New building and Lancaster simulator officially opened at RAF Manston Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum

Patron AM Sean Reynolds CB CBE DFC RAF opens the new building and Lancaster Experience Photos Dennis Jackson

RAF Manston Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum has hosted sponsors, volunteers and dignitaries for the formal opening of its new building and The Manston Lancaster Experience.

The openings were performed by museum Patron AM Sean Reynolds CB CBE DFC RAF on Thursday (May 16). Guests also included Wg Cdr Erica Ferguson OBE of RAF Heritage and former wartime WAAF Betty Rhoades who served at RAF Lossiemouth packing parachutes for Bomber Crews.

Roy Neale, Phil Beck (Trust chairman) Robert Westbrook (Manager) and Air Marshal Sean Reynolds Photo Dennis Jackson

There was also entertainment by singer Victoria Bass and a buffet from five star rated Sweet Like Chocolate who included plane shaped cheeses and decorations.

Photo Dennis Jackson

The new building, which replaces a very old portacabin. It includes a conference facility which will enable the museum to host events and talks to further its mission to educate the public, especially the younger generation, about the RAF and the Home Front during and after World War Two.

Photo Dennis Jackson

The driving force behind the project was Trustee Roy Neale, who is ex RAF Regiment. The building was constructed by Hoyle & Hughes and was funded by local businesses and residents, all the bricks being donated by H.G. Matthews, a company established in 1923. There will be a plaque on display detailing all who donated to the building fund.

Photo Dennis Jackson

As the guests arrived they were greeted by songs from the 1940s sung by Victoria.

Air Marshall Reynolds was keen to be the first pilot to fly the Lancaster simulator. Entering the Lancaster through the radio operator’s station, then past the navigator’s station he arrived at the pilot section. All the instruments in the simulator are genuine Avro working Lancaster parts.

Photo Dennis Jackson

He fired up the four Merlin engines in sequence; lined up the Lancaster on Manston 28 runway, full power, using rudder pedals to keep her on the centre line. He eased back on the stick and took off on the westerly runway, out over top of Sandwich, over the English Channel for a mile or two, and came back in over the top of Ramsgate Harbour then back onto the runway at Manston. He was very impressed with the flight.

Photo Dennis Jackson

The replica Lancaster cockpit section has been built over a six-year period by retired electronics engineer Norman Groom, using original parts and with reference to Avro plans.

Prior to starting construction, Norman — who is now 86— was given out-of-hours access to the nose section of Lancaster I DV372, which is displayed at IWM London in Lambeth, to take measurements and detailed photographs so as to ensure the replica was exact in every detail.

Photo Dennis Jackson

The instrument panel contains only authentic Lancaster instrumentation. The museum has worked with the Thanet’s Hilderstone Radio Society and Christian Miller to develop the cockpit into a fully functional flight simulator.

Visitors will be able to book a Lancaster Experience flight, sit in front of an array of original Lancaster instruments and ‘fire up’ the Merlin engines, the sound of which will be piped into the cockpit. The route to be flown will have some historical significance to the Lancaster.

Gerry Abrahams

Museum trustee Dennis Jackson said: “The Lancaster Experience is in memory of the museum’s former trustee and volunteer Gerry Abrahams, who passed away in January 2023 at the age of 99.

“Gerry flew on 31 ops with No 75 (New Zealand) Squadron Lancaster over Germany. He later became a Bomber Command instructor and was also involved in the Berlin Airlift.”

Photo Dennis Jackson

The starboard side of the Lancaster cockpit section features custom designed nose art, courtesy of the military and fine artist David Bryant. It carries an image of Gerry Abrahams in golfing attire, next to his 31mission symbols.

The fully functional Lancaster cockpit section is thought to be the only genuine Lancaster cockpit that can be flown as a simulator.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The museum will be launching the simulator flights to the public in June. Date to  be confirmed.

If any local organisations wish to book the conference room they should contact the museum for details at: [email protected]