Local Villages around Winkton Advanced Landing Ground.


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Of the three villages which surrounded Station 414, the smallest is Winkton to the south west of the airfield’s site. It is presumed that the airfield was named after this village to distinguish it from the RAF radar station at Sopley. The third village, Bransgore was probably considered to be already associated with RAF Holmsley South to the east. Certainly Luftwaffe reconnaissance maps of August 1943 seem to refer to Holmsley as the airfield at Bransgore. The same report had already detected Station 414 as the site of an airfield, presumably due to the engineering work in progress.

 
WINKTON
 
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Winkton is an old village even by English standards, indeed its name (originally Weringtone in the Domesday book of 1086) dates back to the very creation of England as a nation. It is believed to be named as it is to show it was the spoils of a battle between Vikings and Saxons hundreds of years earlier. Winkton village lies at the junction of the old road between Ringwood and Christchurch and the road to Bransgore and close to what was probably the upper limit to navigation on the River Avon. The Winkton to Bransgore road bounds the southern edge of the old airfield, passing Lower and Upper Clockhouse farms. There appears to have been an access point into the airfield close to Lower Clockhouse farm - "Trucks took us through narrow twisting streets and on out into the country, past a little village we later learned to call Winkton, then off the main paved road onto a dirt road through a farmyard and out onto a bumpy driving strip paved with chicken wire and tree branches. We circled a grassy field that appeared to be a cow pasture, and were finally dumped off at the edge of a clump of trees" - as well as the access points where the old public road from Sopley to Bransgore now stopped at the eastern and western boundaries of the airfield. Just east of Winkton lies the hamlet of Holfleet which lies at the southern tip of the landing ground and is still best known for its pub, the Lamb Inn which seems to have been one of the local pubs used by the 404th.
 
Winkton is a small but rather charming amalgamation of brick built buildings, some fine and imposing big houses variously dating from the 18th., 19th and 20th century, and two or three small rows of terraced cottages again from various periods. Today it has a popular fishing pub and hotel - the Fisherman’s Haunt - and is the home of Holmsfield School, known for its school orchestra. The village looks out over the River Avon from the edge of the same river terrace that the airfield was built upon, with fine views to Sopley Church, St Catherine’s Hill and Christchurch Priory. Should any members of the 404th visit Winkton today, it will not seem too changed, a few new houses, a bit tidier, brighter painted and more manicured and formal than in 1944 but much of the old village is still there.
 
 
BRANSGORE
 
The village was, for many years, fairly obscure and primarily an agricultural community. Its name has been interpreted many ways, most of them being romantic and violent based on the use of the word "gore" within the name. However in Middle English the word Gore also means a clearing or field shaped like a spearhead, and in all probability the name describes such a field owned by one Bran, presumably a Jutish neighbour of Soppa over at what would become Sopley. Over time Bransgore too was associated with smuggling but not only of contraband. Beech house is believed to have been a reception centre for aristocrats smuggled from France to escape their execution on the Guillotine - part of the romance that doubtless gave birth to the legend of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
 
It is in the 1850's that history charts a rise in the fortunes of Bransgore. The railway had come to Bournemouth and the holiday trade was growing. Bransgore and its neighbouring village of Thorney Hill had large deposits of sands, clays and gravels and brick kilns. The villages worked to satisfy the demand for building materials in the local towns and their economies and populations grew accordingly. The trade lasted for another 90 years, until the loss of coal supplies in 1939 meant the closure of the industry. In common with Sopley, the village also had a well developed rural economy and the village was well known for its fruit and potatoes at the local markets.
 
Of the three villages it is Bransgore that has changed most since 1944. The widely dispersed pattern of small holdings and cottages has been infilled with extensive housing development over the last 30 years and the village is a dormitory area for other local towns. It never the less stills enjoys a flourishing village life and has excellent educational, shopping and medical facilities which make it something of a local centre for the area.
for more on Bransgore 1  2
 
SOPLEY
 
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For many years the village of Sopley was the principle settlement on the route between Ringwood and Christchurch. Like Winkton is it built on the road which links the two towns, but at the point at which the roads from Bransgore and Ripley converge. There is evidence of occupation in the Bronze and Iron ages predating a Roman presence. The name Sopley is believed to be of Germanic origin, and stands for the Glade of Soppa. Soppa was presumably a settler from the Jutish people who populated this area of Southern Britain as the Roman Empire collapsed and the Romano British society gradually crumbled and declined in the fourth century.
 
