Exactly 70 years on from D-Day, the Allied invasion of occupied Europe, two of Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Spitfire Mk.IXs will be overflying the Normandy beaches to commemorate this most important of anniversaries. Robin J Brooks profiles the June 2014 plans for GAR.
70 years ago in the early hours of June 6, 1944, a vast armada of ships approached the Normandy coast. Under cover of darkness the Allied invasion of enemy held Europe was about to begin.
As dawn broke the first wave of infantry landed on the chosen beaches under a hail of enemy fire. Back in Britain the airfields and the squadrons situated along the Channel coast prepared to begin their assault on enemy positions inland and also to prevent the Luftwaffe from attacking the Allied troops below. One of the airfields was an Advanced Landing Ground at Appledram in Sussex where No. 312 (Czech) Squadron was stationed with Spitfire LF Mk.IXbs. The commanding officer was Squadron Leader M A Liskutin DFC AFC whose Spitfire, MK912, was one of those detailed to fly that day. MK912 is now one of the Spitfire Mk.IXs in the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar and will be one of the aircraft being detached to Caen over the commemoration period of June 6, 2014.
MK912 will be accompanied by Spitfire Mk.IX TA805 christened ‘Spirit of Kent’ and known as ‘The Kent Spitfire’. Although rolled out of Castle Bromwich in April 1944, she did not arrive on a squadron until 1945. However being a Mk.IX it is appropriate that ‘Spirit of Kent’ together with 912 will represent the many Spitfires that were operational over the beaches that day. Both will carry the D-Day livery of black and white stripes over the wings and around the fuselage to represent all the Allied aircraft that were similarly adorned during June, 1944.
Another Advanced Landing Ground operational over the period was Deanland. It was from here that No. 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron with Spitfire Mk.Vs carried out sorties flying from dawn to dusk. Having arrived from Bolt Head on April 29, 1944, they were to remain at Deanland for two months before leaving for Predannack in Cornwall on June 19 after a job well done. It is most appropriate that both MK912 and TA805 are currently displayed in 234 Squadron colours.
Flying from Caen aerodrome, there will be several flypasts over the beaches whilst the commemorations take place below. All three pilots who fly the warbirds will be in attendance plus a support crew on the ground.
No better tribute could be paid to the veterans who will be on the beaches below or to their comrades who either lost their lives or were injured during Operation Overlord. The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar incorporating The Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd are honoured and proud to be a part of the 70th commemoration of D-Day.
GAR will soon be launching an extensive D-Day 70th anniversary series, looking at all aspects of Allied and Axis air power, and how it influenced the outcome of the invasion and subsequent push into occupied Europe.