Throughout the spring and summer of 2014, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy will be commemorated by a series of events in the UK and Europe. Several UK-based historic aircraft will also be receiving special anniversary schemes to mark the occasion, and a number of vintage aircraft from the USA will be making the trip to Europe to take part in some unique anniversary events. Elliott Marsh and Huw Hopkins preview the forthcoming commemorations.
The 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings takes on additional poignancy, for this will very likely be the last major commemoration of the invasion to be attended by veterans and witnesses of the conflict. These men and women, guardians of the memories of D-Day, are slowly diminishing in number and it is now our turn to keep the memory of the loss and sacrifices of “the greatest generation” alive.
IWM Duxford D-Day Anniversary Air Show, UK, 24-25 May 2014
Over May bank holiday weekend, 24 & 25 May 2014, IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire is staging a major commemorative D-Day airshow. Featuring many historic aircraft used in the conflict, including fighter, bomber and transport types, the D-Day Anniversary Air Show will also include a march past by Normandy veterans and serving Parachute Regiment personnel. There will also be many serving British troops in attendance to honour their forebears.
IWM Duxford opens at 0800, with the flying display running from approximately 1400 to 1730. Headlining the flying programme are the French national display team, La Patrouille de France, a quintet of C-47 Skytrains (including a pair from the USA) and several D-Day veteran Spitfires.
Portsmouth, UK, 3-8 June 2014
There will be a series of formal events in Porstmouth, Hampshire, from 3 to 8 June, including a veterans’ centre on Southsea seafront, where veterans of the Normandy invasion will be able to meet one another and servicemen and women of the modern armed forces. On 5 June, there will be a drumhead service and parade on Southsea Common, followed by an amphibious landing on Southsea beach by Royal Navy forces. On the evening of 5 June, a special Sunset Concert for Heroes will be held for invited veterans and their families. On 6 June itself, there will be a service of remembrance led by the Royal British Legion at the D-Day Stone in Southsea, and the weekend will see military vehicles, re-enactors and other activities converging on Portsmouth seafront to mark the D-Day 70th anniversary.
Normandy D-Day Festival, France, 1-15 June 2014
The entirety of Normandy will be alive with events, large and small, surrounding June 6 celebrating Normandy’s liberation as well as commemorating those who paid for our freedom with their lives, including ceremonies, concerts, re-enactments, picnics, dances, street parties, fireworks and so much more. The official Normandy D-Day Festival, this year in its 8th edition, will have a detailed timetable of events from June 1-15. For more information on events in the region please see www.dday-overlord.com.
Sword Beach, France, 6 June 2014
The biggest of the beachhead commemorations will be held at Sword Beach (the expanse of sand covering around five miles around Ouistreham, north east of Caen) which will be attended by numerous Heads of State including the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and Germany. For more information please visit www.le70e-normandie.fr.
Dakotas Over Normandy, Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, 4-8 June 2014
From 5 to 8 of June the skies over the Cotentin Peninsular will once again be filled with the sight and sound of Douglas DC-3 Dakotas as the Round Canopy Parachute Team (RCPT) presents Dakotas over Normandy, an event that will bring together up to 10 of the classic Douglas type. From 5 to 7 June, pleasure flights are being offered and across the period the RCPT will carry out numerous static line jumps. The jump schedule is as follows at current:
4 June 1300 – Cross Channel Carentan Jump
5 June 1830 – Utah Beach Jump
5 June 2100 – Foucarville Jump
6 June 1900 – Sainte-Marie-du-Mont Jump
7 June 1430 – Ecausseville Jump
8 June 1300 – La Fière Jump
8 June 1930 – Sainte-Mère-Église Town Square Jump
For more information please visit the Dakotas Over Normandy website.
Meeting Aérien La Ferté-Alais, France, 7-8 June 2014
The annual vintage extravaganza that is La Ferté-Alais this year will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy as well as the Great War centenary. This will see a large set piece surrounding the Normandy theme, with a multiple Dakota parachute drop, Mustangs, Beech 18s and many more warbirds. To see the full line-up please visit the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis website.
RAFA Shoreham Airshow 2014, UK, 30-31 August 2014
One of the main themes of this year’s Shoreham Airshow is D-Day, and the usual Battle of Britain scramble will be rewritten this year to be centered around this theme, including Spitfire PR.XI, P-51D Mustang, Buchon, and two C-47 Skytrains. The show will also have a display by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancasters.
