Jersey Airways

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Jersey Airways:
The history of Jersey's first airline

Planes on beach (2).jpg

Jersey Airways' entire fleet of eight DH84 Dragons on the beach at West Park in 1934

Jersey Airways, formed in 1933, started operations from the beach at West Park, before the opening of Jersey's new airport in 1937. Operations ceased in 1940 and resumed after the war, until the company was compulsorily nationalised in 1947, to form part of British European Airways

Jersey Airways was formed in 1933 with a capital of £120,000 by local businessmen Bill Thurgood and L T H Greif, and farmer J A Peree.

Thurgood had owned a motor bus company in Ware, Hertfordshire, before selling it and moving to Jersey. He experienced a very rough boat crossing and vowed that nothing would make him repeat the experience – so he started an airline company to avoid that happening. He had noticed how wide and flat St Aubin’s Bay was and thought that he could cheaply run a plane service from the Island to mainland Britain.

The first commercial flight took place on 18 December, with a passenger service from Jersey to Portsmouth. The airline had its first maintenance base at Portsmouth Airport, and moved to Southampton Airport in 1935. The first flights from Heston (with a special bus connection from London) to Jersey began on Sunday 28 January 1934, flights from Southampton began in March, and a service to Paris operated during summer 1934. In its first full year, Jersey Airways carried 20,000 passengers, using a fleet of eight DH 84 Dragons, each capable of carrying eight passengers.

Bill Thurgood

Holding company

On 1 December 1934, Channel Islands Airways was registered as a holding company for Jersey Airways and its subsidiary Guernsey Airways, which had been formed a week earlier. Shares were bought by the Great Western Railway and the Southern Railway. This allowed expansion, and six four-engined DH 86s and two DH 89 Dragon Rapides were introduced in 1935 to replace the Dragons. A service to Rennes, in France, operated from 8 January 1935 to 29 March. A Plymouth-Jersey service began in April 1936, and to Exeter, Dinard and Shoreham in 1938.

Despite the difficulties of operating from the beach, with a flight schedule at the mercy of the tides, the airline prospered and was counted among the most successful in the British Isles. Such was the demand for flights at peak holiday periods that it was not uncommon for all eight of the airline's fleet to be on the beach at the same time.

Operations were not without their complications, however, because any mechanical problems resulted in aircraft having to be manhandled up the West Park slipway to be worked on on dry land, safe from the incoming tide. No aircraft were damaged by the waves but the coach used as an improvised waiting room for departing passengers was caught by the incoming tide and damaged beyond repair after being submerged beneath the waves.

By 1935 Bill Thurgood was looking to expand his aviation business, launching United Airways, which was to operate between Heston, Blackpool, the Isle of Man and Carlisle.

Flights moved from the beach to the new Airport in 1937, and business was booming when war and the German Occupation brought everything to a halt. Following the liberation Channel Islands Airways resumed scheduled services in June 1945 using ex-RAF Dragon Rapides. Jersey Airways and Guernsey Airways flights then terminated at Southampton and at Croydon.

The company looked on the airports in Jersey and Guernsey very much as their own, but gradually they had to face competition from other airlines operating charter and then scheduled services.

Route applications

An indication of Jersey Airways' pre-war ambitions is the fact that they applied on 14 October 1938 to the Air Transport Licensing Authority for permission to operate four major routes (see picture in gallery below).

They wanted a daily service to Southampton; a daily service to London via Southampton and Portsmouth; a weekly service to Exeter and a bi-weekly service to Brighton.

DH86 Belcroute Bay dwarfs the French DIY aircraft Pou du Ciel at Heston in 1935

Jersey Airways fleet 1933-1940

Type Registration Name
DH84 G-ACMC St Brelade's Bay
DH84 G-ACMJ St Aubin's Bay
DH84 G-ACMO St Ouen's Bay
DH84 G-ACMP St Clement's Bay
DH84 G-ACNG Portelet Bay
DH84 G-ACNH Bouley Bay
DH84 G-ACNI Bonne Nuit Bay
DH84 G-ACNJ Rozel Bay
DH86 G-ACYF Giffard Bay
DH86 G-ACYG Grouville Bay
DH86 G-ACZN St Catherine's Bay
DH86 G-ACZO Ouainé Bay
DH86 G-ACZP Belcroute Bay
DH86 G-ACZR La Saline Bay
DH89 G-ADBV St Ouen's Bay II
DH89 G-ADBW (unnamed)

This is the only complete online set of photographs showing all the De Havilland biplanes flown by Jersey Airways from 1933 until operations ceased in 1940. Although all the aircraft names are usually shown in the style 'Belcroute Bay', etc, they can also seen, at one time, to have borne the names in the style 'The Belcroute Bay', and this particular aircraft can also be seen with the name 'The Belcroute'.

It is notable that 'Ouainé Bay' was always spelt wrongly (it should have been Ouaisné Bay), and the error is further compounded on a postcard, on which it is described as 'Quainé Bay'.

A crowded Jersey Airways hangar in 1937


In 1947 the Labour government nationalised the UK airlines, including Jersey Airways, to form British European Airways (BEA). The Channel Islands authorities resisted this move, feeling that it was unacceptable to be dictated to by the British Government, who had no legal jurisdiction over the islands. However, it was made plain that flights from the Channel Islands would not otherwise be allowed to land in England, so they bowed to the inevitable, and the airline staff, the eight Dragon Rapides and their routes all became a part of BEA on 1 April 1947.

The States did manage to retain ownership of their airport, but were pressured into expensive repairs to the damage left behind by the Germans and then into upgrading facilities to meet the post-war demands for flying.

Click on any image to see a full-size version


Eleven weeks after Jersey Airport was officially opened in March 1937 the Post Office was prepared to trust Jersey Airways with carrying mail between the island and the UK, with the risk of it being washed away in a beach landing that went wrong now in the past. Letters to be carried in both directions were stamped the previous night ready for an early morning departure on 1 June

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