EAST BOLDRE
RFC BEAULIEU
See also BEAULIEU
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Updated 22 Nov 2014.

Lat/Long 50 47N/01 29W .
Grid ref SU 350005 .
130 feet ASL.

RUNWAYS Grass

East Boldre Airfield map
East Boldre Airfield ,showing area used in 1910 and 1916/center>
East Boldre Airfield

The site at East Boldre was first used as an aerodrome in May 1910 ,when William McArdle(of Bournemouth) and J.Armstrong Drexel(a US citizen), set up the New Forest Flying School ,using 2 Bleriot type aircraft.The airfield and two sheds on the site were initially built without official permission- this having been refused by the Office of Woods.
The airfield opened on the 1st of May 1910 with a flying display by McArdle and Drexel, who were flying their two Bleriot monoplanes .The school was very busy initially and had a good number of aspiring pilots.By late May 1910 the school had seven aircraft- this figure later rose to ten by September.

On 18th June 1910 , Drexel,flying from East Boldre, set a new British height record of 1070 feet- the record was shortlived however - being bettered by Mr C Grace at Eastchurch two days later(1180ft).

Hangarage was available at 50 per annum with free use of the aerodrome.

The aerodrome was apparently "the place" to be seen - having visits by HSH Princess Louis of Battenburg and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.The advert below appeared in a 1910 booklet entitled "All about aviation,Bournemouth Centenary Fetes of Aviation in England"( A PDF copy was kindly provided by John Fergusson).

Unfortunately,interest declined after the first rush of enthusiam and lack of support caused the closure of the Flying School by the end of 1911.

ABOVE:William D McArdle (on right),J Armstrong Drexel (on left).
Postcard showing William McArdle and Bleriot monoplane
J Armstrong Drexel.

In 1912 the site was considered,and rejected by the Royal flying Corps,but changing circumstances(i.e. World War 1) led to the RFC occupying the site in November 1915 for use as a flying training school.In 1917 the RFC site was expanded to include the whole of the original 1911 field.In addition 3 new hangars ,barracks and workshops were built.The site became known as RFC Beaulieu.
When the war finished the need for East Boldre disappeared and the RAF (renamed in April 1918) moved out in 1919. The photo below, believed to be from 1918 ,shows an unidentified pilot at East Boldre with an Avro 504

The churchyard at St Pauls Church ,East Boldre, contains the graves of several RFC/RAF personnel killed in training accidents at East Boldre Aerodrome.Two of these are shown below - thanks to Mike Lomas for these pictures(and also the Village Hall picture).

During the 20s and 30s there was an entry in the Automobile Associations handbook of a civil landing ground at East Boldre(SU 380 015) with a landing run of 310yds,no hangarage. This referred to a private airstrip to the northeast of the original RFC field between Hatchet Lane(B3054) and East Boldre village.Contact point was by telephone to Swinesleys Farm which is approx 800yds NE of the RFC area.

The site had further involvement with aviation when,following WW2,the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment at RAF Beaulieu (located on the far side of the Lymington road)used the original airfield as a drop zone for parachute experiments from 1946 until 1950.

However nowadays (2007) the only remaining sign of this World War One aerodrome is the building pictured below which is now part of the East Boldre village Hall and the word "Beaulieu" in the heath just to the south of the Lymington road.

RFC/RAF Units

16 training Sq .Avro 504/B.E.2c/Curtiss Jenny arr 12/16
59 Sq Sopwith Camel arr 11/17
79 Sq Sopwith Dolphin,arr 8/8/17 dep 20/2/18
84 Sq.B.E.2c/B.E.12a Formed 7/1/17 dep 22/3/17
103 Sq .various types.Formed 1/9/17 dep 8/9/17
117 Sq DH.4/R.E.8,formed 1/1/18.disbanded 7/18
29 Training Depot Station.formed 7/18 from 59 and 79 Sqs.

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