It has a fine church, the original of which was built in 1137 AD, built up high on a vantage point above the river and an old mill below the church whose mill ponds and races are served by diverted water from the River Avon. The church served the manor of Sopley which predated the Norman invasion of 1066 AD, and was of sufficient value that it was the cause of dispute between the priories of Christchurch and Breamore as to its ownership. The village also prospered by its association with some of the most influential families of the area, its proximity to the New Forest and also (by legend) as something of a centre for smuggling, with the smugglers’ small boats being hauled up as far as the Woolpack Inn before the goods were transferred to pack horse for the journey inland. The business of the village was traditional agriculture, country crafts rural industry and service. The census of 1851 lists their occupations and they probably changed very little for the next 70 years:-
 

 at home

68

at school

44

house servants

18

 labourers

9

farm labourers

 7

gardeners 

4

 wheelwrights

3

 labourer's assistants

3

 visitors

 3

 land proprietors

3

carpenters

 3

 dressmakers

 3

 apprentices

2

housekeepers

2

 grocers

 2

 farmers

2

laundresses

2

 schoolmistresses

 2

 smith and inn keeper

1

 veterinary surgeon

1

 cordwainer

1

 cordwainer's mate

1

parish clerk & school master

1

 schoolmaster

1

 housemistress

1

 wagoner

1

 carrier's boy

1

 mill labourer

1

merchant's clerk

 1

retired carpenter

1

 accountant

1

 policeman

 1

nurse

1

 glove maker

1

dairyman

1

farm holder

1

 errand boy

1

       
 
 
The opening of the RAF radar station at Sopley in December 1940 and its continuing operation in one form or another until the 1970s was an undoubted benefit to the village, as was the concentration of military activity in the area during the war, and the 404th’s presence and activities would no doubt have contributed to the general activity in the village.
 
Like Winkton, the village is little changed, a few more modern properties straggling along the eastern side of the road towards Ringwood. The site of the old garage has been redeveloped, the old dairy converted to accommodation, the Smiths Arms is now a private house and there is a new Smithy but otherwise the old village is still largely intact. The house at Sopley Park was demolished and the Park now houses Morelands Bible college. It was from the people of Sopley that many of the memories gathered on this web site were gleaned.
 
 
Memories of the impact of the war in Sopley 1939-45
 
John Kirkham and Anne Parry....
 
"We have memories of Service men and women of many nationalities including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand* and Poland visiting the vicarage in Burton where they were welcomed by our mother, and where they came to relax and to share our meagre rations before being posted elsewhere or going off on night time bombing raids - some never to return. We can remember one Australian airman playing Waltzing Matilda on our piano and promising to play it again when he returned, but sadly like many others he never came back. Some Service man and women were billeted in the villages and we had two WAAFs staying with us at Burton Vicarage. Some girls became G.I. brides.
 
There were times when we would wake up at night as the air raid sirens went off and we would come down and hide under the stairs. We could hear the sounds of German bombers and fighters overhead and also our allied bombers taking off at night and some returning low over our house at dawn. Just before we moved to Burton and Sopley, a land mine was dropped in the field next door to the vicarage and the side windows were blown out. A farm worker was working in the field and was killed by this mine. His wife sang for many years in the choir at Burton Church. Sometimes we would find spent bullet cases and shrapnel on the roads and silver foil dropped to confuse the radar. We can remember going out into the fields and collecting this silver foil to make chains for Christmas decorations.
 
On VE day there were great celebrations and for the first time since the beginning of the war, the church bells rang out and we had a service in the Church which was packed with local residents and RAF personnel. Our Father preached on the text 'Greater love has no man than that a man shall lay down his life for his friends'. After the Service we all went to the field opposite the cemetery for a bonfire party."
 
* Andy Wilson of the 507th remembers a young lady WAAF who visited the 404th Officers' club on a social Saturday evening. She said she was from Te Awamutu in New Zealand.
 
In "A Glimpse of Sopley" Brindley Boon remembered....
 
"Shortly before midnight on Christmas Day 1940, we drew up outside the massive iron gates at a location we were to come to know well as Sopley Park. Warned of our coming, the village policeman, Knight by name, with his bicycle, awaited our arrival, and as it was so late decided to knock up the landlord of the local inn. In this way we spent our first night in Sopley at 'the Woolpack' - a new experience for me. The proprietor, Andrew Lane, was a bell ringer, church warden and sacristan at the ancient church across the road and with his wife, regaled us well into the next day with fascinating stories of village characters and their forebears.
 
After a breakfast of ham, eggs, new bread, freshly farmed butter and a mug of steaming tea we expressed our thanks to mine host and his gracious lady and made our way some 400 yards along the road to a permanent billet. We borrowed a wheel barrow in which to convey our kit bags and other personal belongings.
 
Our new landlady was Annie Button. A charming lady in her mid forties she had arrived in Sopley some twenty years previously to teach in the village school. It was not long before she met Charles Button, a young farmer, and they were married. They ran the farm between them, Charlie spending much of his time delivering milk to the outlying areas and Annie feeding and watering the cattle and keeping a friendly eye on the poultry. Chickens had to be shooed off the kitchen table before we could sit down to meals.
 
The first days of 1941 were particularly cold and there was a general shortage of fuel. The cottage completely lacked warmth when we arrived and Mrs B continually apologised for this and, as if to try to keep herself warm by auto suggestion, went around the house singing "some day my coal will come" set to a melody from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then the rage."