Manston: 100 years of Flight

Thank you for using the link to find out more information about our historic airfield’s 100 years of flight.

Below you will find out more about each of the core periods in Manston’s history along with unique stories documenting just a few of the hundreds of fascinating adventures, events and moments during the 100 years of flight at Manston. Just click on the banner connected to the period you want to see some more details about.

For our younger visitors, you will also find the answers to the activities you have no doubt enjoyed if you picked up our education pamphlet, within the relevant link below.

We hope that you will enjoy exploring the fascinating history of what is no doubt one of the key places in aviation history!

Matt Demedts
Museum Manager (Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum)


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The Early Years 1916-1918
IN 1916, THE FIELDS NEAR MANSTON VILLAGE become one of the first bases for the Royal Naval Air Service, the predecessor to the RAF. Despite only having been in existence for less than a year RNAS Manston was already rapidly becoming a frontline airfield in defence of Britain in 1917.

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World War 2 (part 1) 1939-1941
A CRUCIAL STATION during the Battle of Britain, though dangerously exposed as German war planes can reach Manston in the time it takes the RAF to scramble to combat height…

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World War 2 (part 2) 1942-1945
DANGEROUSLY exposed, RAF Manston is used as a recovery and development airfield for the middle part of WWII. As Allied air superiority is achieved by 1944, squadrons return to Manston making it a key station for operations until the end of the War.

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The Cold War 1949-1991
IN 1949, THE USSR successfully tested their first atomic bomb. With nuclear power no longer just in the hands of the USA, the world was split between the Soviet-dominated communist east and the American/NATO-backed capitalist west. With warfare now potentially leading to the end of the planet, RAF Manston became a key NATO airbase during the Cold War.

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Air Sea Rescue 1916-1994
FROM 1916 TO 1994 RAF MANSTON, as the nearest RAF station to the Channel and the European mainland, plays a crucial role as a base of operations for the Air Sea Rescue (ASR) units of the Navy and RAF.

All that in just a century!  A remarkable story indeed!

To find out more about the history of Manston, why not pay a visit to one of the two museums at Manston? You can see details of these in the “Heritage” section of the menu on this site. You can also investigate other information on this site, or the History of Manston Airfield Facebook page.

A project in association with: