Fire training centre at Manston closure is marked with graduation and Chinook flypast

The fire training centre Photo Mike Nichols

The Fire Training and Development Centre at Manston has closed with operations now transferred to Moreton-in-Marsh.

The move follows the agreement in July 2019 of a 12 year contract, worth £525 million, to outsource Ministry of Defence fire and rescue operations to private company Capita.

The firm was selected by the MOD as the winning tender for the Defence Fire and Rescue Project in June 2018.

The contract involves operating 53 fire stations  in the UK, and on MOD sites in Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.

Capita says investment is being made in digital technology solutions, new fire engines and other equipment to upgrade fire-fighting capabilities.

Yesterday (October 22) the last RAF fire fighters graduated from Manston which has now ceased operating as the Defence Fire Training and Development Centre.

Training is now transferred to Capita’s facility at Moreton-in-Marsh. By 2021, approximately 1,700 military and civilian firefighters will be trained each year at the College or by instructors from the College at military bases around the UK.

Manston fire training in action Photo Mike Nichols

The movement of fire training to the new £5m Fire Service College in the Cotswolds after 30 years at Manston ends the RAF’s 104 years association with the base, most famously associated with the Second World War and the Battle of Britain.

Describing the unit’s history, Wing Commander Andy Callander, Commandant of the Defence Fire Training and Development Centre, said: “Most people think of Manston as one of the centrepieces of the Battle of Britain. The station was almost uniquely destroyed in 1940 [due to] the number of attacks that took place on it.”

“Throughout the rest of the war, many famous feats of aviation took place from here, not least the Channel Dash, when some six Swordfish bombers attacked the German fleet in the Channel and were all shot down and the Commander was awarded a Victoria Cross.”

Today marks the end of a 14-week course for the 16 Recruit Firefighters, graduating as the final course at Manston in front of their friends and family.

The Reviewing Officer, The Lord Lieutenant of Kent, The Lady Colgrain was accompanied by Air Commodore Moir, Air Officer Space and Battlespace Management Force and Chief Fire Officer Gray, HQ DFR.

Photo Shelley Jane Sinden

After the formalities of the Graduation, the closing ceremony took place, with The Band of 3 Princess of Wales Royal Regiment Beating the Retreat before a Sunset Ceremony and Chinook flypast concluded the parade.

Photo Gary Taylor

Although the RAF’s departure marks an end of an era, the site won’t be closing completely as Reservists from 3rd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment and an Air Cadet Squadron will remain at the unit.