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Five unexploded bombs from the Second World War have been safely uncovered as part of a project being undertaken by the Forestry Commission to restore stream and mire habitats for wildlife in the New Forest.
The Forestry Commission is undertaking stream restoration works along parts of Latchmore Brook, Ditchend Brook and Must Thorns Bottom to allow them to flow along their natural course. All three sites are in the area formerly known as the Ashley Walk Bombing Range, which was active from 1940 to 1946.
Sarah Oakley, an ecologist at the Forestry Commission, explained:
“The New Forest has a fascinating history as a testing range for many different WW2 munitions - from small anti-personnel bombs of a few pounds in size, up to the 22,000lb ‘Grand Slam’ bomb. The Ashley Walk Bombing Range was a fenced area covering more than 2,000 hectares and was used as both a practice range and a high explosive range.
“Although there was some clearance work after the war, evidence indicated that there was still ordnance present and we were keen to safely locate and dispose of it before starting our stream and mire restoration works. This was because our work will involve excavating and repeated movements of heavy vehicles that could have posed a high risk of disturbing any unexploded bombs.”
A specialist contractor, EOD Contracts Ltd, was engaged to undertake a non-intrusive survey before focusing on the investigation of specific locations which could have ordnance. Whilst the majority of items found as part of this process were simply scrap metal, there were also five unexploded bombs which were reported to the local police before being removed by the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal team to be safely disposed of by controlled explosion at sea. These were a 1,000lb Air Dropped Weapon, one 250lb General Purpose Air Dropped Weapon and three 11.5lb Practice Bombs.
Frank Green, an archaeologist at the New Forest National Park Authority, commented:
“The findings from this project have real historical relevance and will form part of our work to preserve memories and artefacts from the Second World War in the New Forest. Indeed, as part of the project, the Forestry Commission was able to recover two 2lb artillery cartridge cases from 1941 which will be added to our growing collection.”
“However, we would urge people not to take it upon themselves to search for, or pick up, any ordnance – indeed it is worth remembering that metal detecting is not permitted according to the Byelaws of the Crown Lands.”
Despite these clearances, smaller pieces of ordnance are still discovered in the area from time to time. The Forestry Commission would urge anyone who sees a metal item they suspect could be ordnance within the area of the former Ashley Walk Bombing Range to leave it alone and contact the police.
For those interested in the New Forest’s wartime history, the Forestry Commission is planning to host a guided walk around Ashley Walk Bombing Range on Saturday 15 October. Forestry Commission volunteer ranger and amateur historian Henry Cole will host the four mile walk, combining historical wartime facts with modern day information about the Forestry Commission’s ongoing stream restoration work. Call 023 8028 6840 for more details.
For more information about EOD Contracts Ltd, please call 01634 227 592 or visit www.eodcontractsltd.com.
NOTES TO EDITOR
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For more information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
Paula Quigley or Hannah Keddie at Grayling PR, tel 02380 382970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Libby Burke at the Forestry Commission on 02380 286832.