C-47 'That's all Brother' at Duxford - Cody Froggatt
June 2019 saw the 75th anniversary of D-Day which was commemorated at various events in the UK and France.
D-Day 75 Events:
DAKS over Prestwick - 25 May 2019
DAKS over Duxford - 4-5 June 2019
D-DAY 75 at Portsmouth - 5 June 2019
DAKS over Normandy 'Caen Carpiquet Airport' - 7-8 June 2019
The Normandy landings (Operation Overlord) took place on Tuesday 6th June 1944 (D-Day) during World War 2. A large seaborne invasion force set off from England to liberate German-occupied France and ultimately to help defeat Hitler's army. They landed on a 50 mile stretch of the Normandy coast which was divided into five beachheads - Utah
(Canada) and Sword
To help the Normandy invasion to succeed it was necessary to drop many thousands of allied paratroopers behind enemy lines to secure or destroy bridges and disrupt the German army. The main aircraft used by paratroopers was the Douglas C-47 Skytrain (Dakota).
This year will probably be the last very large commemoration of this important and historic day and so various events were organised including 'D-Day 75 at Portsmouth' as well as 'Daks over Normandy' which brought together around 30 C-47 Skytrains/Dakotas from Europe and North America for events at Duxford and Caen Carpiquet Airport in France.
The C-47 Skytrains/Dakotas from North America had to cross the Atlantic via Canada, Greenland and Iceland on their way to Prestwick Airport in Scotland. Many arrived at Prestwick in time for an enthusiast photography day on Friday 24th May 2019 and a public Day on Saturday 25th May 2019.
Many of these aircraft were then flown down to Duxford in Cambridgeshire, for the 'Daks over Duxford' event, where they were available to be seen by the public on 4th and 5th June 2019. The C-47 Skytrains/Dakotas could be seen on the ground and in the air at Duxford, which included displays and demonstrations. A parachute drop of 220 parachutists using round canopy parachutes was planned for the first day but didn't go ahead due to poor weather. On the second day, the aircraft were prepared for their flight across the English Channel to France which took place a little later than expected.
On the afternoon of the 5th June 2019, the aircraft left Duxford and headed for Normandy, France where they did a flypast at Le Havre and dropped parachutists at Sannerville Drop Zone 'K' before landing at Caen Carpiquet Airport. A series of events were then planned at Caen Carpiquet Airport on the 7th and 8th June 2019, however the appalling weather caused a lot of problems. Part of a statement from the 'Daks over Normandy' Facebook page
reported that '...Unfortunately the 7th of June saw appalling weather, resulting in no flying, food vendors and exhibitors not being able attend. The enormous interest blocked up traffic circulation...'
The full statement can be found here.
Meanwhile on Wednesday 5th June 2019, Portsmouth welcomed heads of state from around the world to commemorate D-Day with a series of events, which was organised by the Ministry of Defence. President Trump had arrived at Stansted Airport, on Air Force One, on the previous Monday, for a 3-day State visit which culminated with the D-Day commemorations at Portsmouth.
The Queen and heads of state honoured Allied forces who fought in the largest combined land, air and naval operation in history. Wreaths were laid, a minute's silence was held and veterans linked arms and sang, before watching an RAF flypast. The veterans enjoyed a reception where they met world leaders and many boarded the Royal British legion's specially-commissioned ship, the Boudicca. The city then waved off around 300 veterans and their guests, as they set sail for France to take in events along the Normandy beaches.
Cody Froggatt attended the 'Daks over Duxford' event and tells his story below:
Twenty three DC-3, C47, C53 and Li 3's took to the skies for a sumptuous, mouth watering event of the greatest gathering of Dakotas of the last decade. In my lifetime, as an aviation enthusiast, i've never seen such a gathering of Dakotas in one place for such a monumental event. Obviously growing up i have never been able to travel to see the great events such as the '75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain' but for once, i got to travel to see this great gathering, and in my lifetime as an aviation fan, i've never seen such a sight and sound.
