End Of An Era: Last RAF Firefighter Trainees At Manston Pass Out

The last RAF firefighter recruits to be trained at Manston in Kent have passed out - effectively bringing the Air Force's 104-year association with the base to an end. 

The station was made famous by its crucial role during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War which saw it nearly destroyed by German bombing.

Following the ceremony on Thursday, RAF firefighting training will move to the new £5m Fire Service College in the Cotswolds.

Wing Commander Andy Callander, Commandant of the Defence Fire Training and Development Centre, told Forces News: "I think it’s been a fantastic day.

"It’s a real proud moment for me and I think for everyone that’s graduated today, everybody that’s taken part in the parade."

He added: "To celebrate over 100 years of this place being here, it really has been a great ending.

"To be able to do something in these difficult times, it’s been a real honour and a privilege I think for everyone who's been involved."

The recruits had their training impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, being confined to camp for three months in their own family bubble.

During week 12 of training, the recruits learned how to how to rescue trapped aircrew.
During week 12 of their training, the recruits learned how to rescue trapped aircrew.

But after 14 weeks of training, they are ready to be deployed to the frontline at stations worldwide. 

Leading Aircraftman James Livings, 24, from Wickford, Essex, was awarded the Ewen Garwood Memorial Axe for the best performing trainee.

He said: "I always wanted to be in the Air Force since I was a kid.

"I think, like most kids, I wanted to be a pilot and then as I grew up, I did some work experience in the Air Force with the fire brigade.

"[It] took a while [to become qualified] but glad to be here now."

The RAF's final departure from Manston is due next March.

Marcus Russell, chairman of the RAF Manston Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum, which is located across the road from the former RAF base, told Forces News: "Obviously we’re very sad, because it’s always been great for the museum to have the military across the road, mainly RAF.”

Although the base's long-term future is not yet certain, Manston will remain home to reservists from 3rd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment for the time being.

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