RAF Ibsley Battle HQ is a tactically positioned bunker just to the East of RAF Ibsley, within the conifer trees atop a copse. The bunker was constructed as a defence Headquarters should the nearby RAF Ibsley become overrun by ground forces. The bunker is largely hidden by the trees that surround it, which helps hide the bunker away. However, standing next to it at the surface, it’s easy to see the bunker’s location by its two huge concrete cupolas (observation points) that protrude from the ground. I was able to fuse this explore together with my glamour photography which was brilliant!
The nearby RAF Ibsley was shut down and demolished in the 50s, making way for ground excavation, which would later be filled in to form beautiful lakes in the area. While very little now exists of the base, there are a few nearby remnants which still exist, including the control tower, runway ends, trenches, gun mounts and bunkers (which includes the battle HQ). In researching the bunker, I discovered that the majority of the bunker inside was still in good intact condition, but had been sealed off with a gate to prevent people from wandering inside. Approaching the bunker from the base of the hill, a few clues as to the nature of the area could be distinguished, namely crumbling brick structures deeply embedded and only slightly protruding from the ground. Given the area was filled with trenches, it’s entirely possible that these are the remains of trenches to guard the command bunker.
Climbing the hill, the bunker quickly becomes apparent, with two bulbous concrete hulks contrasting the surrounding calm and quiet of conifers that shield them from view. The model and I got to work, taking some Mad Max/ Apocalyptic style photos and having a laugh while doing so. During the shoot, I realised that the gate which sealed off the inside from curious hikers was unlocked. I gently pushed at the gate and it swung open. I told the model to take five and I curiously ventured inside. The inside was damp and murky, but what I’d read was right, although completely barren, the bunker looked like it was still in good solid condition. The small rooms showed various graffiti on the wall and insects crawled everywhere, mosquito looking insects lined the walls and ceilings while spiders crawled back into the cracks they called home. Just inside the gate was a small information board which gave the history of the area and what part the bunker played in it, along with photos of airmen which served at RAF Ibsley.
The cupolas were also still accessible. Ducking down to avoid banging my head, I climbed the small set of stairs and peered out of the small slits into the nearby woods. I imagined what life in this bunker could’ve been like, where all you had for months on end was the bunker, those you were assigned to the bunker with and that your only access to the outside world was this tiny little slit I was peering through now. To consider the history was brilliant.
Although the gate was open when I visited, currently, it’s unknown when or if the gates will be closed and locked again. I do hope it isn’t locked up again, being able to dive into this small bunker in the middle of the New Forest is surely a beautiful and fascinating way of being able to explore, experience and understand a huge chapter of the National Parks history, which has all but been wiped out, aside for small treasures, like this one.
Last Updated on 21 October 2023 by Michael