The build up to D-Day was not just about the build up of forces and the collection of men, armaments, Mulberry Harbours, and landing craft in the Forest and along the coast. An essential part was the work required to keep the roads open and in useable condition for local residents as well as essential troop and supply movement.
Following text is based on extracts from an article: Hampshire’s Highways Under Military Occupation by Malcolm Walford in Hampshire Studies 2012 (11): Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, Volume 67
The damage to roads and bridges was a huge issue for the New Forest roads originally constructed to carry only light traffic, but were now receiving continuous use by heavy traffic. The continuous use also hindered running repairs to the roads and led to regular complaints from the county surveyor, who also had to contend with a diminished workforce following regular competition from other military contracts.
During early 1944 a large undertaking of road widening, junction improvements and bridge strengthening was commenced as essential preparations for the movement of men and equipment to their marshalling areas, which were located short distances from the embarkation hards. Lepe and Lymington came under marshalling area B.
The work necessary on the south coast of Hampshire before D-Day can be summarised as follows:
- 59 miles of road widened to 22 feet (for two way traffic)
- 17 miles of road widened to 16 feet (for one way traffic)
- 16 bridges widened or strengthened
- 337 passing places or laybys (for breakdowns) constructed
- 118 road junctions or sharp bends reconstructed in concrete or asphalt for tracked vehicles
The article photo above shows one such bridge on Mill Road, just east of, Brockenhurst being strengthened. This archive footage, below, from 1944 also shows Mill Road bridge. Here we can watch the ground crews widening and strengthening the bridge.
You can find out more about the New Forest’s vital role in D-Day from Mulberry Harbour, to holding camps, road widening, advanced landing grounds, PLUTO and Embarkation by visiting our main page on D-Day in the New Forest.