On Saturday 10th July a group met in East Boldre Village Hall to celebrate the work of Alan Brown. We all had something in common. We had in our care, exhibition panels, artwork, photographs and research by the late Alan Brown.
Alan John Brown was foremost historian of the twelve New Forest wartime airfields. Born in Wales in 1925, Alan joined the RAF in 1946, a year after the War ended. He decided the only way he could fly was to become a parachute jumping instructor. After two month of training a request was received from the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE) asking for six volunteers. Alan served eight years in the RAF, four of which were at Beaulieu. After leaving the RAF Alan settled in the New Forest as a teacher specialising in Art and History. In his retirement he wrote six books on New Forest airfields.
With his wife, Margaret, Alan put on travelling exhibitions. Like his books, his exhibition panels were all hand drawn at an exceptionally high level, with his instantly recognisable handwriting.
After his death, Alan’s work was divided among various interested parties. For the first time, we attempted to reassemble, catalogue, and photograph it for archive and access purposes. Representatives came together from East Boldre Village Hall, the Museum of Army Flying, Boscombe Down Aviation Collection and the New Forest Heritage Centre, alongside private individuals. This was the first of three proposed meetings as work is completed.
Keep an eye out for material by, or about, Alan Brown as it is shared on New Forest Knowledge here
Georgina Eleanor Bowden-Smith (nee Long) was born on 20th April 1820. She was the daughter of Walter Long and Lady Mary Carnegie of Corhampton in Hampshire. Walter had inherited Preshaw at Upham from his father, John Long. Lady Carnegie was the daughter of the 7th Earl of Northesk.
Georgina and her husband Richard, moved to Vernalls, a large house in Lyndhurst, in 1856. At first they rented it from Admiral Aitcheson but, according to Georgina’s diaries, they purchased it in 1860. Richard died at Vernalls in 1881. Georgina lived there until she died in 1906, and her son Walter Baird Bowden-Smith until he died in 1932.
In the last year of her life, Georgina wrote: Of what I remember of Lyndhurst and the Neighbourhood nearly 50 years ago (1850-1906). The handwritten diaries, which contain a number of photographs, sketches and watercolours, have been digitised and made available online.
Forestry England, the present land manager of the New Forest Crown Lands, has a collection of leases, easements, sales, and other contractual matters dating back to 1813. These documents have been copied and bound together in large lease books by the successive managers of the Forest- The Commissioners of Woods and Forests up to 1851, The Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues from 1851-1919, and by the Forestry Commission from 1919 onwards up to the 1950s . The books are kept at the Queen’s House in Lyndhurst, but they cover more than just the New Forest. Nearby forests such as Bere and Alice Holt are included as well as others further afield such as those of Dean, Delamere, and even the Island of Alderney.
These recordscover a period when the Forest underwent huge changes reflecting developments in society and technology. The first records date from the Napoleonic war when the supply of naval timber was critical for the survival of the nation. Once ships came to be built of iron this role was eclipsed and the Forest came to be valued more for its picturesque qualities. In the First World War the supply of Forest timber rapidly gained importance for its use in physically supporting the trenches and the light railways that brought supplies to the Western Front.
Under the Ecademy project, within the Our Past, Our Future Landcape Partnership scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, these records have been digitised.
The Christopher Tower Reference Library at the New Forest Heritage Centre has been preparing these records for publication on the web, and the first tranche, covering the period from 1813 to 1920, is now available on the New Forest Knowledge site. As well as showing how land use changed and developed over the century, these records cast light on the lives of the individuals and families who lived, worked and took their leisure in the forests, providing a rich resource for the family or social historian.
Altogether the leases comprise more than 40,000 pages of largely legalistic prose, containing often lengthy, repetitive sentences. Like the Shipping Forecast, their rhythm and cadence provide a sort of poetry. Often the documents are supported by hand sketched plans of the area in question. Only the most recent books are typed: the majority from this period are beautifully handwritten. None, however, can be searched digitally. Fortunately each book was comprehensively indexed at the time of its creation. Furthermore many of the later transactions have been inscribed in four Atlases covering the New Forest, so that a visual scan can often identify where a transaction has taken place.
