Daks Over Duxford mass flight commemorates 75th anniversary of D-Day
- Credit: Gerry Weatherhead
A poignant mass departure of Dakotas took off from IWM Duxford to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
As part of Imperial War Museums' D-Day 75 anniversary week of events, Daks Over Duxford brought the extraordinary story of D-Day to life at Britain's best preserved wartime airfield.
The event saw more than 30 Douglas C-47 Skytrains, DC-3s, C-53, C-41 and Li-2s 'Dakota' aircraft from all over the world come together to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Synonymous with the D-Day landings, thousands of visitors to the Cambridgeshire airfield saw this historic gathering of 'Daks' take off yesterday (Wednesday) on a memorial flight heading to the Normandy drop zone of Sannerville.
There, over France, parachutists re-enacted the D-Day drop from 75 years ago.
Historian Dan Snow, who was at Duxford, said: "It's been an amazing atmosphere and a great privilege to be here."
Created in partnership with Daks Over Normandy, flight displays took place across the Duxford museum over two days ahead of yesterday afternoon's epic cross-Channel flight.
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The mass Daks departure was delayed on Wednesday due to the weather conditions before the iconic Second World War aircraft took to the skies.
Spitfires and a P-51 Mustang were among the other aircraft to fly at Duxford.
On the ground, D-Day related displays and activities further brought to life the extraordinary story of those momentous days in June 1944.
On June 6, 1944, the largest combined land, sea and air operation in the history of warfare began with the mission to liberate western Europe from Nazi occupation.
Almost 160,000 Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches in a highly complex operation.
The assault was preceded by 24,000 troops who parachuted in or came by glider.
IWM Duxford's Twitter account revealed veteran Jock Hutton was among those attending Daks Over Duxford.
Now 94, he dropped with the Parachute Regiment near Pegasus Bridge, together with his comrades spearheading the Allied assault on D-Day.
He was just 19 years old at the time.
Jock Hutton took part in a tandem jump with the Red Devils parachute team yesterday, returning to France 75 years on from D-Day.
The most important aircraft to support the airborne assault in 1944 was formed by over 800 Douglas C-47 Skytrains Dakotas.
American paratrooper Henry 'Duke' Boswell jumped out of a C-47 on D-Day.
Recounting the mission to IWM, he said: "The ocean was full of ships... Every kind of ship in the world was heading for France.
"And the sky was full of airplanes. All kinds mostly. Other than ours, the transports, fighters protecting us.
"I thought, 'oh we must win this war with all this force that we have'."
RAF Duxford played a pivotal role in Operation Overlord, the codename given to the D-Day operation.
From 1943, the United States Army Air Forces 78th Fighter Group was stationed at RAF Duxford, flying P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs.
For the next two years, the 78th Fighter Group played a crucial role in the air war over Europe, acting as escorts for bomber aircraft in the strategic bombing campaign and providing air support for D-Day operations.
All three squadrons of the 78th Fighter Group flew three missions each on D-Day itself, providing 'area support' by attacking railway and other transport targets inland of the invasion beaches in order to disrupt any German attempts at a counter-attack.
Ground staff at RAF Duxford worked a 24-hour shift providing operational support.
Visit www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-duxford for more on IWM Duxford.