We are delighted to announce that phase one of our major refurbishment works are now complete and we are re-open. Come down an see the new exhibits and planes we have been working on and grab a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the new Naafi Cafe whilst you are here.

Opening Times

10am until 4pm every day, last entry 3.15pm

Admission Prices

  • Adult: £5
  • Child: £2.50 Under 5's Free
  • Concessions: £4
  • Carers: Free
  • Family (2 adults and up to 4 children): £15

The history of the airfield from 1916 and its use by the RAF and civil airlines.

Manston started its Aviation days as a Royal Naval Station in 1916, with a base at Westgate Bay for seaplanes. The early airfield was on the area now occupied by the passenger terminal.

By 1917 Manston airfield had grown to include four underground hangars, its own railway line to Birchington, a power station to generate electricity, barracks for 3,000 men and even an indoor swimming pool.

After WW1, training of airmen in airframe maintenance and engine repairs was taught in the School of Technical Training.

1940 and WW2 brought the Battle of Britain. Barnes Wallis arrived in 1943 to test his bouncing bomb at nearby Reculver, before the Dam busters carried out their famous raid. Roland Beaumont arrived with the Typhoon which came to be the most successful ground attack aircraft in WW2.

V1 WW2 German Flying Bomb
German V1 Flying Bomb displayed outside the museum

The first jet fighters arrived at Manston, to attack the flying bombs (1944's version of the cruise missile). The longest and widest runway in Southern England was built to allow badly damaged aircraft returning from Europe a safe haven, with the Fido fog dispersal system to allow landings in any weather.

Gloster Meteor
The RAF History Museum's Gloster Meteor

In 1950 the Americans arrived and stayed for eight years.

In 1960 Manston returned to the RAF as a major diversionary airfield for aircraft in trouble. The fire school was formed to train RAF firemen in everything from aircraft fires to rescuing car crash victims. Civil aviation companies arrived and took 700,000 people on their first foreign holidays in one year.

In the mid 1960's the first air-sea-rescue helicopters arrived, and rescued many more holidaymakers than airmen. The air experience squadron arrived with their Chipmunk aircraft to give many an air cadet their first flight.

1969: The RAF helicopters left and a civilian company took over.

1974: The RAF air sea rescue helicopters returned. At the same time two of the prototype bouncing bombs were recovered from the beach at Reculver. The team who achieved the first man-powered flight across the English Channel carried out trials here. The next year another team did it using solar power.

1980, and after a 40 year wait, new houses were built for married and single personnel. In January 1982, 25 civil airlines were diverted to Manston.

1981: Ash radar station was rebuilt, and with the expansion of the Fire Training School, Manston was going through one of its busy periods.

1982 saw many aid flights to Africa and other war torn parts of the world.

1988: Manston held its first air show since the 1950's. 1996: It was decided that RAF Ash should be closed down, due to the end of the cold war.

1999: The closure of RAF Manston was announced, so after 80 years the RAF were leaving. The civil part of the airport was to continue, and offers for the remainder were sought.

2014: Manston - Kent International Airport closed in May 2014. Discussions as to whether the airport is to reopen are on-going.

Inside the RAF Manston Museum
View from inside the museum