Engineers have uncovered a World War II bunker, said to be of “national significance”, while digging a trench on the former airfield site at Hamble.
The bunker was found on land behind Hamble Lane by engineers from contractor 4Delivery who were laying a new sewer for Southern Water.
During World War 2, Hamble’s North Airfield was mainly used as a base for repairing Spitfires, though the airfield also handled some much larger aircraft, including the B17 Flying Fortress. These larger aircraft were also repaired and modified locally, with one B17 notoriously becoming stuck in the mud in January 1943, partially blocking Hamble Lane, having recently been fitted with some top-secret submarine detection equipment…
Hamble was also home to one of the Air Transport Auxillary‘s ‘ferry pools’, civilian pilots who transported these repaired & modified aircraft around the country, to & from their squadron bases. The ATA ferry pool at Hamble was exclusively comprised of female pilots and had a female commanding Officer, Margaret Gore.
Hamble North Airfield [n.b. there was formerly a South Airfield] was thus of strategic importance and played an important role in the war effort. As such, it was a target for the Luftwaffe. The newly re-discovered bunker is thought to have been the HQ used to co-ordinate the airfield’s defence during an attack.
Still excited by the discovery, 4Delivery Site Manager Mike Homer said:
“At first we thought it was just a piece of concrete or a boulder but as we kept digging, we realised it was something much bigger. We were fascinated to discover it was a bunker.”
Having made the discovery, the 4Delivery team contacted Archaeology South-East, members of which were already working elsewhere on the site.
On closer inspection, they found it to be a red-brick bunker which had a concrete roof and steps and probably had five rooms including a messenger’s and runner’s room, a defence officer’s room, an observation room and a toilet.
The layout would probably have allowed the local defence officer a clear 360-degree view through a slit in an observation turret which had been removed when the structure was decommissioned after the war.
Still inside was evidence of light fixtures and fittings as well as coat hooks and remains of an iron ladder which would have been used as an escape route to the surface.
Archaeology South-East’s report concluded:
“The structure provides an interesting example of an airfield battle headquarters and is probably, therefore, of local and national significance.”
The bunker has been left in-situ and plotted for future reference. The site has been carefully covered back over and the pipeline, which follows a route that is agreed with Hampshire County Council, has been diverted around the bunker.
A full report on all the archaeological findings along the pipeline route will be published by Archaeology South-East in due course.
The pipeline is part of a £3.4 million scheme to construct a new 3.5km sewer from the Bursledon Wastewater Treatment Works in Hamble Lane to the School Lane Pumping Station in Hamble. Wastewater will then be pumped to Peel Common Wastewater Treatment Works in Fareham and the Bursledon treatment works will be taken out of service.
We have a Hampshire at War DVD – which features many local World War II sites – to give away to one lucky reader!
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