RAF Manston History Museum gets ready for reopening after major transformation

HARD WORK: Sue Welsh, finance director Dale Howlett, Jeannene Groombridge and (back) Peter Steele Photo Dave Stillman

RAF Manston History Museum will reopen at the end of this month after a transformation which includes a new café, display areas, new shop, exhibits, local craft emporium and conference facilities.

A core team of volunteers, with the help of local businesses, have spent the months of lockdown overhauling the building, some parts of which were built in 1917 during the First World War.

The project is aimed at making the venue ‘family-friendly’  from the ‘taste of home’ NAAFI café to the ‘gifts from home’ Emporium which will feature works from local arts and crafts people.

Inside the NAAFI

There are also six new major exhibits, two new exhibition areas, four large display areas including an area dedicated to model aircrafts, a new shop area and the Meteor Suite conference room.

The work has cost around £320,000 with money coming from covid grants, a fundraiser and substantial contributions of more than £150,000 from RiverOak Strategic Partners.

New shop

CEO Peter Steele, who took the position of Chair in February last year, said: “I took over as chairman and it was agreed the museum would have a little revamp. Initially it was going to be the new shop but then covid came and the plans went from a new shop to a new café, new exhibits and just a complete revamp of the museum. We wanted better facilitiesfor people who come to visit us.

“We want to appeal to a wider audience so will have more interaction for youngsters and families.”

The café, being headed up by Jeannene Groombridge and Sue Welsh, will focus on affordable, good quality food including homemade cakes and meat bought from Hogman’s butchers in Broadstairs. A licence has been granted for use of the NAAFI branding.

Jeanenne said: “The work has been done by a core group of 10-12 volunteers with ages going up to 82 and the average age worked out as 72!

“They have all been great and really wanted a fresh young vibe as they are concerned that the museum is still here and open when they are no longer here so the knowledge is passed on to the next generation. We also had a lot of help from the community and several builders gave their time and resources at no charge.”


Sue is also heading up the new Emporium with at least 15 Thanet arts and crafts producers already signed up to take spaces.

Among the new exhibits is the front 37 feet of a Nimrod XV229 – previously used for smoke evacuation training at RAF Manston Defence Fire Training & Development Centre – which is being restored and intricate models shown alongside memorabilia.


War period pieces, items of NAAFI history and a brilliant aircraft model, can also been seen in the new cafe.

Peter said: “It has been a mammoth exercise. A simple idea to tidy the place up and build a new shop just grew.”


The museum and café are set to open on August 28.

An official opening is due to take place on September 15 to coincide with Battle of Britain Day with guests including Tony Freudmann from RSP. The plan is to erect plaques and plant two trees to mark the event. This will be followed by an open cockpit weekend on September 18-19.


The museum charity opened in 1986 and is run entirely by volunteers. It holds a collection of planes and exhibits that reflect and educate on the history of Manston and its airfield. These date from the First and Second World Wars, from when the United States Air Force (USAF) was at Manston and other exhibits from the airfield’s history.

The museum is funded by its own income from admission fees and donations.

RSP has also gifted land  by the airfield control tower which could be used in future for aircraft exhibits and/or parking .


Adults £5

Children  £2.50

£4 concessions

Annual membership – £15pp, £25 joint, £40 2 adults and 4 children

Find RAF Manston History Museum online here

Edit: The sum gifted from RSP now stands at £150,000.


  1. I’m glad the cafe has new management the last ones were very much take it or leave it so we stopped going there and cancelled our direct debit as well. We look forward the new opening.

  2. Let’s not forget that the land the museum sits on was donated by the previous owners, Stonehill Park.
    When is RSP going to give the remainder of the £150,000 it promised the Thanet Trees Initiative? Or pay Ms Dawes the money she is owed?

