Wartime walks

Saturday 3 & Sunday 4 June 2017

Early on the morning of 18th April 1944 a lone German bomber emerged from the clouds over the Isle of Wight. Within 15 minutes it lay in pieces in a field close to Exbury House, which, as the Combined Operations base ‘HMS Mastodon’, played an important role in the preparations for D-Day. The enemy intruder had flown a strange meandering circuit over the Isle of Wight; when attacked it had failed to fire a single shot in self-defence; and, curiously, it had fired a number of red distress flares.  Having then made its way across the Solent, where the Allied invasion fleet was assembling, the Junkers 188 was pounced on by two RAF fighter planes and forced down on the Exbury estate. There were no survivors.  Mysteriously, at the crash site it was discovered that the German bomber had been carrying seven men when this type of aircraft was thought to require a crew of only four. Further, there was evidence to suggest that not all the men on board the plane had been German.

The mysterious circumstances surrounding the incident have been the source of great fascination over the years, and provided the writer Nevil Shute with the inspiration for his novel ‘Requiem for a Wren’. John Stanley spent more than six years researching this wartime riddle, culminating in the publication of his book ‘The Exbury Junkers: A World War II Mystery’ (Woodfield Publishing).

The guided walks unravelling the mystery of the Exbury Junkers will start and end inside Exbury Gardens, visiting the site of the bomber crash and other areas not usually open to visitors, including a remaining Nissen hut where painted name tags showing tinned foodstuffs issued to those at Mastodon can still be seen.

For more information, Box Office on 02380 891203.

Walks are £5 per person in addition to the gardens admision and will last approx 1 1/2 hours. Sensible footwear should be worn as some of the walk will be over uneven ground.

‘We recently had some friends from London to visit and were looking for something to entertain our young children for the day. We decided to give Exbury Gardens a try and I thought it was wonderful. We had Sunday lunch in the restaurant and the food was far superior to other local attractions so compliments to the chef. Walking through the gardens was beautiful with lots of little pathways to explore. I have lived in the Romsey area for many years and always thought Exbury was a little out of the way but it only took me 20 minutes from the motorway. We will definitely be a regular visitor from now on.’

Philip Moulds, New Forest

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