Published On: June 28th, 2019By Categories: Editions, Feature, News2.1 min read
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Commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the significant part played in it by aircraft and airborne forces, “Daks over Duxford” brought together the largest collection of airworthy Dakotas seen in the UK for many years.

From all over the USA and Europe, Douglas DC-3s and C-47 Skytrains descended upon the historic, former RAF Duxford, now part of the Imperial War Museum, to take part in events here before moving on to Normandy to join commemorations in France.

Flying a similar route to one pilots took during WW2, a contingent of nine aircraft from the USA made the trip across the Atlantic via Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland before landing at Duxford on May 27th.

With others flying in from the United States over the course of the next few days, the “D-Day Squadron” eventually numbered fifteen aircraft and joined by aircraft from Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, Hungary and the UK, no fewer than 24 Dakotas could be counted on the Duxford Apron in early June.

For many of these aircraft, some veterans of the D-Day operations in 1944, this would be their first time back in Europe since the end of the war.
The first troops into Normandy on June 6th 1944, were paratroopers and glider-borne infantry and in commemoration, massed parachute jumps from the Dakotas were planned.

In the event, the Duxford jump had to be abandoned as weather conditions took a turn for the worse and wind speeds were deemed too high. Despite these unfavourable conditions, many of the Daks took to the air to provide flypasts and the massed ranks of paratroopers provided a spectacle as they formed up and trooped out to the aircraft in scenes reminiscent of 75 years ago.

A short flying display featuring aircraft used on D-Day included a pair of P-51 Mustangs, a P-47 Thunderbolt and Grumman F-4F Wildcat, along with a pair of Mk.IX Spitfires; ML407, “The Grace Spitfire”, credited with shooting down the first enemy plane on D-Day and MH434, with its South African links.

After rolling off the Castle Bromwich production line, MH434, one of the Spitfires test flown by the legendary Alex Henshaw, was first allocated to 222 Squadron and its South African pilot, Flight Lieutenant Henry Lardner-Burke, DFC.
The wind and rain may have curtailed some of the planned events but for those spectators at Daks over Duxford, the sight and sound of so many Dakotas is one place will long live in the memory and was a fitting tribute to those brave airmen taking part in the D-Day invasion 75 years ago.