RAF Manston was an RAF station in the north-east of Kent, at grid reference TR334663 on the Isle of Thanet from 1916 until 1996. In the winter of 1915-1916 these early aircraft first began to use the open farmlands at Manston as a site for emergency landings, thus was soon established the Admiralty Aerodrome at Manston. By 1917 the Royal Flying Corps was well established and taking a part in the defence of England. The German air raids had lasted for thirteen weeks, the last being on 22 August 1917, shortly after such formation raids and in consequence the Cabinet recommended the creation of a separate Air Ministry. The RAF was officially formed on 1 April 1918, at the start of the Second World War, Manston hosted a School of Air Navigation but this was quickly moved out. On 10 September 1939, No.3 Squadron flew in equipped with Hawker Hurricanes, during an eventful Battle of Britain, Manston was heavily bombed, at its height, diary entries recorded a steady stream of damage to aircraft and buildings. The station was also littered with unexploded bombs and this caused many staff to move to nearby woods for at least a week. Others were dispersed to surrounding housing, for example, WAAFs stationed at Manston were billeted at the nearby Ursuline Convent in Westgate on Sea. Barnes Wallis used the base to test his bouncing bomb on the coast at nearby Reculver prior to the Dambusters raid, a prototype is on public display at the Spitfire & Hurricane Museum. Hawker Typhoon attack aircraft were based there later in the war and it was used as a departure point for airborne forces in Operation Market Garden. It was one of the few airfields installed with the Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation system designed to remove fog from airfields by burning it off with petrol, along with RAF Carnaby and RAF Woodbridge, Manston was developed as a South coast emergency landing ground for bomber crews. These airfields were intended for use by returning bombers suffering from low-fuel and/or suspected damage to their pneumatic and/or hydraulic systems, all three airfields were equipped with a single runway,9,000 ft long and 750 ft wide. There was a clear area of 1,500 ft at each end of the runway. At each of the three airfields, the runway was divided into three 250 ft lanes, the northern and central lanes were allocated by flying control, while the southern lane was the emergency lane on which any aircraft could land without first making contact with the airfield. The hilltop site was chosen as it was usually fog-free and had no approach obstructions, the museums on site display some startling aerial views dating from this era and the post-war years. After the war, the runway was reconfigured, becoming 200 feet wide with a parallel taxiway. During the Cold War of the 1950s the United States Air Force used RAF Manston as a Strategic Air Command base for its bomber, fighter and fighter-bomber units, in the early 1950s, SACs backbone bombers were the Convair B-36 and Boeing B-47 Stratojet. To support this strategy, the SAC 7th Air Division was established in May 1951, at the time, Manston had only partially recovered from the ravages of the Second World War
Image: RAF Manston
A Luftwaffe aerial photograph of RAF Manston at the outbreak of war in 1939 when it was still an all-grass airfield
USAF Boeing B-47E-50-LM, AF Ser. No. 52-3363, in flight.
Republic F-84E-1-RE Thunderjets of the 512th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. AF Ser. No. 49-2066 is in the foreground.