New models added to the Heritage Centre display

Two new models have been added to the displays in the Heritage Centre, this week. Together, they make up a Short Stirling Mk.IV and a Horsa Mk.I glider combination, a common sight in the New Forest skies in early 1944, during the training for D-Day in June 1944 and later in the year, for Operation Market Garden (Arnhem) and Operation Varsity (the Rhine crossing) in March 1945.                                                                                              The Stirling’s career as a bomber was limited by its original specification and the bomb bay design, which only allowed bombs of up to 2000 lb weight to be carried. In addition, with a maximum service ceiling was 16,500 ft, it was vulnerable to flak, but the thick wing, which contributed to this weakness, enabled pilots to out-turn the Ju88 and bf110 night fighters, which they encountered. Many missions were flown as low as 12,000 ft.The aircraft depicted is a 295 Squadron aircraft, ‘The Saint’, which was based at Holmsley South and in the run up to D-Day, at Hurn, as seen in the wartime photograph below.From 1943 onwards, it was realised that the aircraft would make en excellent glider tug. Mk.IIIs were converted to the Mk.IV, to be used with the Horsa and heavier Hamilcar gliders, flying from Holmsley South, Stoney Cross and Hurn and Christchurch.          Horsas were built of laminated wood, by furniture manufacturers, all over the country, before the parts were transported by road, to be assembled at Christchurch (and Brize Norton). Once assembled, they were towed off for pilot training at other airfields. Both aircraft were a vital part of New Forest operations in WWII and are rightly part of our proud local aviation history. The Airfix Stirling Mk.I/III and Italeri Horsa Mk.I models are 1/72nd scale 1970s period mouldings, which hold up well, considering their age. The Stirling kit was converted to a Mk.IV, by the removal of the nose and mid-upper gun turrets and adding scratch built glider towing apparatus.

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Battle of Britain pilot passes away hours after celebrating 100th birthday

Flight Lieutenant Archie McInnes has passed away just hours after celebrating his 100th birthday. His friend and biographer, Jonny Cracknell, tweeted that: “It is with a heavy heart and incredible sadness to advise the tragic news that Battle of Britain hero Archie McInnes sadly passed away last night, just hours after celebrating his 100th birthday amongst friends & family. An inspiration & hero of a man – rest in peace dear Archie’”.McInnes was born on the 31st of July 1919 and completed his training in August 1940. The historic combat missions which he flew during the Battle of Britain helped to prevent the German Luftwaffe from invading Britain. Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said that Archie McInnes was “part of an extraordinary band of selfless aviators”, noting that “the bravery and sacrifice of Archie and ‘The Few’ should never be forgotten”. Winston Churchill shone light on those who fought in the Battle of Britain in a speech, saying of their sacrifices that: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”.

Of those Battle of Britain pilots, only five are alive today: Flight Lieutenant William Clark (100), Wing Commander Paul Farnes (101), Squadron Leader John Hart (102), Flying Officer John Hemingway (100) and Flight Lieutenant Maurice Mounsdon (100).

After the Battle of Britain ended, McInnes became part of a team which hunted for the German battleship The Bismarck. In 1941, McInnes provided cover for bombers in the North African campaign. McInnes continued to fly even after losing an arm when his plane was shot down, later altering a prosthetic arm to allow him to use a throttle and continue to fly aircraft.

He retired from the RAF in 1946 to live in a village near Cambridge with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. McInnes had returned to flying just last year, when he was a passenger in a two seat Spitfire.

