In the 1920s and 30s, Blandford had its own airfield known as
the Blandford Aerodrome. It could be found next to Blandford Cemetery along
Salisbury Road where today there is housing.
Apparently, it had three grass landing strips and was on the
Automobile Association’s Register of Approved Landing Grounds all of which were
inspected monthly. For an annual subscription, each AA member was provided with
a site plan and airfield map reference. Facilities such as hangers were listed together
with any hazards such as overhead power lines. Fuel supply details and suitable
overnight accommodation were also detailed. The AA also provided a box for
messages to be left which would be collected by an AA motorcyclist who would
pass them on, as required.
In November 1931, a Bryanston schoolmaster crashed at
Blandford when he lost control of his aircraft.
In Blandford Hospital with concussion and severe cuts, he laconically
commented, ’luckily it did not burst into
flames or I wouldn’t be telling the story!’
Blandford Airfield’s most memorable day was Wednesday 11th
July 1934, when Alan Cobham’s Air Display Team arrived. With afternoon and
evening shows, a large attendance was attracted. The group, known as his ‘Flying Circus’, consisted of daredevil
pilots and parachutists and ten propeller driven aircraft. Among them was
Flight Lieutenant Tyson and ‘glider girl’
Joan Meakin. Tyson’s performance involved looping a hoop located on the
airfield, picking up a handkerchief with his wing tip and then flying upside
down at 50 feet. Joan Meakin was the first woman to ‘loop the loop’ in a glider. Former Blandford Town Clerk, Charles Lavington
‘The late Sir Alan
Cobham and Captain Black were two of the pilots I remember. I think the charge
for a flight over the town was five shillings (25p) with an additional charge
if one took part in stunt flying such as loop the loop.’
There was a competition to win free flights as well as free
flights for local dignitaries.
In July 1935, Blandford Town Council was making
representations to the Air Ministry for the site to be taken over to become a
Royal Air Force base together with the then closed former RAF Blandford Camp
site. Unfortunately, the proposal did not come to fruition as the site was
considered too small not meeting the Air Ministry’s minimum 1,100 sq. yards
requirement. Three years later there was less enthusiasm for a RAF bombing
range being established a little to the north of the Cemetery Aerodrome. The
Council had been invited to a bombing demonstration at Porton Down. The
councillors were divided on the proposal but the mayor cast his vote against
the bombing range so it progressed no further.