13th March 1937
Building work starts on Guernsey Airport
Work began on Guernsey Airport in 1937. The ground was broken in mid-March, and the project was scheduled to take two years to complete, on a budget of £90,000. The build slightly over-spent, coming in at a total of £100,500.
If that doesn’t sound like much – or long – remember that the concrete runway it has today wasn’t part of the original plans. The first incarnation of the airport at La Villaize had four grass landing strips and a much smaller terminal building. The only concrete used was a thin strip along the centre of the runways, which marked their course and direction.
The longest runway was 930m (3060ft). That was around two and a half times longer than the runway at L’Eree had been, but far shorter than the airport’s current single runway, which is 1583m (5194ft).
Until the Forest site was opened, planes coming to and from Guernsey used the low ground at L’Eree, which was prone to flooding. Before that, the service had been provided by flying boats, which put in at St Peter Port. These had been a natural progression from the seaplane base that Guernsey had hosted during the First World War.
The current site hadn’t always been a given. In spring 1934, Jersey Airways had requested that a proper aerodrome be built at L’Ancresse, which is logical as the site is generally flat and unobstructed. The final decision lay with the Deputies, who debated the matter and chose the high ground at La Villaize instead. It sits 102m (366ft) above sea level.
Work began almost right away and required the removal of five miles of hedges and 120,000 cubic metres of earth. It was completed on time and opened by the Minister for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood, on 5th May 1939. The man in charge was Flight Lieutenant FA Swoffer.
Regular civilian air services didn’t really get going until late 1946, following the occupation. It had been taken over by the RAF four months after its opening, and in 1940, German aircraft landed there, marking the start of the occupation.
What else happened in Guernsey in March?
A body on a beach, an impossible alibi and an unstoppable race against time!
Check out the first book in The Sarnian series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey.