THE future of a World War Two airfield control tower in the New Forest looks to have been secured.
Owners of the former RAF Ibsley site near Ringwood, Sembcorp Bournemouth Water, have agreed a lease with the RAF Ibsley Airfield Heritage Trust to take over responsibility for the building, with the aim of restoring it.
The airfield appeared in the 1942 film The First of the Few, which told how R J Mitchell battled ill health to design the Spitfire.
Roger Harrington, MD of Sembcorp Bournemouth Water, said: “We are very pleased that we have been able to work with the Trust and find a way to enable it to take control of work to preserve and restore the control tower at what was Ibsley Airfield.
“The building and its role hold important memories for many people and we wish the Trust every success in its venture.”
The Trust was formed in 2010 to work alongside the RAF Ibsley Historical Group, which has been researching the airfield and collecting material since 1992.
The Trust plans an ambitious role for the control tower as a heritage centre for RAF Ibsley and telling the air war story of the New Forest.
Planned projects include interactive displays, educational outreach initiatives for schools and colleges, recorded and filmed stories from surviving RAF Ibsley veterans, and a flight simulator experience over a virtual RAF Ibsley.
The Trust will start weatherproofing and structural surveys of the building in the next few months, followed by refurbishment plans and a major fundraising campaign.
RAF Ibsley Historical Group president, Shirley Simmonds, widow of Battle of Britain pilot Flt Lt Vernon Simmonds and herself a driver at the airfield during the war, said: “At last it finally feels like something is happening.
“I’m absolutely delighted that this building will be given a new and useful purpose, telling future generations the story of RAF Ibsley, its squadrons and the many thousands of personnel that served there.”
Roly Errington, chairman of the RAF Ibsley Airfield Heritage Trust, said: “This is a challenging but very exciting scheme we’re embarking upon.
“To make it succeed it has to be about more than just rescuing a unique building from dereliction, we must also give it a sustainable future.”
To help launch the project, the Trust will be holding a ‘RAF Ibsley Revival’ open day in the grounds of Moyles Court School on Sunday, June 3.
The former country house, dating back to the late 17th century, was the airfield station headquarters during WW2.
The story of a landmark building
THE landmark building at the old RAF Ibsley has been crumbling ever since the last planes took off almost 70 years ago.
Ibsley was built in the early 1940s, with rubble from bombed out buildings in Southampton being used for the foundations of the three runways.
The station closed in 1946 and was used as a motor-racing circuit before the runways were replaced by huge gravel pits.
The design of the control tower at RAF Ibsley, a type 518/40 ‘Watch Office with Meteorological Section’, is similar to some 50 others that were built by the Air Ministry during the rapid expansion in airfield construction before and during WW2.
However, this one is believed to be the only example in the country whose floors and balcony were formed entirely from concrete, and survives unaltered.