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New Forest Remembers

Untold stories of World War IIThe opening of the New Forest Remembers World War II exhibit at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst (from l-r) New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) chairman Julian Johnson, NFNPA chief executive Alison Barnes, historian and TV presenter Dan Snow, New Forest Centre trustees chairman Mary Montagu-Scott & New Forest Remembers World War II project manager James Brown

On Thursday 27 June 2013 historian Dan Snow opened a new Museum exhibit telling the people’s story of how the New Forest was turned into a military camp during World War II.

The New Forest Remembers World War II exhibit reveals how local people’s lives were transformed by the conflict which turned once quiet woodland into store depots and military camps housing thousands of Commonwealth and American troops in the build-up to D-Day.

Italian and German prisoners of war worked alongside local timber workers, whilst bouncing bombs were tested by the Dambuster squadron on land targets at Ashley Walk, the same site where the biggest bomb ever dropped by British Forces was first tested - the 22,000lbs earthquake bomb Grand Slam.

The exhibit includes a replicated Nissen hut, an original uniform as worn by New Forest lumberjills and a large-scale interactive map showing key sites in the Forest during the conflict. Visitors can also ‘listen in’ on a housewife’s conversation about wartime home life, based on oral histories from local people.lumberjill uniform

The exhibit has been brought to life thanks to the ‘New Forest Remembers – Untold Stories of World War II’ project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and ExxonMobil at Fawley, archaeologists and volunteers have been collecting the memories of more than 170 military personnel, residents and prisoners or war, unearthing previously unseen photos and maps, and surveying WWII sites from the air using lasers.ww2 opening outside med

Terry Gittoes remembered as a ten-year-old seeing hundreds of landing craft and ships in the Lymington River in the run up to the Normandy landings, and how the New Forest felt like a ‘ghost town’ after their departure.

Terry, 81, from Sarisbury Green, near Fareham in Hampshire, said: ‘When the Americans arrived you couldn’t see across the Lymington River for all the landing craft. One of the captains, Bob Horton, always allowed us on board for a run around and we had doughnuts and fruit cocktails which we’d never had before.

‘Then one night we heard this tremendous noise and when we looked the following morning all the planes from the airfield and all the ships in the river and Solent had all suddenly vanished. They’d all gone to Normandy.’

Betty McCarthy, an assistant photographer at the time at a secret testing today, witnessed the highly confidential trials for the bouncing bomb at a secret testing site at Ashley Walk, whilst Edwina Bright’s home was damaged after a bomb from the range was accidently dropped near it.

Edwina, 78, froww2 opening crowd medm Bramshaw in the New Forest, said: ‘I was coming home from school one day when someone said our farmhouse had been accidentally hit. In fact the bomb had fallen about 500 yards away, but it blew out all the windows and it shook the roof. The church next door was also badly damaged.’

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Much of the New Forest Remembers WWII exhibit can also 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.


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