    • The RAF History Museum site was NOT donated to the Museum by Stone Hill Park: far from it. They gifted the freehold of the car park and Hurricane & Spitfire Museum to the Hurricane & Spitfire Museum. Full credit goes to RiverOak’s for gifting to the RAF History Museum land adjacent to the old RAF Control Tower (and if I understand the article properly, that building, too). Nice. 🍒The Trees initiative was significant and involved sizable trees but vandalism then followed and it appears many were not looked after properly during Covid lockdowns. Jenny Dawes appears to have failed to demonstrate what if any valid costs arose as a result of RiverOak’s participation as an interested party during the Judicial Review. Absent that, nothing was or is due.

      • RSP probably say they want an airport because they know that while some people would like to see an airport at Manston, most people don’t want to see new housing anywhere in Thanet!

      • RSP’s costs have not yet been agreed, says Dawes. That’sa far cry from “failed to demonstrate”.
        You didn’t make clear how much of the promised £15000 for the trees Initiative RSP have actually coughed up?

  3. Andrew, Ms Dawes is owed nothing she owes an apology to all those she has delayed getting a worthwhile job at Manston Airport. Dawes has not done herself or anyone else any favours.

    • The delay in getting the DCO is due to the SoS making a pig’s ear of his decision to overturn the Planning Inspectorate decision.
      The High Court, in quashing the flawed DCO application, awarded costs in favour of Ms Dawes, against the SoS and RSP.
      RSP has yet to cough up.

  4. How much lol
    They got £8.5Million for being caused some “inconvenience” which is odd because at the time there was no DCO as it had been quashed

  5. Ann, as well as the supporters of Manston reopening as a cargo hub, are the people like to leach off the great history of the area and pathetically use it as ‘patriotic’ platform (aka: propaganda) for grandstanding, rather than acknowledging that the past is completely irrelevant when compared to their desires for a polluting, life-shortening monstrosity cargo hub, championed by themselves and Director of RSP Tony Freudman. The same guy who twice failed to run an airport at Manston and was struck off as a solicitor on 27 counts of stealing clients’ money. However, non of these people like facts, so don’t tell them about COP26 or the recent UN report.

  6. Once again a simple story has turned into a slanging match… It was about the museum nothing more so I’d like to say well done and good luck to all the staff and can’t wait to visit again

  7. Great work from all involved, hope they kept the 1940’s experience room with the rations.

    Well its on our list to visit ¬

  8. Lou, I think anything that mentions Tony Freudman generates the entirely legitimate response of significant concern due to the threat of his monstrous cargo hub plan for the certain ruin of Ramsgate, the environment, tourism, our sleep, peace and quiet, our safety (no safety zone anyone….?) and I could go on. I also think you’ll find the comments on here are factual.

    I support the museum, but I certainly could not or will not support RSP. There is a world of difference between a heritage aviation museum and a gigantic cargo plane (not approved to land anywhere else in the UK like the bad old days) flying over central Ramsgate at 500 feet every 15 minutes.

  9. But it’s not ‘just’ about the museum is it Lou?!… “ substantial contributions of more than £150,000 from RiverOak Strategic Partners.… with guests including Tony Freudmann from RSP.” It’s being used as a platform by RSP and they’re trying to associate themselves with a bygone era to appeal to certain individuals.

    So, this BS will be called out. Live by the sword and die by the sword!

  10. And good luck getting the funds out of RSP. Have they paid for their trees yet or the costs they were mandated to pay when the judge quashed the DCO?

  11. Mr Pritchard your comment is factually woeful. The Judge decided the costs, based on neither the Dept of Transport nor RSP wishing to submit a defence. Jenny Dawes isn’t accountable for RSPs lack of competency.

    RSP offering to fund a few trees in exchange for monstrous noise and environmental pollution is absurd, alongside your allegation that lack of care and/or vandalism is the issue. The real issue? No money from RSP. Unless you, or they can prove otherwise? Go right ahead.

  12. I will look forward to visiting the museum in the near future.

    Meanwhile, I hope that the comments that have nothing to do with the museum are removed or shall we have a discussion about migrants to really naff up the article?

  13. This has degenerated into a slanging match about the rights and wrongs of Manston as a cargo hub. It should be celebrated as another jewel in Thanet’s Crown
    I visited last weekend and can only say “Well Done” to Peter and the team of volunteers, I’ll be back!!

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