Stop Press! Casual study has revealed the fact that not only are transactions about property recorded, but also employment contracts… See Lease Book 11, page 339, which records the extension of Lawrence Cumberbatch’s role as Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest to that of Deputy Surveyor of a string of other forests in the County of Southampton.
Please click on the links below to view some supplementary materials or click on the button to download them.
Paul Simmons had a collection of photographs from his Grandfather’s (Arthur George Simmons) time in the fledgling British Air Force during the First World War. Paul was keen to find a new permanent home for this collection. After considering donating the collection to the IWM or The National Archive or even selling it at auction Paul’s family did a little online searching to try and find a more suitable long term home for the collection.
Paul got in touch with the New Forest Remembers team to talk about donating the collection. On receiving Paul’s very kind offer the NFR team got in touch with the New Forest Heritage Centre as it was felt that they would be the best long term home for this wonderful collection.
All the photographs have now been digitized and are available to view via this online archive. And we can now bring you Arthur’s story:
Arthur George Simmons was born in 1898, aged 19 ‘Simmons A. (4975)’ joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1917. He was soon posted to RFC (later RAF) Beaulieu, a Training Airfield, at East Boldre, Hampshire. During the first six months of 1918 the flying training for the British pilots at RAF Beaulieu was carried out by three training squadrons, No. 1, 73 and later 29.
The majority of the initial training was conducted using Avro 504 aircraft, with pilots then progressing to fly the more advanced Sopwith Camel fighter. The airspace over East Boldre would have been busy as the American 93rd Aero squadron was also being trained by the RAF at Beaulieu during early 1918.
On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) amalgamated to form a new service the Royal Air Force (RAF).
The Arthur Simmons collection comprises of two photograph album, loose paperwork (relating to his training), his book ‘Technical Notes – Royal Flying Corps’, his Aviator’s Certificate and his two medals. The two photo albums date from 1917 to around 1920 and hold some personal family photos as well as images for such places as East Boldre (RAF Beaulieu) airfield, Lymington, the No.1 New Zealand Hospital in Brockenhurst, the aerodrome at West Blatchington and a number of crashed aircraft to name just a few.
Arthur had already survived an earlier crash. But on 13 April 1918 while flying an Avro 504A (A8600) Arthur crashed for the second time. Following this severe crash landing at East Boldre he was discharged. Paul (Arthur’s grandson) recalls his grandfather commenting “That crash saved my life!”
Avro 504A, A8600, 13.04.18, Stalled on turn and spun. A/Sgt: A.G. Simmons inj.
Court of Enquiry 22/03/1918 A/SGT: A.G. Simmons.
The court, having viewed the wreckage and examined the evidence, are of the opinion the Sgt. Simmons the pilot of Avro N0.8600. lost flying speed whilst turning to the left & that owing to lack of height, he was unable to extricate his machine from the resultant spin.
RAF Museum Archives – Casualty Card: RAFM 285302
Casualty Card (RAF Museum Archives)
Casualty Record Series
Casualty Card Type – Incident
Royal Air Force
Prisoner of war
April 13th 1918
Result of accident
Terms of enlistment
Arthur’s aircraft was an Avro 504A, serial No. A8600. It had a Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine. The aircraft was made by A.V. Roe & Co of Manchester during contract 87/A/1213 dated: 24 November 1916
Avro 504A was the first modified variant of the Avro 504 with smaller ailerons and broader struts and a Gnome Monosoupape 7 Type A seven-cylinder rotary engine offering 80 hp (60 kW) of power.
Since the Simmons collection went live, we’ve been contacted by descendants of those included in the photos with some of their stories. Here is one of those relating to the photos of the crashed Bi-plane E.2602, 9 June 1919: James Gamble in Arthur Simmons’ Images.