From the home of historic aviation action, Imperial War Museum Duxford hosted 'Daks over Duxford' - the UK part of the 'Daks over Normandy' event. The climax of years of planning, coming together in such a ferocious and momentous two days that would carry on well into the latter weeks with the Berlin airlift anniversaries and of course the Normandy anniversary of D-Day. For this review i'll be solely looking at 'Daks over Duxford' and my views of what i took away from this historic event.
The Dakotas involved in the 'Daks over Duxford' event:
Douglas DC-3C N25641 'Liberty'
C-53D N45366 'D-Day Doll'
C-47 'That's all Brother'
C-47 N47SJ 'Betsy's Biscuit Bomber'
C-47A N47E 'Miss Virginia'
C-53DO N8336C 'The Spirit of Benovia'
DC-3 N24320 'Miss Montana'
DC-3 SE-CFP 'Daisy'
DC-3 N33611 'Clipper Tabitha May'
DC-3 (C-53D) LN-WND
DC-3 'Gamle Dame' OY-BPB
C-47 'Flabob Express' N103NA
C-47 'Virginia Ann' N62CC
C-47 'Placid Lassie' N74589
Lisunov Li-2 'Karman Todor' HA-LIX
• The BBMF Dakota (ZA947) was expected to display but not land at Duxford.
So, the event itself at Duxford took place over two days of which i attending both days. My first thoughts when walking into IWM Duxford was the breathtaking views before me, seeing such a gathering of aircraft. Now because i'm quite young and probably quite naive when it comes to aviation action, being only nineteen and only being on the air show circuit since i was ten, i've been greatly underexposed to great events like this. It's only within the last two years I've begun to travel more to events to expose myself to sights and sounds such as this.
On the 'Daks over Normandy' website a flightline was supposed to be a part of the event, however this wasn't the case when entering, the closest we could get to the aircraft were to the D-Day squadrons Dakotas parked up on the left-hand side of the airfield. This was underwhelming and a bit disappointing because i would have loved to have been able to get up close and personal with the likes of 'That's all brother' and 'D-Day doll'. But like everything in the air show world things do change on the flip of a coin, so i was disappointed, but it didn't take away from the fact that i got to see 'That's all brother'.
Of course Duxford's organisation, as ever, was astoundingly well put together, as this event was treated like one of their air shows, so marshalling and car parking was no problem for those travelling in by car. Now for me, i travelled to Whittlesford Parkway as there was going to be massive amount of traffic, and me being as impatient as i am, wanted to get straight into the showground, photographing as much as i could. Walking from Whittlesford, as ever, was a doddle and i would highly recommend if you are able to walk to and from the train station to do so as it is only a 30 minute walk and isn't a bother whatsoever.
The IWM Duxford website, 'Daks over Normandy' website and of course our website stated that there would be flying elements to this event. 'Daks over Normandy' put out a schedule of events and a timetable, as did our website. Well of course 'Daks over Normandy' were a little optimistic in their flying display as such, and our own timetable we put out was more accurate than theirs. However, on Tuesday, the weather was just horrendous and affected the flying display massively. As i will go on to say, the weather did play a massive role in some of the flying elements such as the mass parachute drop that was due to take place. There was a duo of Spitfires, Supermarine Spitfire IXT ML407 and Spitfire IX MH434 which flew with invasion stripes to celebrate this anniversary and performed an amazingly close formation display on both days. Supermarine Spitfire IXT ML407 was also credited with the first kill of D-Day itself.
They were followed up by a 4 ship of Republican P-47D Thunderbolts, the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation's North American P-51D Mustang, Robert Tyrrell's P-51D Mustang and The Fighter Collections Grumman FM-2 Wildcat. Their Flying was precise and extremely impressive, although unfortunately on the first day, the weather got the better of their display and they could only perform a four ship. This was quite a tight formation, but with the weather being how it was, it was wasted on the watching crowd, well what was left of it, but for the pilots to display in such poor weather conditions was highly commendable. My heartfelt sincerity to the pilots Stu Goldspink, Cliff Spink, John Dodd and Paul Bonhomme. During the second day the P-51s performed a duo display together which was astounding, and what made it even better was when the mass take-off took place as the P-51s scrambled up alongside the Dakota formation, just as support fighter aircraft did during operation Overlord. During the second day the Republican P-47D and Grumman FM-2 wildcat also performed fabulous solo displays.
