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YateleyAirfieldConstruction

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 3 months ago

Airfield Construction at Yateley

An area of Yateley Common was requisitioned in October 1941 for the construction of a new airfield. It took the firm of Robert McAlpine well over a year to build the large 3-runway airfield and its dispersal areas. RAF Hartford Bridge was officially opened on 7 Nov 1942, but was not finally completed until the spring of 1943. Announcement of the opening of the new aerodrome did not, of course, appear in the Camberley News, the only hints being that on the 25 Sep 1942 the newspaper reported the first RAF Dance at the Drill Hall. In the round-up of events at the end of the following year, the News stated:

The Vicar, the Rev R F Pechey, was appointed early in the year as Chaplain to the RAF.

 

Even before the official opening, the site had been used for glider trials by the RAE. On 7 Dec 1942 No 171 Squadron was transferred from Gatwick for reconnaissance duties along the French coast, but on 31 Dec 1942 the squadron was disbanded and the equipment was transferred to No 430 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which was formed at RAF Hartford Bridge on 1 Jan 1943.

Local men were in no doubt about the existence of the new RAF base in Yateley, since they helped build it:

When I first went to work building Blackbushe there was only about 4 or 5 of us. We built a water pipeline first to where the concrete was mixed. Then we dug out a huge hole which was used for storing the gravel to be added to the cement, and a high storage building for the bags of cement. I received a telegram from the Air Ministry congratulating my team on laying the most concrete in a shift. Lorries and dumper trucks were coming and going all the time collecting the concrete. When the runways were finished I worked on FIDO. This was a system for keeping the runway free from fog. We put in 2 fuel storage units like small gas holders, and then ran a pipeline down each side of the runway so that fuel could be pumped through them. The pipeline was perforated along its top side and the fuel was forced out as a spray which was then ignited. The heat generated cleared the fog alongside the runway. I was up there for about 12 months. Oral history recording of Mr Ted Harris

And the purpose for this new airfield? The liberation of Europe.

 

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