5th May 1939
Guernsey Airport opened for business
Guernsey Airport was far from busy on its first day of business. In fact, it didn’t host any “regular” services until 1946, following liberation.
It looked very different to the airport that we know today. It had grass runways, rather than concrete, and a small terminal building. However, it was a significant improvement on the landing strip that had been established at L’Eree, which was prone to flooding and could barely accommodate aircraft of any decent size.
A split vote
The vote to establish the airport at its current location, in La Villiaze, Forest, was passed by the slimmest margin. Of the 51 Deputies that took part, 26 voted in favour, and 25 against. Work on its construction began on 13 March 1937.
Upon completion, its four grass runways, the longest of which was just 910m (1000 yards), were opened by Sir Kingsley Wood, the British Air Minister.
The airport had cost £100,500 to build, and had very little time to get established before the start of the Second World War. It was initially commandeered by the RAF, until the British government decided that the Channel Islands were of little strategic importance. Churchill ordered their demilitarisation and the RAF left.
The airport in the war
The airport didn’t stay out of action for long, though. German planes made an experimental landing there the day after they’d bombed the harbour. Encountering no resistance, they realised that the islands were undefended. They took over the airport in June 1940, and although Allied forces bombed it as the war drew on, they held it until Liberation Day in 1945.
In the years that followed the war, passenger numbers grew and the airport itself was developed. It got its first concrete runway in 1960. Then, when the existing terminal building could no longer cope with the number of passengers passing through it, a brand-new facility was built beside it. This opened for business in 2004 and the old terminal was demolished. The space where it previously sat is now used for aircraft parking.