SU1608 : Discovering RAF Ibsley: Overview

taken 8 years ago, near to Mockbeggar, Hampshire, England

Discovering RAF Ibsley: Overview
Discovering RAF Ibsley: Overview
This view overlooking Mockbeggar Lakes was created by post-war gravel extraction, and was the site of the former wartime airfield of RAF Ibsley. Located on the western edge of the New Forest between Ringwood and Fordingbridge, the airfield was constructed during 1940, with much of the hardcore for the runways and perimeter track coming from the bomb damaged buildings of Southampton. It was intended as a forward airfield for the Middle Wallop Sector of 10 Group, but became a Fighter Command station in its own right. It officially opened on 15 February 1941, several months before construction was fully completed, with its first operational squadron no. 32 Squadron with Mk I Hurricanes arriving two days later.

To service the airfield with its numerous ancillary sites of fighter pens, fuel installations and ammunition dumps etc. required some 2000 personnel, and to accommodate them seven quarters sites were constructed in the locality, as well as two communal sites. A number of requisitioned houses in the area were also acquired, Moyles Court became the Station Headquarters, and its outbuildings used as a motor transport depot as well as other uses. Eastwood House served as a temporary control tower before the main control tower (which still stands today) was completed. Mockbeggar Slade (later renamed Crossley Towers) was another requisitioned house that became an officers mess.

Other RAF squadrons arrived in 1941 that included 118 Sqn and 501 Sqn with Spitfire Mk II's. Remarkably a number of the aces from these squadrons provided the aerial sequences for the wartime film 'The First of the Few' starring David Niven and Leslie Howard. A total of 19 RAF fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons were based at Ibsley during the war, including Polish, Czech, Canadian and Australian squadrons. Most of their sorties involved strikes against shipping, convoy patrols, bomber escort, and offensive sweeps over Europe.

The RAF were joined by the Americans in 1942 with the arrival of the USAAF 71st and 94th Fighter Squadrons flying P-38 Lightnings. By November 1943 RAF Ibsley transferred to the USAAF 9th Air Force 48th Fighter Group equipped with P-47D Thunderbolts. With the last of the RAF units moving out in early 1944, Ibsley reverted to the USAAF in its entirety, and despite a number of tragic accidents around the airfield during their time here, the 48th Fighter Group acquitted themselves heroically, particularly before, and during D-Day. In June 1944 alone they flew 68 missions involving 1,956 sorties.

The airfield of RAF Ibsley was closed in 1947, although the communal site at South Gorley was in use until 1951 to house and feed RAF Sopley personnel. The runways and airfield perimeter track were put to use briefly during the 1950s for motor-racing that drew large crowds of up to 20,000 before it too fell victim to the bulldozers and excavators of a gravel extraction company. They created the lakes on the former airfield site that we see today, with much of it to the south given over to a nature reserve. However, some places with buildings and other remnants still remain, as scanty and ruinous as some may be, they stand as a reminder of those stirring times of over 70 years ago.

I have attempted to document much of what remains in the following series of photographs. Continue with this tour of the extant sites by clicking the link below each photo description.

SU1508 : Discovering RAF Ibsley: Control Tower (1)

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Geographical Context: Historic sites and artefacts Uplands Lakes, Wetland, Bog Air transport Defence, Military other tags: RAF Ibsley Click a tag, to view other nearby images.
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
TIP: Click the map for more Large scale mapping
Grid Square
SU1608, 136 images   (more nearby 🔍)
Mike Searle   (more nearby)
Date Taken
Wednesday, 14 October, 2015   (more nearby)
Saturday, 17 October, 2015
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SU 1617 0897 [10m precision]
WGS84: 50:52.8000N 1:46.2916W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SU 1640 0897
View Direction
WEST (about 270 degrees)
Clickable map
W Go E
Image classification(about): Geograph
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