New Forest: Buried WW2 bombing target examined
- 23 January 2014
- From the section Hampshire & Isle of Wight
Archaeologists are exploring a buried World WarTwo target building in the New Forest where the biggest bomb ever dropped by British forces was tested.
The Grand Slam, nicknamed Ten Ton Tess, penetrated the ground and sent shockwaves to damage enemy bunkers.
It was tested on a concrete structure known as the Ministry of Home Security Target at Ashley Walk bombing range.
After the war the building was covered up. A radar survey is now trying to find out what remains of it.
A team from Wessex Archaeology is also using electrical resistance tomography (ERT) and gradiometers to build the picture of what is left.
The Grand Slam bomb, which weighed 22,000lb (10,000kg), was developed towards the end of the war and tested at the site near Fritham on 13 March 1945.
The next day it was dropped over Germany, destroying the Schildesche railway viaduct near Bielefeld.
James Brown, archaeologist and head of the New Forest National Park Authority's World War Two project, said a crater, about 100m (320ft) from the bunker, was now barely visible as it had been filled in.
He said: "Things that were once quite common, like pill boxes and airfields, there was a distinct attitude after the war to remove them, to forget almost.
"Now we've moved on 70 years or so, a lot of information is starting to disappear.
"What we get quite a lot across the forest is various lumps of concrete. We want to encourage people to realise it's not a lump of rubbish that needs to be removed.
"[If we can also] add personal stories to relate to this, we can understand what was once going on here."
At the time it was in use, from 1941, the building was nicknamed the "sub pen" by locals because of its likeness to German submarine pens.
But it was originally built to test structures for air raid shelters at the end of the Battle of Britain. Later it was used to test five different types of bombs, including the Tall Boy and Grand Slam.
The aim of the survey is to find out whether chambers still exist inside, and what they may or may not contain, and to assess what needs to be done to protect it.
Mr Brown said: "There have been all sorts of rumours about things being buried inside; tanks, planes, bombs. We hear of that all over the forest.
"So far we haven't had any positive results."