D-Day Airborne Invasion Recreated
Friday 1st of June 2012 saw Lee-On-the-Solent Airfield, formerly Royal Navy Air Station Daedalus, supporting a recreation and commemoration of the D-Day Airborne Assault of Normandy on the 6th June 1944.
In the very early hours of 6th June 1944 the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted from C-47A Dakota aircraft to secure the important early objective of SAINTE-MÈRE-ÉGLISE, which at dawn became the first town to be liberated by allied forces. SAINTE MERE EGLISE Street scene in the village after its liberation by U.S. Troops. Looking East – June 1944. (Photo : U.S. Archives). More images of "Normandy Then and Now" here.
Remarkably one of the invasion aircraft that flew the 82nd Airborne troops to the battle that night flies on to this very day: C47A USAAF Serial Number 42-100882 is a veteran of both the D-Day and Arnhem military operations - the second largest and largest airborne assaults ever mounted. Based at the Lincoln Aviation Heritage Centre, this historic aircraft is maintained in airworthy condition and in invasion markings by its owner and Leeds businessman Mr Paddy Green.
The aircraft and the stalwart volunteer ground and air crews who operate it are very special participants in Memorial Events held across Europe, especially in Normandy and in Holland where they make it possible for current generation paratroops and parachutists to recreate the drops from an aircraft "that was there, did it for real and survived". They do this in memory of those airborne troops who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.
The aircraft is named "Drag 'em oot" which reflects the fact that she was one of very few Dakotas fitted with model 80 Glider pick-up gear and hook to recover assault gliders from the D-Day landing grounds for refurbishment/re-use in future operations. Such recoveries were hazardous, requiring the aircraft to be flown low and slow over the glider to 'snatch' with its hook a tow-rope attached to the stationary glider. As you might imagine having been grabbed the glider had to literally be dragged into the sky by the Dakota, which itself needed to accelerate and climb away. [Photo: Archive, via Geoff Pell].
For 2012 it was decided to begin the week of D-Day anniversary remembrance events held across Normandy by reenacting an invasion flight from England, to route as in 1944 to the west of the Cherbourg peninsula before turning eastbound, to drop twenty parachutists from Europe and the US once again at Sainte Mere Eglise.
Given the aircraft's wartime Greenham Common airfield is no longer available, a proposal was made by the aircraft's dispatcher Geoff Pell to use Lee-On-the-Solent Airfield as the operating base. This was enthusiastically supported by Airfield Manager Mr Peter Dalby and team at FlyBN Ltd and so it was that the parachutists made arrangements to travel to the UK to meet up with the aircraft there on Friday 1st June. Photo-montage: Round Canopy Parachuting Team.
However when it comes to flying, and invasions, Mother Nature is the boss that determines if such plans can become reality. Come Friday 1st June a warm front lay across the southern UK providing low cloud and several layers of overcast cloud above. RAF Conningsby near the Dakota's East Kirkby base reported 500ft cloud base and rain.
Delayed by the weather, as was the actual D-Day invasion, "Drag-em-out" arrives over Hampshire from East Kirkby in paratroop dropping configuration under overcast skies. Photo Karl Drage.
"Drag 'em oot" flying past Southwick House, which in the months leading up to D-Day became the headquarters of the main allied commanders, including Naval Commander-in-Chief Admiral Ramsay, Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower and the Army Commander-in-Chief General Montgomery. Karl Drage Photo.
Line astern and 40 degree turn to port for Portsmouth Harbour. Karl Drage Photo.
Entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, and ahead of "Drag 'em oot' is HMS Dolphin, former RN Submarine base. Photo: Karl Drage. Royal Navy midget submarines HMS X-20 and HMS X-23 got under way from here on June 2 1944. After 74 hours under the sea they surfaced at 0445 on D-Day, one mile off the Normandy coast, 20 miles apart. They marked the limits of the anglo-canadian sector with strobe lights, optical and radio-electrical guiding devices. They led the way for the invasion fleet, waiting for the first assault waves that would pass them by in less than 2 hours
Karl Drage Photo: "Drag 'em Oot" passing Portsmouth Cathedral and the partially ruined Royal Garrison Church, site of 300 memorials and having been bombed in 1941 now itself a memorial to those who served their country, particularly those who served during WW2.