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Ibsley pilot to be remembered with Spitfire Flypast – Friday 30th August

As reported in the New Milton Advertiser & Lymington Times:                                              “A Spitfire flypast will honour a Ringwood World War II pilot, thought to be the youngest person who took off from RAF Ibsley during the Second World War, before being shot down and killed.Sgt Pilot Raymond Frederick Charles Dean was just 19 years old when he went missing in November 1941 while flying a Spitfire on a mission over France as part of a ‘Rhubarb’ raid (a fighter or fighter-bomber mission, crossing the English Channel and then dropping below cloud level to search for targets of opportunity, such as railway locomotives and rolling stock, aircraft on the ground, enemy troops, and vehicles on roads).A member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, serving in 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron, Sgt Dean lived in Ringwood and is buried at Brevands Churchyard in Manche, France. But his story is largely unknown, and as more details of his life emerged, his nephew Ray and his wife Hilary have organised a special flypast on Friday 30th August.  One of five children born to Alfred and Beatrice Dean, Sgt Dean lived at Lower Kingston Post Office. He attended Ringwood School and Brockenhurst College, and worked for the Baker family, who ran a cycling shop in Ringwood.

To stage the event, Ray has put in more than £1,500 of his own money. Two local councils – Ringwood and Ibsley – have both agreed to contribute, and any proceeds raised will be donated to the Royal British Legion. “I’m so proud of my uncle for being prepared to give his life for his country,” Ray told the A&T. “This is purely about honouring his name.”

The day, which runs from 11.30 am to 8 pm, is set to be a treat for aviation enthusiasts, featuring a host of special events including the screening of the film Secret Spitfires and talks by its director, Ethem Centitas, and a former engineer, Norman Parker, who is now in his 90s. A full-size replica Spitfire will also be on display, and there will be talks by a Spitfire engineer and Ibsley airfield historians, a model exhibition, military vehicles display, performances by 1940s-style band Scarlet Swing, and a barbecue.

Tickets for the Sgt Ray Dean and Pilots of Ibsley event, which cost £17.50 for the film, exhibit and food, are available from the London Tavern pub at Poulner, Hockeys Farm shop at Ibsley or Bransgore Country Market or by contacting Ray via or Hilary on 07905 994 644. The price includes entry to the ‘Secret Spitfires’ film screening and the talks, as well as a meal. There are also cheaper tickets available for £10.50 for parts of the day.”

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Hythe & Waterside Rotary visit to Heritage Centre- 6th August 2019

Members of Hythe & Waterside Rotary viewed the FONFA Heritage Centre during the evening of Tuesday 6th August, during a specially arranged evening visit.

The Hythe & Waterside Rotary group in front of the FONFA New Forest Airfields Heritage CentreThey spent over two hours at the museum and subsequently released the following Press Release, for local publication.                                                                                                     “Local Aviation Heritage –                                                                                                    Volunteers of the Friends of the New Forest Airfields (FONFA) gave a very warm welcome to members of Hythe & Waterside Rotary who made a visit on 6th August.  The group were given a guided tour to learn about the 12 New Forest airfields and the vital work they carried out during World War 2.  The museum has display panels, a gallery of aircraft prints, aircraft and airfield artefacts, a large collection of model aircraft and information about individual pilots’ stories.                                                                                                             “The museum is a gem of aviation heritage” says Jim Whitehouse, President of Hythe Rotary. “It is wonderful to know that all this knowledge is preserved for future generations”.                                                                                                                             Members of the Rotary club were able to learn and understand the purposes, activities and the importance of the airfields and the airmen who took to the skies from them.

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Military Vehicle Trust Vehicles visit the Heritage Centre on Sunday 4th August 2019

Members of the South Hampshire Branch of the Military Vehicle Trust (MVT) visited the New Forest Airfields Heritage Centre Museum on a sunny Sunday 4th August, in the morning, as part of a full day ‘Road Run’ through the New Forest. The convoy of WWII military vehicles, including ten Jeeps and a Dodge ‘Deuce and a Half’ truck, all owned and maintained by the MVT members, arrived in the morning and stayed until lunchtime.    Dr Henry Goodall, FONFA Chair of Trustees, welcomed the MVT Group and showed them around the new museum exhibits, including the new display screens, commissioned in March. He said, “Like FONFA, the MVT members are passionate to educate young people about our local wartime history. They cherish and display their vehicles, to keep alive the memories and sacrifices of the soldiers, sailors and airmen and women, and the total commitment of our Armed Forces, to winning WWII.”“Through seeing and touching the actual vehicles that went to war, children and young people can gain personal experience of what it was like to use and live with these valuable representatives of a bygone age, which is fast receding from living memory. Such ‘hands on’ knowledge and personal experience is simply impossible to gain from a computer or a book. These vehicles were an essential and critical part of everything that took place on the twelve New Forest Airfields in WWII, being the core transport around and between the airfields, throughout the D-Day period.” Many of our visitors were intensely interested in the variety of vehicles on display and questioned the drivers closely about details and livery.Several of the vehicles on display took part in the D-Day 75 commemorations this year in Normandy, France.  The drivers left at lunchtime, giving a cheery wave as they departed.Photo credits: Edwin Levett and Henry Goodall



