It has come to our notice that four e-mail messages to FONFA Members, who are customers of btinternet, have not been delivered recently, due to them being labelled as “SPAM”. This is a recent development. We are unable to change this situation as only btinternet or the individual members are able to alter their settings. If you are a FONFA Member and a btinternet customer, and have not heard from FONFA over the past 2 months, you are almost certainly affected and until you take the necessary action, you will not receive any e-mail communications from FONFA.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION either by contacting btinternet or changing your filter settings now.
There will be short ceremonies at the New Forest Airfields Memorial, Black Lane, Holmsley South BH23 8EB at 1100 hours on Thursday November 11th and at 1100 hrs on Sunday 14th November, to mark Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. All members of the public are welcome to attend and place wreaths or crosses at the Memorial.
Now that the Heritage Centre public Open Day programme is completed, the 2022 programme will commence in March; dates will be announced next year. If you would like to arrange a private group visit, in the interim, please contact us via the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Lt. William Norris, 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group USAF flew 71 missions between May and October 1944, in his P-38J Lightning, from bases in England and France. His decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 2 silver and 2 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters and the Euro-African-Middle East Campaign Medal.
His daughter, Linda Bloom, has kindly allowed us to display some of his memorabilia, from that time, including his name badge, his initial flight training record and even his pencilled notes from 1944, on a P-38 training and familiarisation document. We are immensely grateful for her generosity in lending us these personal documents, which are literally unique and irreplaceable. They bring home his professional pride in his achievements and the very personal experience of him being so far from home, fighting a war that had to be won, against Nazi tyranny and occupation.
He was one of the original pilots who arrived at RAF Stoney Cross, USAF Station 452, in the New Forest, on April 4th 1944. Only three out of the ninety pilots had ever flown a twin engine aircraft, when they arrived in England, but they flew their first combat patrol mission over France on May 9th, just five weeks later. Initially tasked with strafing and bombing missions in France, often twice a day, the Group’s missions later ranged as far as Cologne and Aachen.
Her own recollections are repeated below: “William Norris was a gentleman. I’m not sure if my dad’s war experience made him that way or not, but he lived his life after the war as an honorable, kind man. He was truly part of “The Greatest Generation.” I think he was very grateful to have survived the war when many of his friends did not. “William, Willie, or Bill” Norris joined the air force after his parents (Don and Dorothy Norris), and two sons (Bill and Dick) had a family meeting to decide which son would enlist and which one would stay to run their lumber mill. “Bill eventually joined the 393rd Fighter Squadron of the 367th Fighter Group in the European Theater. He was first stationed in England and then in France, and he was a part of the D Day invasion. Bill (my dad) didn’t talk very much about his time as a fighter pilot, but later in his life, he did share some memories. These are a few that stand out: “On June 12th, Bill flew his P-38 (The Janet, named for his then girlfriend Janet Harrison) on a mission to escort two destroyers from Cherbourg to England He could tell they were escorting “Important Wheels” and later found out that Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were on one of the Destroyers, and the other Destroyer was there for water escort (this was on HMS Belfast, via the Mulberry ‘B’ artificial Harbour at the Normandy beachhead, as Cherbourg was not captured until 26th June. See photo below – ed.).
“On August 22nd, Bill led the Top Cover flight for a dive-bombing mission on an airfield northeast of Paris (in the Laon area – ed.). They encountered heavy flak and were outnumbered by enemy aircraft. My dad’s diary goes into great detail about how they managed to survive the day, but he ends by saying, “It was Overton’s second mission, and he did a beautiful job. If he had not stayed with me, I think we both would have been shot down. It was a rough mission for our flight but could have been a lot worse. When I took off my oxygen mask after the flight, water just ran out. I guess I must have been sweating.” “But, I have to say that the one story Bill always enjoyed telling was when he and some buddies met Marlene Dietrich in a bar and in his (bad) French he asked her to join them in sharing a bottle of red wine. She accepted and stayed and talked with them for a long time. My dad was sure a big fan of hers. I hope to figure out how to upload my dad’s diary (covering March 8th, 1944 to November 20th, 1944) to this website for anyone to read! Ironically, William George Norris passed away on D Day (June 6th) 2009 at the age of 89.”