Go Action Stations – D-Day Landing Beaches with HAC’s Spitfire
Over June 6 and 7 Go Action Stations will be offering a special commemorative package – flying with a Spitfire over the D-Day beaches. Regular shuttles from Lydd Airport in Kent to Caen in France, where people will depart on their flights, will be staged and the flight with Spitfire Mk.Vb BM597 will last for a duration of 30 minutes.
Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar
Planning on taking a pair of Spitfires out to Normandy is Biggin Hill’s resident warbird outfit. The machines, resplendent with invasion stripes, will fly from Caen aerodrome and will carry out there will be several flypasts over the beaches whilst the commemorations take place below. For more information on the BHHH plans please see here.
The Grace Spitfire
On June 6 Spitfire Tr.IX ML407 will be making a flypast over the D-Day beaches. ML407 is a D-Day combat veteran and, when flown by Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC, was credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft over the beachhead on that day when he downed a Junkers Ju-88.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
The BBMF will be making the trip over to Normandy, as they have done in previous years, and are due to carry out flypasts with the Lancaster flanked by a pair of Spitfires.
Tradewind Aviation, USA – C-47 Skytrain 42-24064 ‘Union Jack Dak’ return to Normandy
42-24064, the so called ‘Union Jack Dak’, as a veteran of D-Day is set to retrace her steps of 70 years ago by returning to the skies over Normandy in 2014, taking part in the Dakotas over Normandy event.
This journey will add yet another grand page to the story of this aircraft. Assigned to the 434th Troop Carrying Group, 74th Troop Carrying Squadron, arriving in the UK in February 1943. From their base at Aldermaston the unit towed Waco gliders behind enemy lines and it is thought that 42-24064 the went on to drop paratroopers in the second wave. She then went on to support the invasion and the push across France, transporting fuel, ammunition, troops and various other supplies to the front as well as evacuating the wounded. Damaged at an airstrip in 1945 when struck by another aircraft, 42-24064 was withdrawn from combat and, after having a new wing, was declared surplus. After being passed onto the airline trade, which then went bust, and converted to a DC-3, the aircraft sat in the weeds at Covington Airport in Savannah.
As the 75th anniversary of the DC-3’s first flight approached in 2010 Clive Edwards, renowned DC-3 expert, was on the hunt for an aircraft to take part in celebrations with. In just eight weeks Clive and his small team managed to haul her out of the weeds and get her airworthy again. Because the team were British, they emblazoned a Union Jack on the nose, and so 42-24064 was coined the ‘Union Jack Dak’! Since then she has been restored to her military paint scheme complete with invasion stripes.
The crew for the Normandy trip – a truly international bunch including two Brits, two Americans, one French-American, one French and one Argentinian – departed the New York area on 6 May with an estimated journey time of between three to five days. The 4,000 mile route will take them to Goose Bay in Canada, Narsarsuaq in Greenland, Reykjavik in Iceland, Prestwick in Scotland and then onwards to the South of England. Once there the Dakota will have a static line installed to enable them to drop members of the Round Canopy Parachute Team as they gather their ‘stick’ at Lee-on-Solent and join the armada of these Douglas veterans as they fly across the Channel to Cherbourg as the Dakotas over Normandy event. To keep up to date with the trip, take a look at the Tradewind Aviation Facebook page.
National Warplane Museum, USA – C-47 Skytrain ‘Whiskey 7’ Return to Normandy
The National Warplane Museum (Geneseo, New York, USA) have been working hard to prepare its flagship aircraft, veteran Douglas C-47 Skytrain, for the long flight to Europe to participate in the D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations in June. This C-47 has particular historical provenance, as it was the lead aircraft of the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron, 316th Troop Carrier Group, which dropped the second wave of troops from the 82nd Airborne Division near Sainte-Mère-Église, France, on 6 June 1944. The National Warplane Heritage Museum hope that Whiskey 7 will participate by dropping parachutists from the Liberty Jump Team (some of whom at 82nd Airborne veterans themselves) over the original D-Day drop zone in Normandy, 70 years to the day since it carried out its wartime duty.
Their jump schedule is as follows at present:
Whiskey 7 is due to depart Geneseo at 1400 on 15 May, bound for Normandy. Please visit the Return to Normandy 2014 website to pledge your support. To keep up to date with Whiskey 7s trip, keep an eye on the W7 D-Day Veteran Facebook page.
We will be updating this page as more information is released, so please do keep checking back in the coming weeks.
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