Unit History: RN Air Station Ringway
RAF Ringway, was a Royal Air Force station near Manchester, UK, situated in the parish of Ringway, Cheshire.
Originally, Barton Aerodrome, opened in January 1930 just west of Eccles, 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 the city, was selected from several alternatives. Construction of the all-grass airfield commenced 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 25th June 1938. Initially known as Manchester (Ringway) Airport, then Manchester International Airport, from 1986 it has been designated simply Manchester Airport.
Construction of a Royal Air Force station, including two large hangars, barrack blocks and ancillary accommodation, commenced in the NE corner of the airport during spring 1939, with phased completion during early 1940. One of the hangars was intended for use by No. 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron, but this unit had moved south at the outbreak of war. RAF Ringway was initially used by No. 1 OTU, Coastal Command.
From June 1940, Ringway became the wartime base for No.1 Parachute Training School, which was charged with the initial training of all allied paratroopers trained in Europe (60,000) and for development of para drops of equipment; also the development of military gliding operations. 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 (aka "Roman Candle"). He recalls the Special Operations Executive parachute 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. There was an additional SOE holding centre in a large house in nearby Bowdon.
No.14 Ferry Pilot Pool of the Air Transport Auxiliary was based at Ringway between 1940 and 1945, the veteran crews delivering many thousands of military aircraft built, modified or repaired at Ringway, Woodford, Barton and at other northwest aircraft factories and airfields.
Over 4400 warplanes were built at Ringway by Fairey Aviation and Avro. These included the Fairey Battle, Fairey Fulmar, Fairey Barracuda, Bristol Beaufighter, Handley Page Halifax and Fairey Gannet. Avro’s Ringway facility completed the prototype Avro Manchester, Avro Lancaster and Avro Lincoln bombers and produced the Avro York military transport aircraft). 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.
No. 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron had its home base at RAF Ringway during 1939 and again from 1946 to 1957 when it flew Spitfires and Vampire jet fighters. 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 use.
In mid 2008, the only surviving building from RAF Ringway was the Officers Mess (Building 217) situated in Ringway Road and until recently used as the Airport Archive.
A garden outside Olympic House (near Terminal 1) houses carved stone memorials to based wartime units and to 613 Squadron.
There is also a monument, formerly in Terminal 1 but now located in Manchester Airport railway station, to Alcock and Brown, the pioneers of transatlantic flight, one of whom, John Alcock was born in Old Trafford, close to the airport.