Linda Bloom has been able to make his WWII diary of missions available and we are proud and humbled to be able to load this unique day by day account onto the website below, for posterity.
A ceremony was held at the New Forest Airfields Heritage Centre on 25th September 2021 to commemorate the time when the Sopley Reception Centre, at the former RAF Soplay Camp, welcomed a group of the Vietnamese ‘Boat People’ to make their home in the Centre, in 1979, after a journey of half way round the World. A plaque was unveiled, depicting the ship, which rescued them from small leaking boats that had carried them away from their homeland, fleeing from the Communist occupation of Vietnam.The plaque was sited at the front of the museum building, being the last remaining building at the Camp, from that time.
Andy Martin’s ‘Bournemouth Echo’ report and photos are repeated, by kind permission, below:
“Five former refugees from Vietnam made an emotional return to the New Forest community that welcomed them with open arms when they fled their homeland in 1979. The five were among the thousands of Vietnamese Boat People who made the perilous journey across the South China Sea in the wake of Saigon falling to the Communists in 1975 and China invading four years later. Many came to England and were temporarily housed at RAF Sopley at Bransgore at different times between 1979-1982, before being permanently resettled.
“The five – Tu Thi Hi, Tu Ngoc Long, Tran Quan Duc, Hoang My and Michael Lock (his adopted English name) came back on Saturday to the last surviving building from the Sopley Camp days for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque. And they were reunited with some of the field workers who ran the reception centre and who looked after them as bewildered young refugees 42 years ago.
“The plaque, on the wall of what is now the Friends of New Forest Airfields Heritage Centre, is dedicated to those who survived the journey on flimsy craft, the estimated 300-600,000 who perished en route and to the fact that for 2,855 refugees, Sopley Camp was the beginning of a new life. It also marks the fact on May 21 1979, the crew of a British cargo ship, SS Sibonga, led by Captain Healey Martin, rescued 1,003 ‘Boat People’ from two small, overcrowded, sinking craft.
“One of those rescued was Michael who is now 67, à computer engineer and who acted as an interpreter when he arrived at Sopley as one of the first refugees. He had learned English in South Vietnam. He told the guests: “Many of us tried to escape from Communism because we did not know what the future held. The Sibonga came to our rescue when we had been drifting for two days in the sea in our flimsy boat. We climbed up the ladders to get on board the Sibonga and Captain Martin and his crew gave us the first idea of what our new life would be like, including Anchor butter.”
“Among those who ran the reception centre and were there on Saturday were field workers Helen Clifford from Lymington, Chris Bentall and Eamonn Doherty who was a university student in 1979 and took time out to work at the camp. It was Helen’s husband Tony who had the idea of the plaque. Mr Doherty said: “Many people risked life and limb to make a new life here and they made a very dangerous journey to do that.”
“He said the camp was helped by many members of local community and without them, it would not have been possible. One of those was local GP, Dr Hickish, now in his 90s who attended the unveiling. Chairman of the trustees of FONFA, Dr Henry Goodall said it would be a lasting memorial to a very special episode in more recent history.”
The five refugees, the Field Workers who worked at the Reception Centre, Dr Hickish and their family members who supported the creation and unveiling of the plaque.
The Annual Service was held on Sunday 29th August, led by Padre Charles Lewis, FCAA, RAFAC, Wing Chaplain, Thames Valley and Dorset and Wiltshire Wings of the Air Training Corps, at the New Forest Airfields Memorial at Holmsley South, on the site of the former WWII airfield.
Guests were welcomed by Dr Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees of the Friends of the New Forest Airfields, to the Service, which had been delayed since June, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Service was attended by our Patron, Lady Montagu, and by military representatives of the Royal Air Force, The Royal Canadian Air Force, The Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Air Force, as well as flag bearers of UK Service Organisations, the Royal Air Force Association, The Royal British Legion, the Glider Pilot Regiment Society and the Parachute Regiment.
Addresses were given by Padre Lewis, by the Chairman of New Forest District Council and, for the first time in several years, the United States Air Force was represented by Major Adam Thomson, who gave an address, responding on behalf of the Allied National Armed Forces Representatives. Members of the public attended outside the enclosure to view and take part in the commemoration.
Photos by kind permission of Andy Martin and others.
