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'No withdrawal': WW2 scrapbook reveals defiance of real-life Dad's Army

March 27th, 2014

Experts said the soldiers would have had a “cat in hells chance” of repelling an invading force from the tiny New Forest village of Beaulieu, with a population of around 500.

But they planned to “harass” and “hinder” the enemy while obeying their orders to “hold their position to the last man and last round.”

Their sacrificial efforts were meant to give the regular British forces time to manoeuvre into a position where they were better placed to thwart the attack.

Lt Col Crofton, who died in the 1950s, was second in command of the 9th (Forest) Battalion, and later commander of the nearby 28th (Bay) Battalion.

His scrapbook contains dozens of previously unseen official documents – stamped “secret” – that he produced for his troops from September 1943.

It contains defence plans, letters, and orders showing a series of machine gun posts, tank traps, road blocks, snipers and a mine field.

One of the book’s most detailed plans is a hand-drawn map showing how the picturesque village of Beaulieu was turned into a defensive garrison.

In the event of an invasion, a group of 44 men were to be stationed at five pillboxes, roadblocks and numerous firing positions from local buildings.

The firing positions included the Montagu Arms – now a Michelin Star restaurant and hotel – and a wall with firing holes at Beaulieu Abbey.

Some remains can still be seen today, including four of five bunkers which can be seen in the village’s former dairy, mill, and garage.

One typed document – headed New Forest District Defence Scheme and with a red “secret” stamp – outlines the troops’ responsibilities.

It reads: “The task of all tps (troops) under Comd (command) is to prevent enemy seaborne and or airborne raiders damaging vital Installns (installations) or equipment, and to destroy, harass, and delay any enemy who set foot in HAMPSHIRE.

“All tps will be allotted a definite role and will hold their positions to the last man and last round.


The Home Guard were defending Fawley oil refinery, road and rail links, and fuel supply lines through the New Forest National Park.

Major Edward Crofton, Lt Col Crofton’s son, has loaned the scrapbook to the New Forest Remembers World War II Project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

Gareth Owen, from the project, said: “We’re very grateful to the Crofton family for this unique collection full of top secret orders and maps that probably should have been destroyed once it was read.

“Yet they were kept and they offer a real insight into how the Home Guard operated in the New Forest.

“The image we have of the Home Guard, due largely to Dad’s Army, is of a shambolic if well-intentioned group playing at being soldiers.

“However the documents in the Crofton book show how well-organised and dedicated the Home Guard were and how they were willing to give their lives to delay the advance of any invading German force.”

He added: “They were of a mature age and not suited to jumping in an out of trenches but they were highly skilled individuals.

“It is unlikely they would have been much resistance to an invading force, but they would have harassed them enough to have delayed their progress, and could have given them a black eye.

“That would have been crucial in giving the full time British forces enough time to get into position further back.

“Some of the Home Guard would have known they did not have a cat in hell’s chance of beating the Germans, while others believed they could have sent them packing.

“To say they were like lambs to the slaughter is unfair, but it is likely they would have suffered casualties and were clearly prepared to sacrifice their lives if needed.”

Major Crofton, from Petersfield, Hampshire, said: “A lot of the documents in the book were marked top secret so they probably shouldn’t have been kept.

“But knowing my father I don’t think many would have questioned him hoarding them.

“I’m very glad they were not binned. We’re very lucky.”

In the past two years, the New Forest Remembers World War II Project has unearthed more than 1,300 previously-unseen documents, maps and photos as well as record more than 72 hours of oral histories.

The entire project, including the contents of the Crofton book, has now been digitised into an online archive.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “The project has been a great success.

“Fascinating tales of royal visits, prisoners of war and secret bombing tests have come to light to give us a fuller picture of that time.

“The digital portal will provide a lasting legacy for future generations to discover more about this fascinating period.”

World War Two

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