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Milton Heritage Society – Visit to Heritage Centre Museum and Airfields Tour

On July 4th, the first FONFA airfields tour took place in bright sunshine, with Milton Heritage Society members. An itinerary was organised with Dr Henry Goodall, FONFA Chair of Trustees, and included a morning visit to the Heritage Centre Museum, lunch at ‘The Three Tuns’ in Bransgore, followed by visits to the New Forest Airfields Memorial at Holmsley South and the WWII airfield site, plus the aircraft dispersal pans, which are now occupied by the Holmsley Camp and Caravan sites. The tour then continued on to include the WWII airfields at Beaulieu and Stoney Cross, and the Canadian Memorial at Mogshade, near Boldrewood, before returning to New Milton.The Group at the New Forest Airfields MemorialNew Milton Heritage Society Chairman Nick Saunders described the tour as, “A fascinating and really enjoyable day, guided around some of the New Forest WW2 airfields”. He continued, “I thought the models and dioramas were superb and really add to the story. I was particularly impressed with the museum and with the three large, interactive display units that you have. They are really superb and give a lot of information to the visitor.”New Forest National Park information board at Holmsley South

The group was smaller than originally planned, but this allowed more time for personal interaction and stories to be shared. Henry Goodall commented, “We hope that this will be the first of many such tours, enabling us to share knowledge of the local wartime history with a wider audience. ‘There is no substitute for standing on the ground where history was made’. We have so few sites in this country, compared with on the continent, where this is still possible, so making use of every opportunity to share our knowledge of local history is a must.”Remains of the WWII main runway at Beaulieu airfield 

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Annual Re-Dedication of the New Forest Airfields Memorial

The Annual Service of Re-Dedication of the New Forest Airfields Memorial was held on Sunday 30th June at the Memorial in Black Lane, on the western edge of the WWII airfield at Holmsley South.The Service was conducted by the Rev. Canon Bill Rogers and led by John Brooks, Founder Trustee and former Chairman of FONFA. The Parade Marshal was Lucy Eden and the following guests attended:                                                                                                  Sir Christopher Chope. MP for Christchurch and Lady Chope
Dr Julian Lewis MP for New Forest East
The Deputy Mayor  of Christchurch, Cnllr Sue Bungey and her husband Cnllr Colin as Consort                                                                                                                                                 The Deputy Mayor of New Milton Cnllr Keith Critze and Town Clerk Graham Flexman
Sqdn Ldr Cameron Robottom, representing the Royal Australian Air Force
F/O Alan Bradshaw OC 171 Sqdn Air Cadets from Christchurch with 2 Standards (Air Cadets and RAFA)
A representative from the Royal British Legion Christchurch with Standard
A representative from the Royal British Legion Lymington with 2 Standards (RBL and Mountbatten).                                                                                                                                Visitors from the Royal Naval Association.                                                                          Wreaths were received from the Merchant Navy and from the Czech Embassy.We encourage all members of the public to attend the Annual Service, which honours the dedication and sacrifice of all who served on the New Forest Airfields in the 1939-1945 period, both civilian and military personnel, in any capacity.                                         Without their sustained and courageous efforts, in that time of great national peril, when democracy was existentially threatened, the freedoms that we enjoy today would not exist.

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