Hampshire & Isle of Wight

D-Day papers found at Balmer Lawn Hotel go on display

Balmer Lawn Hotel Image copyright Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image caption The hotel was used by Canadian and British forces during World War Two

World War Two military documents about the build-up to D-Day in 1944, found under a New Forest hotel's floorboards, have gone on display.

Typed papers and envelopes emerged during refurbishments at the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst in 2015.

Historian Stephen Petty said they "added to the jigsaw" of knowledge about wartime activity in the New Forest.

A commemorative event at the hotel was attended by Canadian dignitaries.

Image copyright Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image caption The papers were examined by the Ministry of Defence before being returned to the hotel

The hotel was the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Division before they embarked for Juno Beach in June 1944.

Although there were no papers with the highest level of security, some were marked "secret" or "most secret" and reflected the day-to-day activities as Brockenhurst camp was sealed, with no-one able to enter or leave before the invasion began.

Image copyright Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image caption Records of lost property were among the papers
Image copyright Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image caption Service personnel were invited to a musical variety show

Mr Petty said: "Anything marked most or top secret should have been burned - none ought to have survived. For some reason the occupant of Room 10 put them under the floorboards."

Among the documents was a report of a deserter who tried to flee to Scotland.

There were also details of entertainment, including an invitation to an "American All Variety Musical-Variety Show, Swingin' in the ETO".

Reports of bomb disposal and orders for burials showed the dangers faced by troops even before they got to France.

Image copyright Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image caption Among the documents was a report of a deserter who tried to flee to Scotland

"It gives a flavour of the risks of training with live ammunition. There would have been accidents and sadly fatalities - it was accepted as part of the liberation," said Mr Petty.

He said Balmer Lawn was rapidly shut down within two weeks when it was clear the Allies had foothold in Europe. Consequently, little evidence of tented encampments in the New Forest survived.

The papers were checked by the Ministry of Defence and returned to the hotel.

Image copyright Balmer Lawn Hotel
Image caption Lt Col Simon Rushen of the Canadian army and D-Day veteran Bob Roberts planted a maple tree as part of a commemorative ceremony at the hotel

The New Forest in World War Two

  • Its strategic location on the south coast meant the New Forest, known as Marshalling Area B, was used for operations and training in the run up to D-Day in 1944
  • There were 12 air fields, including Beaulieu, Stoney Cross and Holmsley
  • At Lepe beach is possible to see where the temporary Mulberry Harbours for D-Day were constructed
  • Members of the Special Operations Executive completed their training at Beaulieu, before being deployed as secret agents in occupied Europe
  • Some of the most powerful bombs dropped during World War Two were tested at Ashley Walk

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