Many of the 14 million visitors who enjoy the magnificent scenery of the New Forest today will be unaware of the pivotal role played by the area during the Second World War, as now revealed by the most extensive film ever produced on the subject, which benefits from a wide range of high quality interviewees and specialist contributors.
It includes a comprehensive feature on the twelve wartime airfields of the forest, which is enhanced by the fascinating recollections of Typhoon pilot Jerry Eaton, who flew from Needs Oar Point; a tribute to the Royal Observer Corps, dubbed ‘the eyes and ears of the RAF’; and the important work which was performed at the requisitioned estates of Breamore and Exbury.
We also unearth what remains of some of the many defensive emplacements which were introduced to protect this front-line region against attacks from Nazi occupied France, such as pillboxes, anti-glider obstacles and anti-aircraft guns; how the sea lanes around Portsmouth and Southampton were secured by the awe-inspiring Hurst Castle; and the crucial activities at Ashley Walk Bombing Range, in the secluded north-west of the forest.
The memories of Betty Hockey, who founded a concert party which entertained the service personnel based in the New Forest, are absolutely priceless, as are those of Les White and Neville Cullingford, who were schoolboys in the area during wartime. To them the war was often something of an adventure, although the seriousness of it dawned on them during the build-up to and execution of D-Day, as thousands of Allied troops vacated their camps and made their way to embarkation points along the south coast.
Supported by the New Forest National Park Authority, whose own wartime project has utilised technology and diary research to make some exciting new discoveries, this documentary utilises a blend of rare archive material and superb modern film to capture the true flavour of one of England’s most beautiful locations, during one of its darkest hours.