Blackbushe – an Airfield Focus Special by Robert Belcher,
GMS Enterprises, soft cover, spiral bound, 110 pages, £9.99, ISBN 1-904514-50-2
The latest in the expanded A4-sized Airfield Focus Special series, this book covers the long, interesting and ongoing history of Blackbushe. Originally opened on 1st November 1942 as RAF Hartford Bridge, its main wartime role was to house various light bomber and ground attack squadrons as part of No.2 Group and then No.2 Tactical Air Force. It was very busy in the build up to D-Day and beyond and, interestingly, had the FIDO fog dispersal system fitted. When these squadrons moved to mainland Europe at the end of 1944 it was transferred to Transport Command and around this time it officially changed its name to Blackbushe.
Interestingly, this book devotes only 14 of its 110 pages to its wartime service, the bulk of its content covering the post-war years. Blackbushe became a busy civil airport in the late 1940s and 1950s and this period receives extensive covering. The fortunes of the various airlines based at Blackbushe are covered, as are the operations of the US Navy who used the airport as their UK transport base. New facilities and a large hangar were built for them on the north side of the airport. Blackbushe was also used for Heathrow diversions and BOAC training flights.
Unfortunately the airport never made much money and it was too close to other airfields such as Farnborough and Odiham. In late 1959 the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation announced it was to close the following year. Although this happened, support for a re-opening was strong and, following a dispute about land ownership, the majority of the land and facilities were sold to ‘Pathfinder’ Bennett. Blackbushe was re-opened as a private airfield in 1962 and private and business owners continue to use the airfield to the present day. The land ownership question resulted in an unusual situation as the post-war terminal building straddled the dividing line. The part of the building that was on common land had to remain unused for many years and was eventually demolished, leaving a shorter but still functioning terminal for the airfield.
The book is very well illustrated and includes detailed plans of the airfield, the dispersed sites and the first terminal that was a series of interconnected huts. It tells an interesting story well and can be recommended.