Manston Layout History

This page is intended to be a central location for facts and photos concerning the layout and buildings of Manston. Lots more updates to come!

The beginning of Manston Airfield in February 1916. Sub Lt. Smythe with the first buildings.

29th May 1916

RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Manston becomes fully operational. No.3 Wing moves from Detling to RNAS Manston with two BE2c, one Short Biplane, four Sopwith 1½ Strutters and a Curtiss Biplane under the command of Lieutenant HP Smyth-Osbourne.

Up to this time it was merely a small aerodrome with Bessoneau accomodation but a proposal was made for Manston to be enlarged and made a more permanent air Station. Hangers suitable for large bombers, amongst others were erected during the latter part of 1916.

Manston Plan August 1916

20th September 1917

Various works and additions of buildings authorised, including construction of a permanent building for the Handley Page bombers. These may have included the ‘underground’ hangers, which were really half underground, but could have led to the rumours that continue to today.

8th January 1918

Air Department decides to make Manston an immense RNAS training establishment.

1st April 1918

Three day-bombing training squadrons move into new buildings after work completed on large permanent hangers, Bessoneau underground hangers, huge workshop and accommodation for 270 officers and 3,355 men.

5th July 1918

Owner of Pouce’s House wrote to attempt to recover the property commandeered for the airfield in 1916, but was refused.

RAF Manston – 27th December 1922 (Kent Archives)
Date to be confirmed.
View of East Camp RAF Manston. Date to be confirmed.
View of East Camp RAF Manston 1926
Pouce’s Farm, School, Hangers and Railway Terminal – Date to be confirmed. From aviationarchives.info
A view from the East, looking at the Spitfire Way junction (Spitfire Way leads to the left). The aircraft are Avro 504s of the Oxford University Air Squadron, which held Summer camps at Manston between 1926 and 1930.
Bristol fighters of 2 sqn alongside the Ramsgate Road in 1927
Manston 28th February 1930. No.3 Technical Training School in foreground; behind the school (right) is Pouce’s Farm which became the Commandant’s house and then the MOD Officer’s Mess. The Road running at the bottom is the B2050 Manston Road. The building that is bottom left at the junction remains to 2018.
A Luftwaffe aerial photograph of RAF Manston airfield taken in 1939. Northern Grass toward the top right.

Circa August 1940

Luftwaffe Recon photo some time after raids of 24/08/1940

5th October 1941

Wing Commander Tom Gleave arrives at Manston with orders to make it an operational station. Before leaving in September 1942, he campaigned for the long, wide runway of concrete or tarmac to save returning damaged aircraft.

5th June 1942

Aerial photograph of Manston airfield looking south the technical site is at the bottom right of the airfield, 5 June 1942. Photograph taken by No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, sortie number RAF/HLA/580. English Heritage (RAF Photography). Photo from American Air Museum in Britain, under Creative Commons licence.

28th August 1942

Fifty six emergency landings on the night of 28th August 1942 left devastation that would lead to the approval for the new runway to be built. The Station Commander had already seen the increasing numbers of emergency landings increasing, with damaged aircraft of Bomber Command trying to make it to Manston in every kind on imaginable trouble. At the time, the airfield was comparatively limited for such landings, with many aircraft overshooting, adding to the damage to them, increasing casualties and also damaging the airfield and buildings. The undulating surface made matters worse, although Wing Commander Gleave had already pleaded for the construction of a really large runway with “lead in” lights, so far he had not been successful. The scene of carnage eventually led to the approval of the new runway. https://www.manstonhistory.org.uk/on-this-day-28th-august-1942/

No.609 sqn Typhoons take off 1943
No.609 Sqn Parade for Distinguished Flying Cross investiture. William ‘Billy’ de Goat unimpressed. Dispersal pen behind could be part of what was still there in 2020.

15th June 1943

Work commenced on the new runway, removing some 370,000 cubic yards of soil and replacing with 379,000 square yards of concrete, laid seven inches thick.

7th August 1943

From No.609 Sqn records: “It being P/O Demoulins and the IO’s turn to take Liberty Tiger Moth for a 48, they land at Manston (now unrecognisable owing to the earthworks of new runway construction) and attend a party at Doone House to which 609 has been invited, as does F/O Geerts, who arrives in the Hurricane.”

5th April (or May) 1944

New runway at Manston brought into operation. In first three weeks in operation, 56 emergency landings took place

19th April 1944

Aerial photograph of Manston airfield looking north, the main runway runs horizontally, the technical site is at the top of the airfield, 19 April 1944. Photograph taken by 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, sortie number US/7PH/GP/LOC286. English Heritage (USAAF Photography). Photo from American Air Museum in Britain, under Creative Commons licence.
Aerial photograph of Manston airfield looking north, the main runway runs horizontally, the technical site is at the top of the airfield, 19 April 1944. Photograph taken by 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, sortie number US/7PH/GP/LOC286. English Heritage (USAAF Photography). Photo from American Air Museum in Britain, under Creative Commons licence.

1944

Manston map 1944
A line of Gloster Meteor F Mark Is and IIIs of No. 616 Sqn RAF is refuelled at Manston, Kent (1944/1945)
PLASTICINE MODEL OF MANST0N R.A.F. STATION (CH 16100) Original wartime caption: Picture issued 1945 shows – A model in plasticine of R.A.F. Station, Manston, famous Battle of Britain airfield, being made by two Kent airmen – Flight Sergeant Bicheno of Chart Sutton, Maidstone, and Aircraftman G.H. King of 63 Spur Road, Orpington. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205455187

The Manston Spitfire as Gate Guardian, June 1956
Post-war aerial view of Manston from the east, possibly 1961-1968/Early 1960s.

2017

Manston Map Circa 2017