Dakotas over Duxford event to mark 75th anniversary of D-Day landings
- Credit: David Mackey
A mass flight display recreating the D-Day mission will lead Imperial War Museums’ 75th anniversary programme at Duxford this year.
In June, Imperial War Museums (IWM) will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings on an unprecedented scale.
IWM will retell the extraordinary land, air and sea story through its Second World War collection and its three historic sites – HMS Belfast on the River Thames in London, IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire, and Churchill War Rooms.
Working in partnership with Daks Over Normandy, a World War Two mass flight display will spearhead IWM’s anniversary plans.
Staged from the Duxford airfield, this ambitious display will culminate in a cross-Channel flight and parachute landing in Normandy on June 6, recreating the remarkable Second World War story.
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Ahead of the mass flight, Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield will host the greatest number of Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft in one location since WW2, descending on June 4 and June 5 for Daks Over Duxford.
Over the two days, visitors will be able to see more than 30 Dakotas – aircraft synonymous with the 1944 D-Day landings – as well as mass parachute jumps and flight displays taking place across the world renowned aviation museum.
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On June 6, 1944, the greatest seaborne invasion in history began with the mission to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.
Otherwise known as ‘Operation Overlord’, secrecy was vital to the success of this highly complex land, air and sea operation.
By midnight on June 6, 156,000 Allied troops had arrived in Normandy, despite challenging weather conditions and fierce German defences.
The subsequent Normandy campaign saw British and American troops fighting through France for almost two months before reaching Germany itself.
D-Day was one of the most significant victories by the Western Allies during the Second World War.
The eventual collapse of German resistance in France convinced German High Command that defeat was inevitable and began the process by which Allied victory was achieved in 1945.
• What was IWM Duxford’s role in D-Day?
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.
These missions were in operation from 3.30am to 11.15pm on D-Day.
Ground staff at RAF Duxford worked a 24-hour shift providing operational support.
The Group suffered one of its darkest days on June 10, 1944, when 10 pilots engaged in a bombing raid were killed after being ‘bounced’ by 20 German fighters.
As part of its 75th anniversary plans, IWM will highlight the roles that its historic sites and Prime Minister Winston Churchill played in this pivotal moment in history.
The events will also honour the men who sacrificed so much during this intrepid mission.
HMS Belfast acted as the flagship of Bombardment Force E, part of the Eastern Naval Task Force, with responsibility for supporting the British and Canadian assaults on Gold and Juno beaches.
It first opened fire at 5.27am on June 6 1944, targeting and suppressing a German battery near the village of Ver-sur-Mer until the position was taken by the 7th Battalion, Green Howards.
The ship came under occasional fire from German artillery and dive-bombers, but was unscathed as it continued to bombard German positions.
American fighter aircraft flew from IWM Duxford in support of D-Day operations, and the Churchill War Rooms was the nerve centre of strategic decision-making during the conflict.
Additional D-Day themed programming will take place on HMS Belfast in London on Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9.
These will range from interactive activities, where visitors will step into the shoes of the people who made D-Day happen, to bespoke D-Day group tours on board one of the largest warships present on D-Day.
• All flying is subject to weather, serviceability and operational commitments.
Daks Over Duxford admission costs £25 adults and children under 16 go free. Car parking is £5 per car.
Family activities at IWM Duxford and HMS Belfast are included in standard admission.
• For tickets to Daks Over Duxford, visit www.iwm.org.uk/daks-over-duxford