CELEBRATIONS are taking place to mark the 70th anniversary of a Hampshire airfield that played a vital role during the Second World War.

Stoney Cross, the largest of 12 wartime airfields built in the New Forest, was used to supply the French Resistance and the Special Operations Executive, a British organisation that worked behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Europe.

American gliders deployed in the D-Day landings were assembled at Stoney Cross, which was used by the United States Air Force from 1944 onwards.

As reported in the Daily Echo, servicemen based there included President Obama’s grandfather, Sergeant Stanley Dunham.

Visitors to the airfield included General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe.

After the war Stoney Cross became a major staging post for RAF transport planes flying to the Far East, but by December 1946 the few remaining units at the airfield had been transferred to RAF Manston in Kent.

The land was handed back to the Forestry Commission, which demolished all four hangars, the control tower and most of the perimeter tracks.

The huge concrete runways were broken up to meet the demand for hardcore in the area.

However, a study published in 1970 suggested closing Southampton and Bournemouth airports and building a large international terminal at Stoney Cross.

The proposal was never adopted and little remains of the airfield today, although the former runways are still visible from the air.

One of the perimeter tracks is used as a road and the remains of runway landing lights are also visible.

In the early 1950s part of the airfield was used by New Forest District Council to house homeless families.

Although flying commenced at Stoney Cross in the autumn of 1942 the site was not completed and formally opened until the spring of 1943.

To mark the anniversary Friends of New Forest Airfields are holding at exhibition tomorrow at the New Forest Airfields Education Centre in Merryfield Park, Bransgore.