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Contributed by: Trevor STUBBERFIELD (52A)



1950 saw Air Trooping, using commercial airlines, really ‘take off’. (sorry!).  It spelt the start of the long drawn out demise of the troopship.  One disadvantage was the small number of passengers that could be transported with the aircraft available at the time, perhaps just 27 in the ubiquitous Viking which was a favourite of most of the contracted companies. Far below the numbers a troopship could move.  However, the advantage lay in the speed with which troops could be moved, with rapid turnarounds for the return journey and the next trip.  Journey times were measured in hours and days, not weeks and months.

Blackbushe airport became a very busy centre for this new phase of troop transportation.

It was quite near to our base at the ‘Arborfield Army Apprentices School’, perhaps 5 miles as the crow, and later the Eagle, would fly.  In fact, when escaping from the confines of our Arborfield school, ‘The Editor’ would ride up to the top of Finchhampstead Ridges from where one could look out over the flatlands and watch aircraft landing and taking off from Blackbushe.

Ironically this rapid transport system wasn’t quite matched by the way we travelled on the ground.  R.E.M.E. personnel would gather at the Depot, Poperinghe Barracks, in Arborfield, where we would be kitted out with appropriate clothing etc. to suit our intended destination, and from where we would travel up to the Goodge Street assembly centre, a subterranean, very deep shelter below the streets of London.  It had all the hallmarks of a tube station.  In fact, overnight visitors would be kept awake by the sound of tube trains rumbling through a tunnel, just the other side of a wall.

With all the intending passengers gathered together we were then bussed back to Blackbushe to join the aircraft waiting for us.  Basically, a 5 mile trip was turned into a 90 mile journey.

This would be the experience of the R.E.M.E. draft featured in the first photo below.


Please Note.

The following photos are reproduced by kind permission of Peter Brown who runs a web site dedicated to making sure Blackbushe is not forgotten.  It is a remarkable collection, and features the countless types of aircraft that flew from there.  To visit the site…………. 




There is a lack of information on this photo so there will be a lot of speculation along with a few facts.  It all adds up to the w,w,w,w, which is needed to turn a photo into an archive of that moment in time.  If anybody can contribute information, especially names, then it would be gratefully received by ‘THE EDITOR’.


Who?  Six R.E.M.E. Craftsmen and a Corporal forming a Draft.  An Airwork Air Stewardess on that day (Cabin Staff today) Daphne Turner, and an R.A.F. Policeman.  The aircraft is a Vickers Viking.

Why? The Draft is on a posting to ‘somewhere in the Middle East’.  The Stewardess will be along to attend to the needs of the passengers on the journey.  The Policeman is possibly a member of the Movement Control Office which could be found at airports, rail stations and docks.

When?  After 1950 when air trooping by commercial airlines got under way, but before 1957 when the company title changed to Airwork Services for contracts with the government.  Possibly the specially posed photo may be to record the start of a new route or service.  It would be quite early as the troops are wearing ‘ammo’ boots which, as a later photo shows, were banned and plimsolls or shoes became mandatory to prevent damage to the aircraft structure.

Where?  Blackbushe Airport in Hampshire, U.K. which became a major centre for Air Trooping.



1956, and the Suez crisis saw the evacuation of families, both civilian and service, from Egypt.  Here seen disembarking from a Britavia Hermes.  Our families based in Libya were also evacuated later with tragic consequences when the Britavia Handley Page Hermes G-ALDJ some were travelling in, crashed on approach to Blackbushe with a loss of life.  The plane had been set aside specifically for children and expectant mothers.  



Troops bound for the Middle East boarding a Skyways Hermes.  Destinations around this time were shrouded in secrecy and yet, in Tripoli, we could read the air mail edition of the Daily Telegraph and find out what troops were due to arrive by air and troopship, and when.



Information added 1st November 2020.


Operation ‘Encompass’.




January 1956, and troops of the Parachute Regiment give friendly waves before boarding a flock of 28 Avro Shackletons which had been assembled to transport them to Cyprus.  Shades of Dunkerque, when anything that floated was used in the evacuation, but here, anything that could get off the ground was pressed into service to get the maximum number of troops to the war zone as fast as possible.



!956, and troops of the 3rd. Battalion, Parachute Regiment, wait to board one of the Avro Shackletons.



1956, and troops of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment pass the time whilst waiting for their Hermes aircraft to be repaired.  No signs of finger crossing amongst them.



The lead photo had comments about boots eventually being banned when travelling by air.  And Lo, so it is confirmed in this photo where guardsmen are seen boarding with boots in hand.



An appreciation of the rapid development of Air Trooping was published in ‘Flight 10thOctober 1952’. (pdf.)



Long haul air trooping, 1954 style.  Blackbushe to Singapore, 9,000 miles in 3 days.  Compare that with the flight time of the same trip that would take place today.



Extra photo added 1st December 2019.

January 1956.  1st. Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, 1st. Infantry Division.  Kitbag weigh in for the flight to Cyprus.

Photo Credit: Highland Light Infantry Association.


Editor’s Note

There is a temptation to link the photo above to the three below.  I have contacted the H.L.I. Association to see if they can help with identification of the latter.  Watch this space.


Extra photos added 1st September 2019.

Media coverage of the departure from Blackbushe Airport of members of a Highland Regiment aboard a Britavia Hermes aircraft. No information of the occasion is recorded.  On the lower step can be seen a finely turned ankle in a stiletto heel topped by the kilt.  Explanation below……


A piper plays and the owner of the ankle is revealed.  A smiling celebrity send off for the troops.  Who?


The ‘highlanders’ queuing patiently to board the Hermes.


Possibly a trooping flight.  On extended flights, a number of foreign countries would not allow military personnel to transit or land whilst wearing uniform, hence many journeys were taken wearing civilian clothing.


A mixed flight of both military and R.A.F. personnel, some in uniform, others in mufti.  No details are available.



Photo added 1st May 2020.

Illustrated London News, Saturday 22nd November 1958.



If anybody can throw light on any of the photos, please contact ‘The Editor’  so that it can be passed on to Peter Brown who will add it to the history of Blackbushe.




First Published: 1st January 2016.

Latest Update: 1st November 2020.











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