RAF Ringway

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Royal Air Force Station Ringway
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Located Near Ringway, Cheshire, England
Royal Air Force Station Ringway is located in Cheshire
Royal Air Force Station Ringway
Royal Air Force Station Ringway
Coordinates53°21′14″N 2°16′30″W / 53.3539°N 2.2750°W / 53.3539; -2.2750Coordinates: 53°21′14″N 2°16′30″W / 53.3539°N 2.2750°W / 53.3539; -2.2750
Site information
ConditionRAF Station closed; airfield used as civil airport
Site history
In use1939–1957
Battles/warsSecond World War
Garrison information
OccupantsNo.1 Parachute Training School RAF

RAF Ringway was a Royal Air Force station in Ringway, Cheshire, England, near Manchester. It was operational from 1939 until 1957. The site of the station is now occupied by Manchester Airport.

Prewar years[edit]

Manchester's first municipal airfield was Manchester (Wythenshawe) Aerodrome (open from April 1929), and then Barton Aerodrome (open from January 1930) just west of Eccles. Barton Aerodrome was planned to be the main airport for Manchester, but it became clear by 1934 that its small boggy grass airfield was inadequate for the larger airliners then coming into service including the Douglas DC-2 and DC-3.

A new airport site at Ringway, eight miles south of Manchester city centre, was selected from several alternatives, and this was to become the site of the RAF station by early 1940. Construction of the all-grass airfield began in late 1935, and the first (westerly) portion opened in June 1937 for use by Fairey Aviation. The remaining airfield areas and the terminal building were opened for public use on 25 June 1938. Initially known as Manchester (Ringway) Airport, then Manchester International Airport, from 1986 it has been designated simply Manchester Airport.

Second World War[edit]

Construction of a Royal Air Force station, including two large hangars, workshops, barrack blocks and ancillary accommodation, began in the northeast corner of the airport during spring 1939, with phased completion during early 1940.[1] One of the hangars was intended for use by No. 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron, but this unit had been moved south at the outbreak of war. RAF Ringway was therefore initially used by No. 1 Operational Training Unit, RAF Coastal Command.

Paratroopers from the 6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion undergoing physical training with No. 1 Parachute Training School at Ringway, with a Whitley III in foreground, August 1942

From June 1940, Ringway became the wartime base for No.1 Parachute Training School RAF, which was charged with the initial training of all allied paratroopers trained in Europe (60,000) and for development of parachute drops of equipment; also the development of military gliding operations. Men and women agents of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) were also trained to jump.[2]

Comedian Frank Muir, spent several years at the school in the photographic section taking slow motion film of jumps on a project intended to decrease the frequency of parachutes failing (sometimes called "Roman Candle"). He recalled the Special Operations Executive training centre, housed in an Edwardian house on the outskirts of the airfield, where he was assigned to take pictures of the agents for identity documents. [3] There was an additional SOE holding centre in a large house in nearby Bowdon.

No.14 Ferry Pilot Pool of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was based at Ringway between 1940 and 1945. The veteran ATA aircrews delivered many thousands of military aircraft to operational units which had been built, modified or repaired at Ringway, Woodford, Barton and at other northwest aircraft factories and airfields.[4]

Over 4,400 warplanes were built at Ringway by Fairey Aviation and Avro.[5] The aircraft included the Fairey Battle, Fairey Fulmar, Fairey Barracuda, Bristol Beaufighter, Handley Page Halifax and Fairey Gannet. Avro's experimental department, located in Ringway's 1938-built northside hangar between mid-1939 and late 1945, completed the prototype Avro Manchester bomber. This was followed in January 1941 by the prototype of the famous Avro Lancaster bomber. The last warplane prototype to be assembled here was the Avro Lincoln bomber which first flew from Ringway on 9 July 1944.[6] Avro built over 100 Avro York military transport aircraft in the three 1941/42 southside hangars. Two hangars built in the NW corner of the airfield during 1939/40 for use by Fairey Aviation remain in use, one for aircraft maintenance and the other for ground operations. The other three wartime hangars built for Fairey's were demolished during the 1990s.

No. 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron had its home base at RAF Ringway during 1939 and again from 1946 to 1957 when it flew Supermarine Spitfires and de Havilland Vampire jet fighters in its fighter role as a unit within the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.[7]

Post war[edit]

On the disbandment of 613 Squadron (and all other Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons) in March 1957, RAF Ringway was closed and its hangars and other buildings handed over for civil airline operations including cargo and maintenance.

The two 1939/40-built hangars remained in use until late 1995, when they were demolished to permit construction of the new Terminal 3.[8]

By January 2009, the only surviving building from RAF Ringway was the Officers Mess (Building 217) in Ringway Road and until recently used as the Airport Archive. It was still standing, but disused, in November 2011. It was later demolished to make way for a further extension of car parking facilities.

Memorials and monuments[edit]

A garden outside Olympic House (near Terminal 1) houses several carved stone memorials to the wartime units based at Ringway and to 613 Squadron.

There is a monument, formerly in Terminal 1 but now in Manchester Airport railway station, to Alcock and Brown, the pioneers of transatlantic flight; of them, John Alcock was born in Old Trafford, near Barton Airport.


  1. ^ Scholefield 1998, p. 17
  2. ^ Scholefield 1998, pp. 19–22
  3. ^ Muir, Frank (1 October 1998), "Chapter 5 : The War (Part Two)", A Kentish Lad, Corgi, ISBN 0-552-14137-2
  4. ^ Scholefield 1998, pp. 22–23
  5. ^ Scholefield 1998, pp. 35–37
  6. ^ Holmes 2004, p. 132
  7. ^ Scholefield 1998, pp. 49–51
  8. ^ Scholefield 1998, p. 132


  • Holmes, Harry (2004), Avro – the History of an Aircraft Company, Marlborough Wilts: Crowood Press, ISBN 1-86126-651-0
  • Scholefield, R.A. (1998), Manchester Airport, Stroud: Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-1954-X

External links[edit]