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RAF Manston (the old control tower)HFF!

RAF Manston (the old control tower)HFF!
A History of RAF Manston.
World War one
At the outset of the First World War, the Isle of Thanet was equipped with a small and precarious landing strip for aircraft at St Mildred’s Bay, Westgate, on top of the chalk cliffs, at the foot of which was a promenade which had been used for seaplane operations. The landing grounds atop the cliff soon became the scene of several accidents, with at least one plane seen to fail to stop before the end of the cliffs and tumble into the sea, which for the fortunate pilot had been on its inward tide.
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 the close of 1916 there were already two distinct units stationed at Manston, the Operational War Flight Command and the Handley Page Training School. Its location near the Kent coast gave Manston some advantages over the other previously established aerodromes and regular additions in men and machinery were soon made, By 1917 the Royal Flying Corps was well established and taking an active part in the defence of England. The Government recommended the creation of a separate Air Ministry. The RAF was officially formed on 1 April 1918.

World war two
On 10 September 1939, No. 3 Squadron flew in equipped with Hawker Hurricanes and Manston was put under the command of No. 11 Group Fighter Command. During an eventful Battle of Britain, Manston was heavily bombed; at its height (August 1940) diary entries recorded a steady stream of damage to aircraft and buildings. The station was also littered with unexploded bombs. This caused many staff to move to nearby woods for at least a week. Others were dispersed to surrounding housing.
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 also the first Meteor jet squadron of the RAF. 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, Intensive, Dispersal Of (FIDO) system designed to remove fog from airfields by burning it off with petrol. The hilltop site was chosen as it was usually fog-free and had no approach obstructions. Being close to the front line, the airfield became something of a magnet for badly damaged aircraft that had suffered from ground fire, collisions, or air attack but retained a degree of airworthiness. 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 full-length parallel taxiway, both within the original paved width.

USAF use
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. The RAF control tower overlooked a bizarre hilltop runway, which was an extraordinary 750 feet (230 m) wide and 9,000 feet (2,700 m) long. The 7th Air Division expanded Manston by building concrete bunkers suitable for nuclear weapons and upgrading the support facilities for long-term use By the summer of 1953, the 7th Air Division began a series of temporary deployments of B-47 and B-36 wings from the United States to the United Kingdom. These deployments generally involved about 45 aircraft, together with about 20 KC-97 Stratofreighters which were maintained at the English bases for 90 days. At the end of the Temporary Duty, they were relieved by another SAC wing that was generally stationed at a different airfield. These deployments continued until 1955 when SAC shifted its rotational deployments to RAF Fairford and Manston was turned over to the United States Air Forces in Europe In July 1951 SAC deployed the 12th Fighter-Escort Wing to Manston to provide fighter escort for its rotational bombardment wings. The 12th, however, only remained at Manston until 30 November when it was replaced by the 123rd Fighter-Bomber Wing, with the 12th being transferred to Japan for combat duty during the Korean War. The 123rd was an umbrella wing that was formed from several Air National Guard squadrons activated for federal service during the Korean War. This wing was activated at Manston with three ANG fighter squadrons: The 123rd utilized the F-84E "Thunderjets" left behind by the 12th and continued the same mission of fighter escort of SAC's bombers.
In July 1952 the Air National Guard squadrons were returned to State control, and USAFE assumed the fighter escort role. In its place, the 406th Fighter-Bomber Wing was activated at Manston. Initially, the 406th utilized the existing F-84Es, however in August 1953, the F-86F "Sabre" began to arrive to replace them. On 15 May 1958 the 406th was inactivated, with its three air defence squadrons being assigned to continental Europe under the 86th Air Division (Defence) at Ramstein Air Base West Germany. After the transfer of the USAFE interceptors at Manston the base was returned to the RAF control.

Return to RAF use
With the USAF's withdrawal from Manston, the airfield became a joint civilian and RAF airport from 1960 and was thence employed for occasional package tour and cargo flights, alongside its continuing role as an RAF base. The Air Cadets used the northern side of the airfield as a gliding site, and 1 Air Experience Flight flying De Havilland Chipmunks was also based there. Thanks to its long runway, Manston was designated as one of the UK's MEDAs (Military Emergency Diversion Airfields) for emergency military and civilian landings. Others included RAF Greenham Common, RAF Aldergrove and RAF Machrihanish. For a number of years, the base operated as a Master Diversion Airfield, open 24 hours every day. Manston, uniquely in the UK, also had a 'foam carpet' crash landing system, where two tractors would pull tankers laying a metre thick layer of foam over a strip of runway, for aircraft with landing gear problems.

