From Small Beginings

One of the most charming photographs of the early days of Jersey Airlines shows the Earl and Countess of Jersey beside one of the Airline's two Rapides in the early 1950s. It comes from the scrapbook of Bernard Gardiner, the first pilot, and it has a timelessness about it that speaks of the heyday of British flying. It reminds me that Maldwyn Thomas was a pioneer - whether he intended it or not - of travel that would no longer be reserved for the wealthy. Lord and Lady Jersey could easily have found that their fellow passengers were farm workers from Brittany for Jersey Airlines started life looking south, to France.

Before I tell the story of the first flights, I need to set Jersey Airlines in context, to place it on an historical timeline. Perhaps we should go back to Dececmber 1933 when Bill Thurgood, a coachbuilder from Hertfordshire, established Jersey Airways and ran scheduled flights from Jersey to Portsmouth. His fleet of de Havilland Dragons, and later DH86 Express airliners, operated from the beach at West Park and his success prompted the States of Jersey - the local parliament - to build a proper airport in the parish of St Peter. It opened in March 1937 and was right at the cutting edge: its architects later designed the futuristic terminal at Birmingham.

The Channel Islands fell under German occupation on 1 July 1940 and islanders had to watch as the Allies re-took Normandy and made their way to Berlin before being liberated on 9 May 1945, one day after Victory in Europe Day. Jersey Airways resumed flying on 26 May using ex-RAF Rapides and, later, the new Bristol Wayfarer. The Labour government nationalised the airlines to create British European Airways (BEA) and Jersey Airways was required to surrender its aircraft and routes by 1 April 1947. There was talk of resistance by those who felt that the British Government could not dictate terms to the Channel Islands but, with a threat that its aircraft would be prevented from landing in England, Jersey Airways fell in line with the other ten independent airlines which, together, made up the new corporation.