The New Forest is an ancient royal hunting forest, and one of Britain’s national parks. The forest played an important role in preparations for D-Day.
Early in the Second World War the Beaulieu estate was used to train agents from the Special Operations Executive before they were parachuted into occupied Europe.
Mulberry harbour components were also constructed on the shores of The Solent and Southampton Water. Several airfields were also built in the area, including at Stoney Cross and Beaulieu. Aircraft flying from these airfields supported the landings in Normandy.
The forest’s remote location and thick forest cover made it ideal for assembling troops in marshalling camps. The troops who would land on Gold Beach on D-Day were camped in the forest before embarking through Lepe, Stone Point and Lymington.
- There are many important sites around the New Forest that are part of the D-Day story.
- Many of the sites listed below are accessible to the public and many can be visited on foot, by public transport or by car.
- Please be mindful of the privacy of local people, particularly around residential areas, and please do not trespass onto private land.
- For some of the sites you may find Ordnance Survey Explorer map OL22 (New Forest) useful.
- To find out more about the New Forest visit the New Forest National Park website or the New Forest Remembers website.
Stoney Cross airfield
RAF Stoney Cross was completed in 1942. It was used by the RAF until April 1944, when four squadrons of the 367th Fighter Group of the US Army Air Force arrived, flying 84 Lockheed P-38 fighters.
In July 1944 the fighters left for Normandy, and were replaced by B-26 Marauder bombers of the 387th Bombardment Group of the US Army Air Force. Both the fighters and the bombers flew missions across the channel supporting allied forces on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy.
RAF Stoney Cross closed in 1948. Much of the runways and buildings have been removed, but the outline of the airfield can still be seen and parts of it are now in use as a campsite.
RAF Beaulieu was built on the heath to the west of Beaulieu in 1941. It was used by RAF Typhoon Fighter-bombers until March 1944 when the P-47 Thunderbolt fighters of the US 365th Fighter Group arrived. In July 1944 B-26 Marauders of the US 323rd Bombardment Group arrived. Both the fighters and the bombers flew missions across the channel supporting allied forces on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy.
RAF Beaulieu closed in 1959. Parts of the perimeter are in use as a cycle track, and a small section of the runway is still used as a car park. The outline of the runways can still be seen.
Balmer Lawn, Brockenhurst
The Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst was the Headquarters of Marshalling Area B. Marshalling Area B contained troops of the British 50th Infantry Division, who would land on Gold Beach on D-Day.
Phoenix caissons for the Mulberry Harbours were built at Lepe, which was also one of the embarkation point for troops who had been camped in the forest in the build-up to D-Day. Lepe was used to load troops into Landing Craft Tank.
Lepe is now part of the Lepe Country Park.
Stone Point was one of the embarkation point for troops who had been camped in the forest in the build-up to D-Day. Stone Point was used to load troops into Landing Craft Tank.
Stone Point is part of Lepe Country Park.
Lymington Quay was one of the embarkation points for troops who had been camped in the forest in the build-up to D-Day.
Lymington was used to load troops into Landing Craft Tank and Landing Craft Infantry (Large).
The Beaulieu estate was home to a Special Operations Executive finishing school. The school trained allied special agents who were parachuted into occupied Europe to link up with resistance movements.
Today much of the Beaulieu Estate remain private. Please observe privacy notices if visiting the local area. Beaulieu Palace, home of Lord Montagu, is open to the public, and contains an exhibition about Beaulieu’s role in training SOE agents.
Lyndhurst is widely regarded as being at the heart of the New Forest. In the build up to D-Day it was home to an Engineer Depot, ammunition and ordnance stores and signals stores nearby at Fox Hill.
Holmsley South Airfield
RAF Holmsley South opened in 1942, and was used by RAF and US air forces. In early 1944 the airfield came under the command of the 2nd Tactical Air Force with many different aircraft arriving, including Hawker Typhoon and De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers. In July 1944 the tactical aircraft moved to France and the airfield was used by B-26 Marauders of the US Army Air Force.
