RAF Manston History Museum: A Museum of Aviation Legends

The RAF Manston History Museum warmly invites you to explore the captivating history of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Manston airfield. Nestled in the beautiful county of Kent, England, this museum boasts an extensive collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and exhibits, taking visitors on a journey through the airfield’s storied past, from its World War I beginnings to its eventual transformation into a civilian airport.

RAF Manston history

Established in 1916, RAF Manston was initially created as a training and operational base for the Royal Flying Corps, the predecessor of the Royal Air Force.

Positioned on the Isle of Thanet, the airfield’s strategic location close to the English Channel made it a prime location for defending Britain’s southeastern coast. Throughout World War I, RAF Manston served as a vital training ground for pilots and ground crew, as well as a base for operational squadrons.

London Royal Air Force History Museum Aviation
Jeremy Gould
London Royal Air Force History Museum Tank
Charles Abbott

In April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force, and RAF Manston continued to play a crucial role in the development and operations of the new organization.

Over the years, the airfield witnessed significant advancements in aviation technology and tactics, with its personnel contributing to the growing expertise and capabilities of the RAF. In addition to its operational and training roles, RAF Manston was also involved in pioneering experiments in aerial navigation, meteorology, and aircraft testing.

The Role of RAF Manston in World War II

During World War II, RAF Manston played a pivotal role in defending Britain from enemy air attacks, particularly during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Its strategic location made it a crucial base for fighter squadrons and an emergency landing ground for damaged aircraft returning from missions across the Channel. The airfield suffered numerous attacks and heavy damage during the course of the war but remained operational throughout, testament to the resilience and determination of its personnel.

London Royal Air Force History Vehicle
Alan Wilson
London Royal Air Force History Plane
Alan Wilson

In addition to its fighter operations, RAF Manston also served as a base for various other units, including air-sea rescue, reconnaissance, and even barrage balloon squadrons.

The airfield also played host to the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, who provided essential support in roles such as meteorology, communications, and administration.

Post-War Developments and RAF Manston’s Legacy

Following the end of World War II, RAF Manston continued to serve as an active military base, supporting various RAF and NATO operations throughout the Cold War. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, the airfield’s role began to evolve.

With the decline in military requirements, RAF Manston gradually transitioned to a civilian airport, ultimately closing its military operations in 1999. Today, the site functions as a mixed-use facility, accommodating civilian flights, businesses, and educational institutions.

Despite these changes, the legacy of RAF Manston lives on through the RAF Manston History Museum, which preserves and commemorates the airfield’s rich history and the sacrifices made by those who served there.

Museum’s collections

The RAF Manston History Museum houses an impressive array of exhibits and collections, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of the airfield’s history and its significance in British military aviation. Here are some key highlights of the museum’s collections:

London Royal Air Force History Supersonic Electric

The Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Building

This dedicated building celebrates two of the most iconic British aircraft of World War II, the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane.

The Memorial Building features beautifully restored examples of both aircraft, along with informative displays detailing their roles in various battles and the stories of the brave pilots who flew them.

The Barnes Wallis Collection

This collection pays tribute to Sir Barnes Wallis, the renowned engineer and inventor responsible for innovative aircraft designs and the famous “bouncing bomb” used in the Dambusters Raid during World War II.

The collection showcases various models, prototypes, and personal items belonging to Wallis, offering visitors a glimpse into the mind of this groundbreaking aviation pioneer.

The RAF Manston Air Traffic Control Tower

Visitors can step into the shoes of air traffic controllers by exploring the RAF Manston Air Traffic Control Tower exhibit.

London Royal Air Force History Museum Jaguar

This fascinating display allows guests to learn about the complex world of air traffic management and appreciate the vital role controllers played in coordinating the movements of aircraft during wartime and peacetime.

Personal Stories

The museum also highlights the personal stories and experiences of the individuals who served at RAF Manston throughout its history.

Through photographs, uniforms, medals, and personal artifacts, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by pilots, ground crew, and support personnel during times of war and peace.

These exhibits provide an emotional connection to the airfield’s past, reminding visitors that behind every piece of machinery and every mission, there were people with their own unique stories to tell.

Opening hours and admission fees

The museum is typically open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, but it’s essential to check their website for the most up-to-date information on opening hours, as these may change seasonally or due to special events.

Admission fees vary, with different rates for adults, children, and family tickets. Concessions and group rates may also be available. For the most accurate and current information on admission fees, visiting hours, and any potential discounts, please visit the RAF Manston History Museum’s official website.

How to get to the museum?

Situated in Manston, Kent, England, near the charming village of Minster, the RAF Manston History Museum is easily accessible by car and provides ample on-site parking.

If you’re traveling by train, the nearest station is Minster, just about 2 miles from the museum. From there, a short taxi ride or bus journey will take you to the museum’s welcoming entrance. For those who prefer using public transportation, local bus services conveniently connect the museum to nearby towns and villages.


The RAF Manston History Museum promises an enthralling journey into the past, revealing the airfield’s unique history and its influence on British military aviation.

By visiting the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to honor the courageous men and women who served at RAF Manston and gain a deeper understanding of the airfield’s enduring legacy. So, come and immerse yourself in the fascinating stories of RAF Manston, where history comes to life.