I can’t recall the exact date, but it was in late 1997 that I had occasion to visit the New Forest in Hampshire. During the three or four days I was working in the area I noticed without too much difficulty tracts of land which, on subsequent closer inspection, had obviously been used for military purposes. Derelict buildings which I knew to be wartime Orlit constructions reinforced significant occupation by the military during World War 2.
A visit to Lymington library revealed little in the way of reading material on the subject of the area’s history during the war. However, I did manage to borrow a copy of a self-published title about the airfields that had been built across the Forest specifically in support of the war effort. Beyond that title there was little else of any value in terms of researched material or an in-depth history.
Several months later I extended my stay in the Forest beyond my work commitments to further research a subject that had now grabbed my interest and attention. What went on here, what part did the area play in supporting the war effort and what history was still to be discovered?
My visits to the sites of the wartime airfields as described in the book I had previously borrowed added more pieces to the jigsaw. A local multi-era historian took me to a location where I was encouraged to scratch away the topsoil. Within seconds I was finding fragments of an aircraft, one that had crashed whilst on a training exercise. Pieces of Perspex and cloth, various shavings of metal and small screws came up in handfuls. I should advise here that the crew of this aircraft, an Albermarle, had survived uninjured. This was a new dimension in what was now a quest to discover more about the New Forest during World War 2.