D Day 70th remembered over Duxford

The Red Devils jump from the C-47 Skytrains over the IWM Duxford airfield ANL-140525-113219001
The Red Devils jump from the C-47 Skytrains over the IWM Duxford airfield ANL-140525-113219001

Thousands of visitors came to IWM Duxford ysterday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day at The D-Day Anniversary Air Show.

And the show is on again today (Sunday) under clearer skies.

Visitors were able to meet with serving soldiers from today’s airborne forces alongside living history groups who brought D-Day history to life.

Visitors chatted with members of different divisions, explored their vehicles, saw their equipment and found out about their weapons and capabilities. Living history groups demonstrated the significant contribution made to the D-Day Landings by airborne forces in 1944.

The flying display commenced at 2pm with a vibrant aerobatic display by the Patrouille de France, the precision aerobatic display team of the French Air Force, who are one of the world’s most skilled demonstration teams.

This was followed by an elegant display of gliders and tug aircraft, honouring the role undertaken by gliders during the D-Day Landings.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight presented its Douglas Dakota MkIII and Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX, bedecked in D-Day stripes. This was followed by a rip-roaring display by the Eurofighter Typhoon in its new 2014 colour scheme of D-Day stripes.

An Auster 5J1 and Piper L-4 Cub flew in unison. Austers were used as Air Observation Post aircraft in the Second World War, playing an important role in the ground fighting after the D-Day landings, primarily as spotters for the artillery. The L-4 Cub flown today is painted to represent the aircraft coded 57-G which was shot down in the first few days of fighting at St Mere Elgise, where the 82nd Airborne Division was dropped into battle during D-Day operations.

IWM Duxford favourite B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B performed a majestic display. In the build-up to D-Day and in the weeks following the invasion, B-17s undertook bombing campaigns in support of the landings in France. This was followed by a performance by the Curtiss Hawk 75.

A pairing of iconic fighter aircraft then took to the skies – the North American P-51 Mustang and the Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX powered through the skies with the unmistakable sound of the screaming Merlin engine.

Moving into contemporary aircraft, the Augusta Westland Apache AH MkI of the Army Air Corps, Wattisham Flying Station, showed the modern capability that has been deployed in Afghanistan since 2006.

Mind-boggling aerobatics was provided by a pair of Silence Twister aircraft. This was followed by a DH-89A Dragon Rapide and a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules from 47 Squadron, RAF Brize Norton performed an impressive flypast.

s flown by Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC, who was credited, whilst flying ML407, with the first enemy aircraft shot down over the Normandy beach-head on D-Day.

Also taking part in this display was Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Supermarine Spitfire IX MK912, which was allocated to No.312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron in 1944. It was flown by Squadron Leader M A ‘Tony’ Liskutin DFC AFC, who was born in Czechoslovakia and escaped the German forces by crossing the Channel in 1940 to fly with the Royal Air Force. He was the Commanding Officer of his squadron, which flew from Appledram in Sussex, an Advanced Landing Ground established specifically for the period around D-Day.

Tony was airborne in Spitfire MK912 over the D-Day period, and together they became the first Allied pilot and aircraft to land on French soil after D-Day +1. He was awarded the Czechoslovak War Cross and Medal for Valour, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Force Cross.

The grand finale to The D-Day Anniversary Air Show was a display by four Douglas C-47 Skytrains, two of which had flown over from the United States to take part in The D-Day Anniversary Air Show.

The National Warplane Museum of Geneseo, New York, sent its flagship Douglas C-47 Skytrain across the Atlantic on a pilgrimage to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Affectionately known as Whiskey 7 from its distinctive squadron markings, it served with the 12th Air Force in the Mediterranean during 1943 before transferring to the UK. In the early hours of D-Day itself it was the lead ship of the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron, dropping paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division near St-Mère-Église.

Tradewind Aviation’s C-47 Skytrain is another visitor from the USA. On D-Day it was based at RAF Aldermaston in Berkshire with the 73rd Squadron of the 434th Troop Carrier Group, from where it towed a Waco glider into the Normandy battle zone. Now known as the ‘Union Jack Dak’, having been returned to flying condition in 2010 by a team from Britain, it also saw action at Arnhem and during the Battle of the Bulge.

Dakota Heritage’s C-47 Skytrain ‘Drag-em-oot’ came to the UK in 1943. It flew on Operation Elmira on the afternoon of D-Day with the 87th Troop Carrier Squadron, the lead United States Army Air Force squadron on D-Day. Used by a specialist unit to recover gliders from Normandy, the aircraft still bears the scars of its wartime career in the shape of numerous bullet hole patches on its fuselage and around the cockpit.

The C-47 Skytrain operated by Aces High was in the UK with the 8th Air Force from mid-1943 to September 1944. It is believed to have flown on glider-towing operations, possibly from Tarrant Rushton, over the D-Day period and was later involved in the Arnhem operation before being transferred to the 9th Air Force.

An awed crowd watched the display by the C-47 Skytrains and then saw, from one of the historic C-47 Skytrain aircraft, a parachute jump by The Red Devils, complete with billowing union flags.

It was a spectacular conclusion to a poignant and memorable commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings.