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90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force 14 January 2008

Isle of Man Post Office is delighted to present a set of stamps in celebration of the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force.

The RAF came into existence on April 1, 1918 when the personnel and resources of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were combined to become the ‘Third Service.’ Twenty-one years later RAF bases started to open in the Isle of Man.

RAF Jurby opened in September 1939 to house No 5 Air Observers School. Operational fighter squadrons were stationed at Jurby in the first years of the war, with the defiant night-fighters of 307 Squadron and Spitfires and Hurricanes of several Squadrons providing protection against the aircraft of the Luftwaffe which could be heard over the Island on their bombing missions to Liverpool and Belfast.

Jurby was originally a grass airfield but was later equipped with hard runways. Many of its original buildings can still be seen, including the Control Tower, some hangars and the increasingly rare timber buildings which date back to 1939. Post-war, Jurby became the home of 11 Air Gunnery School and later the Initial Training School for RAF Officers. RAF Jurby closed in 1963.

RAF Andreas was built as a fighter airfield to relieve the pressure at Jurby which was a very busy training station. It opened in August 1941 but was in operational use only for a brief period as the threat of Luftwaffe had, by this time, diminished. No 11 Air Gunnery School operated from Andreas from 1943 until 1946. Its role was to train air gunners for Bomber Command. Lysander and Walrus Air-Sea Rescue aircraft were based at Andreas, providing essential safety cover for the Irish Sea. The airfield closed in 1947.

Ramsey Grammar School played an important role as the RAF’s Training Flying Control Centre and in many ways it can be considered the forerunner of today’s Air Traffic Control. Meanwhile the civilian aerodrome at Ronaldsway was taken over by the RAF in 1940 to house No 1 Ground Defence Gunnery School. From the beginning of the war until 1993, the RAF operated a bombing range off the north-west coast of the Island, controlled from RAF Jurby Head. During the Second World War the RAF operated highly secret radar stations at various parts of the Island providing radar coverage of the Irish Sea area.

RAF Air-Sea Rescue marine craft were based at Ramsey, Peel, Douglas and Castletown during the war years. The unit remained at Ramsey after the war and the slipway and buildings are now part of Ramsey Shipyard.

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