Visitors to the Wessex region
travelling south from Salisbury on the A338 towards Ringwood
are probably aware as they pass through delightful villages
such as Downton and Breamore that they are skirting the
north western edge of the New Forest. Further on, past Fordingbridge,
in what appears to be just a few scattered houses, an 'Olde
Worlde' pub and the remnants of an ancient church (now St.
Martin's art gallery) are the fringes of Ibsley. Turn left
here into Mockbeggar Lane, drive straight on for a short
distance and you come across a staggered cross roads in
the village itself.
Turn right at
this junction, passing a small stone monument on the right,
and you will soon come across a group of building known
as Moyles Court; but keep a sharp look out on this stretch
of road to catch a glimpse an old RAF control tower. From
leaving the A338, some two miles distance, you will have
now covered two sides of a rectangular area which once comprised
Ibsley Airfield, a small and vital part in Britain's defence
in the Second World War.
stripped of its former glory in the quest for gravel
and aggregate to feed the construction industry, the
site is barely recognizable to those dark days in the
Forties and is now slowly returning to nature, much
as it would have been before all the flying activities
of the war years.
RAF Ibsley was
commissioned early in 1941 with the arrival of a squadron
of Hurricanes. Over the next few years Spitfires were based
there and, in '44, prior to the D-Day landings, American
P-47 Thunderbolts and P38 Lightnings replaced the British
aircraft. Later, Oxford Trainers, Dakotas and Hadrian gliders
were a common sight at the airbase.
in 1946 and closure of the site soon followed, after which
the land (complete with runways, perimeter track, etc.)
was handed back to the land owner, Lord Normanton, and his
tenant, Mr W. Samson.
Like some other
Ministry of Defence sites of the era, Ibsley was to become
another fascinating link in Britain's post-war motor sport
history. Readers of this magazine will recall that road
racing had been re-introduced to the area after the war
by the Blackmore Vale Motor Cycle Club and the West Hants
and Dorset Car Club at Blandford, and elsewhere. The Ringwood
Motor Cycle and Light Car Club, however, chose the Ibsley
site after representations to the owner by prominent club
members who were also linked to the W.H.D.C.C. Familiar
names of the time like Joe Huxham, Tom Bryant, George Hartwell
- all local garage owners - spring to mind, as well as Messrs
Les Hext, Fred Milford and the legendary Club Secretary,
granted, however, it was not all plain sailing. Farmers
keep livestock and a variety of farming implements, which
makes an awful mess. To make the proposed circuit safe to
race, the whole length and breadth had to cleaned by hand
with shovels and brushes. Dozens of volunteers were enlisted
for this monumental task and it is a tribute to the enthusiasm
and dedication of all those concerned that this was done
before every meeting over the five year period. Some of
the old boys still won't talk about this aspect of racing
to this day!
the ball was rolling, Joe Huxham,
who had a foot in both the car and
motor cycle camps, smoothed
the way for the West Hants and Dorset
Car Club; the stage was set for a
period of increasingly interesting
and competitive motor sport.
Times announced at the time under the headline of Aircraft
Runways as Race Track that 'the Ringwood Motor Cycle
and Light Car Club have completed negotiations and received
permission to use Ibsley Airfield, three miles from Ringwood
on the Salisbury road, for road racing under the auspices
of the A.C.U.'
The first meeting
took place on Whitsun Saturday. Interestingly, all racing
at Ibsley took place on Saturdays due to the proximity of
St. Martin's church (now the aforementioned art gallery)
which was so close to the circuit that the noise of racing
machinery would have disturbed the congregation at worship.
This, of course, had quite a detrimental affect on 'takings'
because in those days many people worked a five and a half
or six day week, so had difficulty attending a full day's
The first racing event
at Ibsley was on 17th May, 1951. It was a great success
as Motor Cycling magazine wrote under the heading
A New Circuit at Ringwood. 'Safe and well surfaced.
That was the general opinion of riders about Ibsley Airfield,
a 2.1 mile circuit' .... Just what all those volunteers
who had cleaned the circuit wanted to hear.
Star of the first meeting
was local man Bob Foster on his Velocette. He won the Junior
350cc and rode the same machine in the Senior race, just
managing to make the final after a straw bale 'encounter'
in his qualifying heat. This prompted Motor Cycling
to say, 'he had four laps in which to oust eight men in
order to qualify for the final. In those few minutes thousands
saw, perhaps for the first time in their lives, how a 350cc
world champion does his stuff' ... But in the final it was
not to be and Foster finished a fighting fourth. Second
place was taken by P.E.S. Webb on his JABS - short for Just
Another Bloody Special. Entry fees for riders were 15/-
or 75p in today's money and prize money was £5 rising to
£25 for winners, plus £5 for the fastest lap of the day.
Three months later,
on Saturday 4th August, the first four wheel car meeting
was held and this was a great success, too, with many well
known names competing. Dennis Poore won the main event of
the day for racing cars over 500cc in his pre-war 8C Alfa
Romeo from Oscar Moore (H.W.M.) and Sydney Allard in an
Allard. Colin Chapman, on the threshold of a brilliant career,
won the 750cc race in his special Lotus with modified Austin
Seven engine and Lt.Col P.K. Braid (famous for landing on
the guardroom roof during a race at Blandford) won his heat
in the 500cc class.
year, 1952, was the great Mike Hawthorn's year. The programme
editor, not having a crystal ball, wrote, 'The fourth new
car in this group (Formula B, or II Racing cars) is the
Cooper-Bristol, to be driven by Mike Hawthorn'.
|'This car is so
new that at the time of writing it is not even finished,
but it is hoped that it will be ready to compete in
this its first race .... although not as powerful as
the others, it is exceptionally light'. Hawthorn, of
course, went on to dominate the meeting.
This meeting also marked
the first appearance in this part of the country of the
famous Ecuria Ecosse team from Scotland. Unfortunately,
they only managed third place behind Sydney Allard and Oscar
Moore in the sports car race.
All the remaining
motor cycle meetings were national events with entries rising
from 130 in 1951 to 199 in 1955, but more about that in
the next edition. To be concluded.
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