|by Bill Bawden, PRO|
19 March 2013
Monthly meetings resumed at our Fairoaks Airport base in March when members were entertained by an illustrated talk from guest speaker Peter Jenner on the Second World War history of RAF Station Hartford Bridge. Situated in our home area near Camberley, it is now known as Blackbushe Aerodrome.
Peter described the build-up from the first military arrival in 1941, through the laying-down of the runways in the following year and the increasing activity at the airfield as the war progressed.
In 1942 it became the base for Nos 171 and 430 (RCAF) Squadrons flying Tomahawks and Mustangs and during 1943 these units departed to be replaced by 134 (PR) Wing consisting of Nos 16 and 140 Squadrons operating Spitfires and Mosquitos. Later that year Hartford Bridge was designated a diversion airfield for Bomber Command and to this end became one of the handful of places to be equipped with Fog Intensive Dispersal Operation (FIDO), a system requiring the use of an immense amount of fuel but enabling aircraft to land in conditions of very poor visibility.
As D-Day neared, Hartford Bridge became part of the Second Tactical Air Force and was the base for 137 Wing consisting of Nos 21, 88, 107 and 342 (Free French) Squadrons flying Ventura, Boston and Mosquito aircraft making low-level attacks on transport and service targets in Northern Europe. Other units to operate from the airfield included No 226 Squadron flying Mitchells engaged in clandestine communications with resistance organisations, No 322 (Netherlands) Squadron flying PR Spitfires and No 264 Squadron with Mosquitos.
After the Normandy landings, many of the units moved to France following the Allied armies as the liberation of Europe progressed. They were replaced by 138 Wing with Nos 107, 305 (Polish) and 613 Squadrons flying night intruder operations with Mosquitos and later 136 Wing was formed with Nos 418 and 605 Squadrons performing the same function.
RAF Hartford Bridge thus had a brief but very varied history that came to an end in December 1944 when it was renamed Royal Air Force Blackbushe.
We record with regret the death of another World War II veteran ACA member. Cyril Watford volunteered for the RAF in 1940, trained as an air gunner and flew operations in Wellington and Liberator bombers with No 160 Squadron in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. His log book records raids on Tobruk, Benghazi, Tripoli, Crete, Naples and Sicily.
He returned to England in 1943 to become a gunnery instructor at Cranwell and Talbenny. Later that year he began a second operational tour when he joined No 282 Squadron at Davidstow Moor in Cornwall and engaged in anti-sub marine and air-sea rescue missions using Warwick aircraft.
Cyril was commissioned and appointed gunnery leader in 1944 and in all completed 59 operations before leaving the RAF in 1946. We are grateful to Cyril’s son, Peter Watford, for providing the photograph and details of his father’s service career.
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