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The History of Kent

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History of Manston

Manston comes from the Old English ‘tun’ meaning ‘settlement, village’, combined with a warlord’s name; therefore, 'Mann's village'.

Manston church is dedicated to Saint Catherine and built in 1872 as a Chapel-of-Ease, to St Lawrence's church, in Ramsgate. Local people raised the money with the land donated by the Vicar of St. Lawrence, Rev. G W Sicklemore, who also purchased land for a school next door. A local farmer, Ernest Philpott, purchased, and installed a stained glass window, in memory of his wife Catherine. However, it has subsequently disappeared, leaving a mystery as to its whereabouts. An unknown founder cast and hung a bell.

In 1901, the Isle of Thanet Poor Law Union opened a children's home at
Manston. The homes comprised four pairs of houses and accommodated a total of 120 children. 

Manston started its Aviation days as a Royal Naval Station in 1916, with a base at Westgate Bay for seaplanes. 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, the School of Technical Training taught airmen in airframe maintenance and engine repairs. 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. The first jet fighters reached Manston, to attack the flying bombs. Manston had the longest and widest runway in Southern England to allow badly damaged aircraft returning from Europe a safe haven, with the Fido fog dispersal system permitting landings in any weather.

In 1950, it became an American airbase for just eight years. In 1960,
Manston returned to the RAF as a major diversionary airfield for aircraft in trouble. The fire school trained 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 gave air cadets their first flight in Chipmunk aircraft. In 1969, the RAF helicopters left, and a civilian company took over.

The RAF air sea rescue helicopters returned in 1974. At the same time, they recovered two of the prototype bouncing bombs from the beach at Reculver. Finally, in 1980, after a 40 year wait, married and single personnel received new houses.