Yard, Petersfield, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Inside the restored 1933, Austin Sports Saloon caravan. Brockenhurst station. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Inside the restored 1933, Austin Sports Saloon caravan. Brockenhurst station. ©Come Step Back In Time
DSCF0336
Georgina Craufurd, Hon. Secretary of the Friends of Lymington to Brockenhurst Line, part of the Community Rail Partnership. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Mr and Mrs Street c.1940. They ran ‘T. Street & Son’ a General Ironmongers in Brockenhurst Village. The shop still exists today. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Streets Ironmongers in Brockenhurst village is still going strong in 2014. For the D-Day Commemorative event, the current owners, like many other retailers in Brockenhurst village, turned back time to the 1940s, dressing and decorating their shop windows accordingly. As you can see, many items that were sold 70 years ago are still available today. Current interest in nostalgia has ensured that hardware classics such as wooden clothes pegs and enamelled pie dishes are still remain popular.   ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
A newspaper from June 1940 on display in one of the shop windows in Brockenhurst village. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Martins of Brockenhurst, chemist shop,  decorated for the event. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Various pharmacy items from the 1940s on display at Martins Chemist shop in Brockenhurst village. ©Come Step Back In Time
DSCF0546
J. W. Martin Chemist Shop c.1940. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Forces Sweetheart entertains the veterans and dignitaries, HMS Medusa, Berthon Marina, Lymington, at a private reception at the end of the day’s events. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
One of the maritime stars at the D-Day event was HMS Medusa (ML1387) on station at Berth E1 in Berthon Marina, Lymington. This vessel was involved in 6/44 Operation Neptune (Naval element of D-Day and Invasion of Normandy). Read more about her restoration: http://www.hmsmedusa.org.uk/index.html and her involvement in D-Day: http://www.hmsmedusa.org.uk/medusa_dday.html. Medusa is recognised as being one of the vessels selected to represent the nation’s maritime heritage by her inclusion in the National Historic Fleet. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 1943, Setley Plain, close to the main road between Brockenhurst and Lymington, was Camp No.65 for prisoners of war (POWs). The first POWs to be housed at Setley Plain were Italians captured in Africa and later on Germans. POWs in the New Forest often helped the Land Army and took odd jobs in local villages. Some worked in the local sawmill and made toys for local children. On the whole, the POWs received a warm welcome from the locals in the New Forest, some even stayed on after the war ended.

©Come Step Back In Time
During preparations for D-Day, this site (now a private airstrip) near South Baddesley, Lymington was RAF Lymington, All that exists today of the original site is a blister hangar (top right) and the grass runway. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 1943, at a site near South Baddesley, Lymington, construction began to create a temporary airfield, an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), known as RAF Lymington. The airstrip still exists but is now private property, part of the Newtown Park Estate. Between 1939 and 1945 there were twelve airfields operating in the New Forest.

In 1944, RAF Lymington had two landing strips, four blister hangars and many parking bays. The original landing strips at RAF Lymington were made of steel mesh pinned to the ground with large stakes. Tented accommodation for the Airmen and other staff working at the airfield was provided, hidden, in the nearby woods.

©Come Step Back In Time
View of the airstrip looking towards the Solent. The airstrip is now private property, party of the Newtown Park Estate but in 1943-44 it was RAF Lymington. ©Come Step Back In Time

RAF Lymington became home to the 50th Fighter Group, Ninth US. Tactical Air Force, they were first to use the airfield from April, 1944. P-47 Thunderbolts were familiar sights to anyone living in the New Forest area during 1944. Thunderbolt aircraft covered the beach landings on 6th June, 1944 as well as supporting allied troops invading Normandy. RAF Lymington ceased operation in Spring, 1945.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

Other Squadrons stationed at RAF Lymington in 1944 were: 81st Squadron; 50th Fighter Squadron; 313rd Squadron and 9th Tactical Air Force U.S.A.A.F. The first three Squadrons then moved to an airfield in Normandy after 24th June, 1944.

©Come Step Back In Time
Airmen, possibly pictured at South Holmsley airfield, New Forest, 1940s. Photograph featured in a shop window display in Brockenhurst village as part of the ‘New Forest Remembers’ event. ©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s