However the highlight, other than the last take off on day two, was of course the US in Europe contingent of special forces aircraft, comprising of six C130 Hercules and six CV22 Ospreys in an astounding mass formation which even took the likes of the hard core aviation enthusiasts and even the commentaries breath away. It truly was a special moment and a special formation which really added to the electricity that was felt during the second day's events. As well, throughout the whole event, classic wings was ever present at Duxford providing pleasure flights in all four of the De Havilland Rapides, as well as the T6 Texans performing air-to-air shoots with the Dakota formation.
There's been a lot said about this event in the aviation world and within the mainstream media. From a pure aviation fan perspective you can only take one thing away and that's gratitude and astoundment from the fact that we've had such a large gathering of Dakotas in this country. Probably this will be the greatest ever gathering and will not be seen on such a scale ever again, which is unfortunate but should make us realise how privileged we are to be living in this moment where we can see such a gathering and at such a historic venue.
What do i take away from this event? well i take away the fact that i've had the privilege of seeing the D-Day squadrons Dakotas. These aircraft I've been waiting to see for the better part of a decade, since the early days that i got into aviation, i've wanted to see the likes of 'That's all brother' and seeing her fly in person is somewhat of a dream which has been ticked off the bucket list.
But for me overall, as ever, IWM Duxford did themselves proud, making this such an historic event, that will live long in my memory, and live long with aviation fans across the country, if not the world, for the events that took place at Duxford, as well as in France (even if things didn't quite go to plan at Caen Carpiquet Airport in Normandy, but I couldn't comment as I wasn't there and have not got enough information). I was astounded and inspired by hearing testimony from veterans and seeing these beautiful birds in the sky. It was truly an event not to be missed and was well worth every penny.
Peter Busby attended some of the D-Day events in France and tells his story below:
DAKOTAS at the 75th ANNIVERSARY of D-DAY.
Living in France, and knowing that the celebrations in Normandy would be even bigger this year, it was a "go", for 5th/6th/7th June. With my French neighbour, we set off at 0500hrs, to meet our Scottish friends off of the overnight ferry from Portsmouth. It arrived on-time at Ouistreham, Caen, and we were soon sitting on Sword Beach, with a cup of tea. Even at this early hour, a Gendarmerie EC135 was checking-out the beach head, security already looking tight!
We drove along Sword, Juno and Gold beaches, then after lunch, navigated our way to our final destination, Drop Zone "K", Sannerville. As we joined the the queue of traffic, which was already a couple of miles long, the French Air Force, kept us entertained with several Fly-bys, as, in the distance, we could see that they were dropping troops into the Drop Zone.
We managed to park in Couverville, the next village from the planned drop, and joined the crowd of people, who, like us, were there to witness the Dakotas dropping their paratroopers, onto this historic site in Sannerville. With times of arrival being put back, and with cloudy skies above, we cold see that the Dakotas had departed Duxford, thank heavens for modern technology, and, eventually, in the distance, we could see a stream of Dakotas, heading for Carpiquet.....then, to a great sigh of relief, we saw that behind them, some different Daks were heading our way. With camera ready, I managed to get these images, the aircraft certainly did us proud, with many people clapping and cheering, even if some of the paratroopers were dropped way off target, as an old chap nearby said "nothing has changed there then".
Article by Dave Key, Cody Froggatt & Peter Busby.
Photos from Cody Froggatt, Peter Busby, David Hackney & John Bilcliffe.
...and finally, thanks to all the allied troops who fought and died so that we are able to enjoy our freedom today.