Blackbushe – London’s Lost Airport 1942-1960

The book entitled Blackbushe – London’s Lost Airport 1942-1960 by Robert Belcher records the history of RAF Hartford Bridge and thence Blackbushe Airport. It was the subject of a fascinating lunchtime talk at a Camberley and District Probus Club monthly lunch club meeting, recounting the eventful history of the airport. [Click on images to expand].

The A30 running from Bagshot to Hartley Witney goes through Hartford Bridge Flats, a somewhat desolate area of unimproved and barren heathland. The Flats were requisitioned by the Government in October 1941 as the base for a military airfield.

RAF Hartford Bridge opened in November 1942 and soon after became a base for a photo reconnaissance squadron. The airfield became increasingly busy during the war years, requiring closure of the A30 road, often for days. Looking at the map of the airfield, – below – it shows that runway 01/19 crossed the A30.

At the end of the war the government, looking at the future of civil aviation in the country, decided to invest in Heathrow as the main London airport, moving away from Croydon. In the years up to the late 1950’s Blackbushe was used as a diversion airport for Heathrow, and was also used by BEA [now part of BA] for pilot training. It was also a major base for the US Navy who carried out clandestine spy flights from this civil airport.

The airport’s heyday was between 1955-59, when it was the base for a number of civil airlines, such as Eagle Airways and Dan-Air Services, Silver City, and others.

In discussions, again at government level, as to where the second London Airport should be sited, Blackbushe lost out to Gatwick. Blackbushe was considered to be hampered by its closeness to Farnborough and Odiham, and that it also required significant investment in infrastructure, the airfield having only been considered to be a temporary wartime airfield.

Having lost out to Gatwick the airport was cited for closure in 1959, and much of the infrastructure was quickly demolished in 1960, and some of the runways were removed, with the land being handed back to its original owners.

In 1961 Blackbushe was reborn to be the small airport it is today.

4 thoughts on “Blackbushe – London’s Lost Airport 1942-1960

  1. Hello.:)
    Thanks for the interesting article about Blackbushe.
    My father , H.J. (“Bob”) Mann, was originally at the Control Tower at Heathrow (we were able to visit one day while he was working there… don’t suppose kids would be
    allowed in now….? ). My father had previously been in WW2, as “One of the Few”, in the Battle Of Britain….Spitfires, Hurricanes, etc.
    My Mother found an advert in the paper for trainees in Air Traffic Control, which ‘Pa’ went for, and got. I guess his solid experience in the aircraft world, plus being a modest war hero may have helped….
    We were living at Durham Avenue, Heston, then we moved (in stages )
    to Lightwater….Father then was in the control tower at Blackbushe, I guess until it
    closed…I didn’t know it HAD actually closed : I thought “Pa” was just moving along in his career….
    He then went to Farnborough, the R.A.E. (?), in a similar capacity…Because of his position, we all had free tickets to the Farnborough Air Show, and saw many jets etc., including Concorde , suddenly appearing low overhead from behind buildings :
    what a DIN !!! ).
    While Pa was there, the airport was used for a brief sequence in the film “Modesty Blaize”. We were proud of Pa : he was on camera as ‘background action’ (see, I’ve got all the right terms) , in the tower, in the final cut of the film. Fame at last ! A magnificent 2 seconds, for which he was paid £10 for the evening. That was generous in those days….
    Pa’s job at R.A.E. was, by the way was useful to me, because journey to work went through Frimley, and from our home at High View Rd., Lightwater, it was about 10 minutes by car to Frimley, whereas, by bus I had to leave about 0810, latest, then a 7/10 mile walk (run, cos always late), to The Corner Stores or The Off Licence, Guildford Road, then bus “all round the houses”, then change at Camberley, then another “round the houses”, arriving at school around 0900….. Often , I could get a lift to Frimley in Pa’s new white Ford Cortina, then hop on a bus for the short trip along Frimley Rd., to FCCGS. , courtesy of Aldershot & District bus services, or as a dear pal of mine called it,
    “Have a shot and risk it “….
    After Farnborough, Pa transferred to West Drayton, the RADAR facility, helping with Air Traffic. From about the early to mid 1960’s, his job became extremely complicated, judging from the piles of papers, etc he had to study at home : I did feel sorry for him….It was almost as bad as my 4 plus hours of homework every night ….
    After Blackbushe closed, my parents used to take us to the empty runway to practice car driving…no-one challenged us…that was valuable experience….My mother devised a phrase for safety, : “If in doubt, Both feet out !”. (Meaning depress clutch and brake together : not bad, really….I use it all the time…..except that my BMW has a brake on the left and accelerator on the right, so maybe I need to re-learn it ).
    Anyway, I thought I’d just send this ‘snippet ‘, as ”side story” to the article above.
    When Pa was at Blackbushe, a Christmas party was arranged there for the workers’ children….It’s funny how you remember the food , but little else !
    (sausages,bacon & eggs…. and a jolly atmosphere…)
    I seem to remember the rather run-down appearance of the main buildings,
    reflecting wartime use….
    Over the years, the airfield developed, and as you drive past it now, it’s clear it is ‘buzzing’.
    Best Wishes.
    Rosemarie Mann, now age 71, near Southampton.
    17 Aug. 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Rosemarie, yet another of your delightful reminiscences. When you’re passing this way, do let me know, and I’d be delighted to host lunch for us in Randalls Coffee Bar in the village. Tim

    Like

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