The airfield closed in 1947. Many of its facilities were converted into temporary housing to ease post-war shortages. The layout of the airfield is still visible and many hardstandings survive. Part of the site is now occupied by Holmsley campsite.
RAF Ibsley was completed in 1941. Just before D-Day US Army Air Force P-37 Thunderbolts and P-38 Lightnings used the airfield. After D-Day these units left for France and the airfield became an RAF training school.
The airfield closed in 1945. The site has changed radically since 1944 and is unrecognisable as an airfield.
RAF Bisterne opened in March 1944 as an Advanced Landing Ground for aircraft taking part in Operation Overlord. From March 1944 until 29 June 1944 it was occupied by P-47 Thunderbolts of the US Army Air Force 371st Fighter Group.
Today the area occupied by RAF Bisterne is unrecognisable as an airfield. A small memorial at a nearby farm records the site’s history as an airfield in 1944.
RAF Lymington opened in 1944. On 5 April 1944 the 50th Fighter Group of the US Army Air Force arrived, flying p-47 Thunderbolts. The airfield closed in 1946 and the area is now completely unrecognisable as an airfield.
Ashley Walk Bombing Range
Along Hampton Ridge between Fordingbridge and Fritham there are numerous earthworks and occasional concrete remains which hint at the area’s Second World War history. One of the most prominent features is a huge earthwork that looks like a large round barrow. This is the site of the Ministry of Home Security Target, known locally as the ‘Sub Pens’ and once part of the Ashley Walk Bombing Range that covered most of the landscape in this area of the New Forest.
Needs Ore Point airfield
RAF Needs Ore Point was constructed in 1943. From April 1944 it was used by RAF Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers of the 146th Wing of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. The airfield closed in 1945 and was returned to agricultural use.
HMS Mastodon, Exbury
The Exbury Estate played an important role in the strategic planning of D-Day. Exbury House was designated as HMS Mastodon from May 1942 to July 1945. Mastodon was responsible for the administration of victualing, arming and training of crews for the landing craft that were used in the amphibious assaults against occupied Europe, D-Day.
King George VI visited HMS Mastodon on 24 May 1944.
Bucklers Hard and the Beaulieu River saw intense activity in the build-up to D-Day. The hard was a repair facility for motor torpedo boats and minesweeping craft.
Parts of the Mulberry Harbours were built at Marchwood Military Port. 39 Beetle floats constructed at Marchwood Military Port still survive today and lie along the foreshore between Hythe and Marchwood. These units were surplus to requirement and were not towed over to the Normandy Beaches, but were recycled firstly as breakwaters and then as coastal defence to protect reclamation areas.
Knights Copse – Camps B5 and B6
The woods of the New Forest were ideal for hiding temporary camps for the thousands of troops assembled locally for D-Day. Many of these camps are on private land, but some are accessible to the general public, including Knights Copse. Knights Copse was home to camps B5 and B6. They held a total of 2,200 troops and 318 vehicles.
The site of Knights Copse is now referred to on maps as High Wood. A footpath runs through the wood.
Penerley – Camps B3 and B4
The woods of the New Forest were ideal for hiding temporary camps for the thousands of troops assembled locally for D-Day. Many of these camps are on private land, but some are accessible to the general public, including Penerley. Penerley was home to camps B3 and B4, They held a total of 3,328 troops and 480 vehicles.
The site of Penerely camps is now marked on maps as Little Honeyhill Wood. Part of the site is now private property.
Brockenhurst A & B – camps B7 and B8
The forest extensive tree cover was ideal for hiding temporary camps for the thousands of troops assembled locally for D-Day.
Many of these camps are on private land, but some are accessible to the general public, including Brockenhurst which was home to Camp B7 and B8. They each held 1,110 troops and 159 vehicles.
The site of Camp B7 is now known as Brockenhurst Park, which lies south of the B3055, and B8 is now referred to on modern maps as Setley Common,.