Search and rescue base
RAF Manston was home to a helicopter search and rescue (SAR) flight from No. 22 Squadron RAF from 1961, operating Westland Whirlwind aircraft. The flight was withdrawn in 1969, but the outcry led to the RAF contracting Bristow Helicopters from 1971 to 1974 to provide a continued service (also using MK3 Whirlwinds). In 1972, the Bristow crew was awarded the "Wreck Shield" for "Most Meritorious Rescue in 1972" by the Department of Trade and Industry. In 1974, the RAF SAR teams returned, with No. 72 Squadron RAF operating two Westland Wessex HC2 aircraft to replace the Bristow cover. The flight was transferred back to No. 22 Squadron in June 1976. In 1988 No. 202 Squadron RAF moved to Manston with their Sea King HAR.3, with the Wessex aircraft moving to RAF Coltishall. The Sea Kings remained at Manston until July 1994, when SAR activity at the base was halted, and SAR cover for the channel relocated to RAF Wattisham.

Civilian use
For some years two commercial airlines operated out of Manston, Invicta Airways and Air Ferry. Many thousands of holiday passengers started their journeys from Manston. From 1989 Manston became styled as Kent International Airport, and a new terminal was officially opened that year by the Duchess of York.

In 1996, Manston's satellite station RAF Ash, was closed, and in 1999, it was decided to close the RAF Manston base. The 'airside' portion of the base was signed over to the commercial operator of Kent International Airport.
The MoD decided to keep the central fire training school (CTE) facility open, and almost the entirety of the 'domestic' side of the base became FSCTE Manston (Fire Service Central Training Establishment). In 2007 the Army took over responsibility for fire fighting across the armed services (except the Royal Navy) and the school became the Defence Fire Training and Development Centre (DFTDC). In January 2017 it was announced that the 3rd Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment would be based at Manston.
The old control tower still exists as do the two museums the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial building and Manston History Museum.
There are currently 3 options on the table for the use of RAF Manston, An American company have plans to turn it into an air freight hub, the current owners want to develop the site with a lot of housing and the Government want to turn it into a lorry park! I wonder who will win???

My Thanks to various websites & books for research material.
My Thanks to all who read this long history but I thought it needed telling.

Ecobird, Berny, Jeff Farley, Karp Panta and 8 other people have particularly liked this photo

14 comments - The latest ones
Zulma club
Maravillosa toma!! HFF too. Love the benches John.
23 months ago.
 William Sutherland
William Sutherland club
Superb shot!

Admired in:
23 months ago.
 natureoncam aka Greg
natureoncam aka Greg club
Great shot!
Landed here in a RAF Hastings just before Xmas on way home from Germany when I was a lad not yet twenty.
Bitterley cold and a do it by the book Customs officer!!
23 months ago.
Ruth club
Great shot and a very well researched narrative John. Out of the three options on the table I think the air freight hub sounds the better of the three, I do hope it doesn’t become houses or a lorry park.
23 months ago.
Ruth club
Thank you for posting your wonderful image to
Interesting Views
23 months ago.
 Roger (Grisly)
Roger (Grisly) club
Fascinating information to accompany the image John
really interesting thank you.
23 months ago.
HFF John
23 months ago.
Gudrun club
An interesting history and I guess a typical one- HFF, John!
23 months ago.
 Percy Schramm
Percy Schramm club
Very impressive building and an interesting history too. HFF, enjoy your weekend, John !
23 months ago.
 Karp Panta
Karp Panta club
HFF and a nice weekend !!!
23 months ago.
 Jeff Farley
Jeff Farley club
A superb shot and HFF John - like the info too.
23 months ago.
Berny club
HFF John,
thanks for the info!
23 months ago.
Ecobird club
A lovely shot and thank you for adding the history here John. It is really interesting. I am guessing there is more money to be had in the housing option! A shame though. HFF and have a good weekend
23 months ago.
 Peter Modes
Peter Modes
Very interesting story and picture. Kind greetings from Peter.
15 months ago.

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