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Event 2015 - East Boldre Airfield Remembers WW1

Retired RAF Chaplain, the Rev. Canon Ray Hubble, was filled with joy to see work by local school children when he conducted a Service of Remembrance in St. Paul's Church on the Friday afternoon. Children from the primary schools of South Baddesley, William Gilpin, Beaulieu Village and Milford-on-Sea were all smiles when told their poems, drawings, paintings, songs, prayers and poppy tributes were of a remarkably high standard and would be viewed by some very important people. David Woodgates played the Last Post on his bugle as the children laid their project work and poppy wreaths on the graves of the serviceman who died while learning to fly at East Boldre.

On Saturday the start of the exhibition of unique and previously unseen photographs of life at the Royal Flying Corps Training Station in East Boldre during WW1 drew surprisingly large crowds and Steve Antczak's tours of the historic airfield site received unexpected and ever growing support with an estimated 120 people joining his final two-mile guided walk on Bank Holiday Monday.

Sunday's Service of Remembrance, conducted again by Rev. Canon Ray Hubble, was held in a packed St Paul's Church followed by the laying of poppy crosses by members of 2495 Hythe and 1308 New Forest Squadron Air Cadets on the graves of the 19 RFC/RAF pilots who died in training in East Boldre. A Royal British Legion Standard Bearer then led a solemn parade to the Village Hall where a wreath was laid at the memorial to the dead of both World Wars and the last post was played on a bugle by a 2495 Squadron Air Cadet.

Following a ground-shaking, first-class performance by the RAF Cranwell College Band brass quintet, Flight Lt. Peter Towill of 84 Squadron RAF, the only remaining squadron formed in East Boldre during WW1, played a leading part in the unveiling and dedication into the trust of the Village Hall of the Badge of 84 Squadron RAF on the plaque above the stage.

Numbers exceeded all expectations as at least 2000 people witnessed the amazing aerial dogfight staged by The Great War Display Team adding a grand finale to an impressive series of events on 19 - 25 May to mark the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of the Royal Flying Corps in the tiny village of East Boldre.

The Village Hall Committee are deeply indebted to the two families, RAF Museum Hendon and others who came forward with photographs taken at the RFC Training Station in East Boldre during the Great War, to all those who assisted with the planning, to all the volunteers who helped during the week and to all those who attended in such great numbers.

This event was sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cllr. Ken Thornber (deceased)of Hampshire County Council, Cllr. Michael Harris of the New Forest District Council, East Boldre Parish Council, The New Forest National Park Authority, Exxon Mobil, the Worshipful Company of Fuellers, The Joseph Strong Frazer Trust and the New Forest Fruit Co. Ltd.

Exhibitors included the New Forest National Park Authority; RAF Association (New Milton Branch); Terry Butcher, (84 Squadron RAF Association); Nick Saunders (New Milton Heritage Group); FONFA; The East Boldre Painters Group.

Special thanks to: The Hon Ralph Montagu; The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu for the loan of their 1914 Rolls Royce; The Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP; Flt Lt Peter Towill RAF, 84 Squadron; John and Jan Smith for writing, directing and producing the dramatisation; the cast and crew of the dramatisation; Dr Graham Sterling and Marigold Jordan, the St. Paul’s Church wardens and Rev. Canon Ray Hubble; Kevin Holmes for printing the 84 Squadron crest; The Great War Display Team; 2495 Hythe Squadron and 1308 New Forest Squadron Air Cadets; Terry Scott and the Four Seasons Singers; The Forestry Commission.

In 2017, research suggests the Village Hall will be 100 years old. And so will be 84 Squadron RAF. Watch this space!

Two Fokker DR1 triplanes chase a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a.

A Junkers CL1 gets the better of the Sopwith Triplane.

After the Schools’ Service of Remembrance, their project work was collected and formed an important part of our Bank Holiday Exhibition. Following tradition, their poppy tributes were left on the wargraves.

Click the following links to see photos of the children’s work:

Beaulieu Village Primary School

South Baddesley Primary School

William Gilpin Primary School

Milford on Sea Primary School

Schools’ Service of Remembrance photos by Emma Lewis.

Other photos by Robin Street.

Click Images below to enlarge and start slide show

At some time between 2014 and 2018, many towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom will commemorate the centenary of The Great War. East Boldre is no exception. Not only did the village lose twenty-six brave men who are remembered on the village’s three war memorials, in 1915 the Royal Flying Corps Training School, known as RFC Beaulieu, was built at East Boldre. Forty-seven servicemen and flying instructors are known to have lost their lives in flying accidents at East Boldre and nineteen of them are buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

East Boldre Village Hall was built during the First World War as part of the Royal Flying Corps Training Camp. It was used as the YMCA Concert Hall during WW1 and as a base for the Home Guard during WW2. By 1920, the Training Station at East Boldre had been removed and the land returned to pasture. The only building left intact was the Concert Hall which was partially dismantled and given to the village for use as a Parish Hall.

It is, therefore, appropriate for East Boldre to commemorate the Great War in 2015, one hundred years after the arrival of the RFC, and for the event to be centred at East Boldre Village Hall which hosts the Alan Brown Gallery of historical photographs and holds a considerable archive of historical material concerning the twelve local wartime airfields.

The centenary celebrations began on Tuesday 19th May with the dramatisation by John Smith, "From Forest Field to Western Front", playing to full houses over three nights and receiving considerable acclaim.

On Friday 22nd May, the village hall was filled to capacity again when the Hon. Ralph Montagu officially opened the Spring Bank Holiday programme of events and New Forest East MP, Dr Julian Lewis, gave his well-received talk on 'The Politics and Consequences of the First World War'. The evening was rounded off with a hearty rendition of popular WW1 songs by Terry Scott's Four Season Singers, the audience joining in.

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This short video clip of the flying display was taken by Brian Reeves on his I-phone.

If you videoed the display, please let us know.

As a lasting legacy for this event, a new book was published which tells the story of East Boldre Airfield from 1910 to 1920. It included many of the newly discovered photographs of the WW1 airfield and describes the civilian and military flying schools.

All profits from the sale of this book will be used to support East Boldre Village Hall. More details here.

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