West Moors Outstation

St Leonards Hotel, West Moors, Hampshire
Call sign
Omagh 1 = Osterley 12
Down Station
Special Duties Personnel
Role Name Posted from Until
Observer Mr George Baker Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Operator Mr Edward G. Harvey Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Operator Mrs Beryl Christina Howe Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Station description

The wireless was at the St Leonards Hotel, an inn on the main road across the New Forest. It was ideally located to observe through traffic after an invasion to the west and also was the nearest hostelry to the airfield at RAF Ibsley, which likely would have been taken over by the Germans as well, with the airmen bringing intelligence literally through door.

The Hotel was built in 1936 for Strong’s Brewery of Ringwood. Its first proprietor was Ted Harvey. The location was described in “The Last Ditch”, which obliquely refers to a “public house on the main road about 10 miles north of Bournemouth”. It was entered through a shed at the bottom of the garden and it was then necessary to go through a succession of rooms, each connected to the next by concealed doors. In the last, the transmitter was hidden behind the wall. According to a newspaper report, it was so well camouflaged, that often the operators struggled to find it themselves.

Ted Harvey’s daughter showed John Hawkins that the entrance was what is now an uneven area in a small group of pine trees in the overflow car park. The hatch was described as a trapdoor, covered with pine needles and cones. Later a tree trunk which could be lifted was fitted to the hatch. Apparently the soil dug out to install the bunker was camouflaged as part of an enormous compost heap, which is where all their rubbish was thrown, and also where they grew tomatoes. There was also said to have been a buzzer concealed in the trunk of an oak tree on the western perimeter. This could be used to warn the occupants if it was not safe to come up. John Stedman, who delivered despatches from Coleshill by motorbike, recalled going into the hotel and being able to enter the base from the interior of the hotel, suggesting a connection to the cellars.

As the site was part of two networks, Omagh and Osterley, it may have had two sets of aerials to allow it to operate in different directions. We have details of some of the servicing work from the diary of Alf Ellis, who was a Royal Signals sergeant with Auxiliary Units who built and repaired sites. He describes delivering set TR3 back to the site on 12 May, and on 18 May that the site was connected. On the 19th, there was an inspection by a General and a Colonel. On 21 May 1942, he records that the West Moors site was dismantled and a “station erected”. On 13 July he tested the set from car of fellow signaller, Bill Air, reporting everything to be ok, but the following day, tested to a site fixed at top road and reported no result. On 5th September he delivered a new battery and on the 14th reports replacing a handset. On the 17th he describes fitting a new step to the dugout but that something (illegible) was unsuccessful. He also records several other test operations between this site and others in the two networks.

St.Leonards Memorial Plaque

Caption & credit
The St Leonards Hotel seen in a pre-war postcard.
Caption & credit
St.Leonards Hotel grounds 2022 (M.Allen)
Caption & credit
Memorial plaque inside the hotel (M.Allen 2022)
Map Location

West Moors Outstation