WITH its acres of woodland, The Forest of Dean played a vital role in Britain’s war effort.

From 1940 when the British Army arrived from the munitions factory at Rotherwas in Hereford to oversee the creation of a Cinderford storage depot, the Forest was a hive of secretive activity as engineers turned more than 14 miles of woodland tracks into roads and constructed Nissen huts for the soldiers who would work at the depot which would store conventional air dropped bombs, shells, mortars, hand held weapons and grenades.

In August 1942 the depot was handed over  to the US Army and and by the following year the Forest of Dean sites were among the biggest US ammunition depots in England with more than 1,00- British Americans soldiers living and working there. 

Eventually around 160 wagons of ordnance per day were arriving at railheads in Parkend, Bilson Green, Cinderford and Speech House.

To accommodate all the personnel working at the depot camps were built at Cinderford, Coleford, Lydbrook and English Bicknor to name a few with tales abounding of the American soldiers are their speedy driving around the Forest lanes

American cinema in the Forest

Wigpool Lake is one of the few natural lakes in the Forest of Dean and the area was used by American servicemen as they prepared for the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944.

During their time in the area members of the 144th Field Artillery Group 3rd Army converted a scowle hole known locally as 'Christ a Weeping' into a cinema. 

A large white sheet was hung up at the face and wooden seats were put in on the rear slope. According to local people the cinema was used several times a week

Local folklore suggests that when the Americans left the area they hid supplies of food and ammunition in one of the caverns which was sealed in with explosives. Many  local people have tried to locate these 'dumps' but so far all have failed.

A shadow factor

Pine End Works just outside Lydney was commissioned and constructed by the government in 1940 as s shadow factory, built in secret to keep making vital equipment when factories in other more industrialised areas had been destroyed by bombing. 

The site was designed  to produce technical aircraft and marine plywood for wartime requirements and during the war produced wooden aircraft panels for the Mosquito fighter-bomber and the Horsa assault gliders which were  used in the D Day landings.