On this day, 28th August 1942, 56 emergency landings

Short Stirling Mark I, N3725 'HA-D', of No. 218 Squadron RAF, running its starboard outer engine at Marham, Norfolk. AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: SHORT S.29 STIRLING.© IWM (CH 16996)

Short Stirling Mark I, N3725 ‘HA-D’, of No. 218 Squadron RAF, running its starboard outer engine at Marham, Norfolk. AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: SHORT S.29 STIRLING.© IWM (CH 16996)

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.

At 20:15 the Northolt Polish Spitfire Wing, consisting of 302, 306, 308 and 317 Sqns started landing in the gathering darkness, 45 aircraft in all.

At 11:59 a Wellington of No.305 (Polish) Sqn crash landed on the beginning of the flare path. This aircraft had been attacked on its way to Saarbrucken by three night fighters in succession. Catching fire, the bombs were jettisoned. The rear gunner was killed in one of the attacks. The Navigator, Wireless Operator and Front Gunner baled out over enemy territory, but the Captain and Second Pilot brought the aircraft back to Manston.

Before 01:00 another three Wellingtons and three Stirlings had landed.

At 04:00 a Sterling of No.218 Sqn from Munich. After being told to avoid the obstruction of the first Wellington, he landed too far to the right, sweeping through a line of the Polish Wing Spitfires. It destroyed one Spitfire which burst into flames and swept on into a dispersal bay already occupied by an Albacore, ending in a tangle of metal.

Shortly after, a Stirling of No.7 Sqn, short of fuel, landed with his engines cutting. Again, trying to avoid the flare-path Wellington, he too landed too far to the right. He swept through a gap in the line of Spitfires, with Medical Officers, the Fire Party and others scattering out of his way. The aircraft hit a long wooden hut and cannoned into a Bellman hanger, damaging both considerably. Two men who would normally be asleep in the hut were fortunately out working.

Another Wellington followed, then another Stirling of No.218 Sqn, so short of fuel it was unable to taxi completely after landing, due to the engines cutting out.

By the next morning, Wing Commander Gleave had the scene of carnage photographed in every detail and sent to Air Vice-Marshall Leigh-Mallory who immediately sent them on to the Air Ministry. Finally approval was given in principle for the construction of the new runway, although it wouldn’t be until 1944 that it was completed.

Reference:
The History of RAF Manston, FO W. Fraser RAF.
Aircrew Remembered.

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