"Drag 'em ot" flying by Portsmouth’s D-Day Museum - Britain’s only museum dedicated solely to covering all aspects of the D-Day landings and home of the 272ft (83m) long Overlord Embroidery. Also in frame is Southsea Castle, from which Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose, was observed lost during her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust. Beyond Southsea Pier the WW2 Anti-Submarine defensive line protecting Portsmouth Harbour is partially visible, exposed by the low tide. Photo: Karl Drage.
Karl Drage Photos: "Drag 'em Oot" passing the Royal Naval and the now Historic Naval Dockyards Portsmouth from which significant elements of the D-Day seaborne forces sailed. In shot are HMS Illustrious, which the day before had celebrated 30 years service, and HMS Diamond which a few hours earlier had started the nation's Queen's Diamond Jubilee celerbrations. Also in frame are historic warships HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.
Having overflown Gosport and flown by Lee-On-the-Solent, Hill-Head and Stubbington, "Drag 'em oot" running in for low approach and go-around runway 23 Lee-On-Solent/Daedalus Airfield, Lee-On-Solent. Daedalus was the busiest D-Day airfield during the landings providing many types of air support, particularly observation aircraft reporting and targeting for the Royal Navy operations. Photo: Karl Drage.
Turning downwind right-hand for runway 23. Beyond are Hill Head and Stubbington, whch has over the years been developed right up to the airfield's western boundary, the airfield, Gosport and Portsmouth Harbour. Photo: Karl Drage
"Drag 'em Oot" on short final to land runway 23. The original WW2 hangars in the background are in operational civil aviation use. 2012 sees the 95th Anniversary of Aviation at Lee-On-Solent. Photo: Karl Drage
"Drag 'em oot" touches down on runway 23 - "Welcome to Lee". (Karl Drage Photo)
At the WW2 Tower Building, Daedalus Airfield, Lee-on-Solent (Photo: Karl Drage)
Aircraft dispatcher Geoff Pell readies the aircraft for a 1530L departure to the Sainte Mere Eglise drop-zone. (Photo: Karl Drage)
C47A Cockpit (Photo Karl Drage)
Men Like These. We Will Remember Them. Photograph mounted inside "Drag-em-oot". (Photo Kark Drage)
Cabin Mounted Plates recording the aircrafts role in two D-Day Operations. (Photo Karl Drage)
The Round Canopy Parachutist Team prepare to board. Photo: Karl Drage
The Round Canopy Parachutist Team prepare to board. Photo: Richard Goman
The Round Canopy Parachutist Team prepare to board. Photo: Richard Goman
Engine Start. (Photo Karl Drage)
Lined up and Ready for Take-Off Runway 23. Photo: Karl Drage
Climbing out over the Solent. Photos: Karl Drage
Dutch Jump-master Peter at the door, with his thoughts (penny for them?) and a thumbs up for the camera. Photos: Karl Drage
Coasting out via at St Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight, "Drag 'em oot", crew and parachutists head out over the channel to the drop-zone in Normandy. Photos: Karl Drage
It is sixty-eight years since such a flight has been undertaken. How must it have felt in 1944 to be coasting out, at night, to parachute into war? Photo: Karl Drage
"Drag-em-oot" was tasked to route via Alderney and Jersey to run in to Sainte Mere Eglise drop zone from the West at 1730L. Photo is of a previous drop over Holland: Ben Ullings, Aviation Photo International
Following this drop "Drag-em-oot" was then to head north to Cherbourg to load another parachute troop for a Normandy night drop at one minute past midnight. A further ten drops are planned for the remainder of the week's D-Day Memorial events. Very many thanks for the air to air opportunity, we hope you like the results! Congratulations to the "Round Canopy Parachutists Team" and the "Drag-em-oot" team on a successful "Operation Flatbush"!
Air to Air Team:
Karl Drage, Photographer; Editor Global Aviation Resource
Richard Goman, Photographer; Curator, Gosport Aviation Society
Article: Jon Butts, Chairman, Lee Flying Association, www.eghf.co.uk
Please send any images that can be freely used to LFA at eghf dot co do uk with name for photo credit.
Local Press Coverage: Portsmouth News article
Aerobility Blog: http://aerobility.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/back-in-time-to-d-day.html
More about Drag-em-oot here