The Annual Service at the New Forest Airfields Memorial will be held this coming Sunday 29th August at 2 p.m. at Black Lane, Holmsley South BH23 8EB.
Members of the public are welcome to attend. Brown signs on the main A35 Lyndhurst to Christchurch road indicate directions to the location in Black Lane, off Forest Road, near to the Centenary Caravan Site.
The Annual Service has been delayed from June, due to the Covid-19 restrictions. The annual ceremony honours all those who worked on the twelve New Forest military airfields, during World War II, both the military personnel and the civilians who supported them and maintained food supplies and essential services to the bases.
The Service will be conducted by Padre Charles Lewis, FCCA, MAAT, RAFAC, Wing Chaplain, Dorset and Wiltshire and Thames Valley Wings, RAFAC, and attended by representatives of the Allied countries and organisations, whose airmen and women were based on the New Forest Airfields in World War II.
We have discovered that some visitors arrived at the Centre on 4th July, expecting it to be open. We are sorry that they were disappointed, due to the fact that we simply don’t have enough active Charity Volunteers and trained Fire Wardens to open the Centre on every single Sunday.
The original plan (before March 2021) was to hold Heritage Centre Open Days on the first and third Sundays of the month, starting in March, as in previous years. However, the continuing Government Covid-19 restrictions prevented us, due to their decision not to relax the restrictions sufficiently for us to operate safely, until after 17th May.
The Board therefore decided to start 2021 Open Days with the Late May Bank Holiday Sunday (30th May) and to continue on alternate Sundays, with added Thursdays in July and August, during the school holidays, for the first time, this year – all Open Days run from 10 am to 4 pm.
These dates have been listed in two places on our website and on facebook since April 26th:
Sunday May 30th – Spring Bank Holiday weekend
Sundays June 13th and 27th
Sundays July 11th and 25th Thursday July 29th
Sundays August 1st and 15th Thursdays August 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th
Sunday 29th August will be our Annual Service Date at the New Forest Airfields Memorial, postponed from June due to Covid-19 disruption (N.B. There will be no Heritage Centre ‘Open Day’ on that date).
US Memorial Day was marked on Monday 31st May at the Holmsley South Memorial by a short ceremony and placing of a wreath, in honour of all United States military personnel, who served on the twelve New Forest Airfields in World War II. The majority of those who served were under twenty three years of age.
The inscription on the wreath read as follows:
“The Friends of the New Forest Airfieldscommemorate the part played byAmerican service personnel in theLiberation of Europe in World War II to honour those who died for our freedoms“
We mark this day annually, along with Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, to remember their sacrifice and to teach the rising generations of our young people the price of freedom, that Freedom is never ‘free’.
We are publishing a new monthly series of recollections and recorded diary memories by those who lived at the Long Beech sites, next to Stoney Cross airfield, after World War II had ended.
They were written between the 1970s and early 2000s, by those who lived there in the Nissen Huts and Maycrete Huts, from 1945 into the 1950s. During that time, they endured basic living conditions and often deep snow in the winters, particularly during the harsh winter of 1947, when night time temperatures fell to below Zero Fahrenheit and snow lay on the ground for over two months.
The link to these recollections is in the black header at the top of the website, “Living at Long Beech after the War – Recollections and Memories”.
The first of a series of monthly PowerPoint presentations was given to FONFA Members via ‘Zoom’ on Tuesday evening 18th May, by Dr Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees for FONFA.
The subject was “The New Forest Airfields in WWII”. The New Forest area was the busiest part of Britain for airborne operations, during the D-Day period in June 1944, with the temporary Advanced Landing Ground at Needs Oar Point seeing up to one aircraft movement every 45 seconds, for up to eighteen hours a day (4 am to 10 pm), during the three week period around D-Day.
Over 25,000 service personnel, supported by 10,000 civilians worked on the twelve airfields during this time of intense activity, which determined our future. Around 90% of the service personnel were under the age of 23 years. The peace that we enjoy today was forged by their courage and dedication, their hard work and commitment and their good humour. We must never forget their sacrifice.
FONFA Members will be able to access the future monthly talks, via a link, to be sent to them only, before every presentation. The regular slot will be on the third Tuesday of the month.