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Aero Legends from Headcorn Aerodrome fly Dakota and Spitfires to mark D-Day landings

By Alan Smith

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

On June 6, 1944, almost 160,000 Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches to start the liberation of Western-Europe.

But before the assault on the beaches, there was an airborne drop of 24,000 troops who parachuted in behind enemy lines or landed by glider.

All the planes saw actual wartime service
All the planes saw actual wartime service

There will be many special events to mark the anniversary this year, and the Headcorn-based Aero Legends company will be doing their bit.

Keith Perkins who owns the company said: "We have a Douglas Dakota that will be flying over to Cherbourg escorted by three Spitfires."

On board will be a bellyful of parachutists who will drop from the skies in imitation of the original invasion.

Mr Perkins said: "The Dakota can carry 26. They will all be dressed in Second World War uniforms and use a static line."

The Aero Legends' memorial flight will take off from Headcorn Aerodrome
The Aero Legends' memorial flight will take off from Headcorn Aerodrome

It will be a return trip for the aircraft, which took part in the original operation three-quarters of a century ago.

The C-47 Douglas Sky Train was delivered to the United States Army Air Force on December 28, 1943.

She joined operations with 87th Troop Carrier Squadron based at Greenham Common in England.

She participated in the air assault during D-Day when at 00:46 on June 6, 1944, she dropped 18 paratroopers of the US 82nd Airborne Division just behind the Normandy beach heads, near St. Mere Église. She returned safely to the UK and after a second mission that same day, she started to resupply the troops in France.

The aircraft was later transferred to the RAF, and was used during Operation Market Garden, towing Horsa gliders into action at Arnhem, for the battle portrayed in the film A Bridge Too Far.

The Dakota will be escorted by the three Spitfires, all dating from 1944 and all of which saw war service.

One, nick-named Elizabeth, arrived in Normandy just after D-Day on June 12 and took part in 27 combat flights on the post D-Day battlefields.

Re-enactors will replicate the historic drop
Re-enactors will replicate the historic drop

The aircraft and parachutists will gather at Headcorn Aerodrome, on June 5, at around 1pm, before taking off for Cherbourg at 2pm.

There will be no flying over Cherborg on June 6 as the airspace will be closed to small operators while various heads of state are flown in for the commemoration ceremony, but then in the following days the AeroLegends Dakota will be dropping British servicemen over Pegasus Bridge, the British wartime drop zone, and then flying repeated runs working with the USAF to drop American servicemen over Carentan, replicating one of their original round-top drops.

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