D-Day 75 is without doubt going to be the biggest anniversary of the invasion to date and the world is pulling out all stops to make it so.
Englishman Dave Allaway, a leading figure in the UK living history movement decided to earn his wings and to make a jump into Normandy in full WW2 kit.
Over to 250 men and women will be jumping on the drops zones of Normandy in full Allied WW2 kit, a D-Day 75 event that has no equal.
A journey, is only way to describe the events of the last six weeks.
After seeing two planes worth of round canopy parachutist leaving Upottery airfield in Devon to be dropped in Normandy last June, I thought I must be involved. Upottery appeared in the opening episode of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and were elements of E Company left from on June 5th for Normandy.
Fast forward to April this year just two months before the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
As a member of Round Canopy Parachuting Team UK I was asked if I wanted to do my qualifications in Le Harve, I said yes.
What I wasn’t aware of, and until now secret, was that flamboyant road racer and TV personality Guy Martin was filming a D-Day 75 documentary (Guy Martin’s D Day landings) about the restoration of a C-47 and he would be jumping out of it, we trained together and jumped together to earn our wings.
Saturday a group of us met in Aldbourne for dinner. Aldbourne is where the famous Easy company of the 101st airborne were billeted in WW2.
Sunday morning we packed our chutes in Aldbourne village hall and in the afternoon we went to Membury airfield to meet Guy and the C-47. RAF Membury is where 506th PIR left from for Operation Market Garden.
We practised our exits and landings and wore our parachutes for inspection. Nerves were now getting to me. We all then went to the Crown Inn in Aldbourne for dinner and a look round then early to bed. Not much sleep I can tell you.
Monday we all arrived at Membury airfield to prepare for the jump, lots of hurry up and wait. Weather plays a vital part in round canopy parachuting, it must be right. We donned our parachutes and got into stick order, I was last in and that meant first out, now my nerves were getting the better of me.
D-Day 75, OK, lets go!
We were loaded into the plane and took off for Utah beach, Normandy.
The flight over was fantastic except for I was scared to death to be honest but I was going through with it. Red light on, “STAND UP”, “HOOK UP”, we are going through the door that I had been looking through for the past hour.
I was told to stand in the door, I was concentrating on the wing tip and preparing to step out, that’s what I was trained to do. “GO”, a nano second of thinking to myself what do I do now and I was out, you are supposed to count to four and then check the canopy had opened.
There was no time for that, I felt it open and I looked up at an open canopy, I took my steering toggles and looked around, no one to be seen, OK turn and there before me was a sight I will never forget, six of my now closest friends floating with me down to French soil and the historic drop zone.
OK, I’m fine, I am alive and now I need to land, the drop zone is marked with a “T”, no wind so its a nice slow decent, watch out for the fences and drainage ditches, bend legs hands next to head, thump! I’m down, made it.
I land right next to Guy Martin, he has the same look of relief I must have had, we shake hands chat a bit and then put our chutes away, job done. You can see all this happening on Channel 4 on the 2nd of June (if you are in the UK).
Photos: I didn’t take many and I would like to thank those who did and I have borrowed so credit to Jim, Chris and I have been through all this together but there are so many more, Steve, Steve, Robert, David, Karl, Flo, Nigel. If I’ve forgotten anyone its because my mind is still going through that bloody door!
Darrin Courtney sowed the seed so I thank him and Callum Courtney for their input, support and lending of kit.
Hubert, our much loved jump master who’s skill made the jump safe and enjoyable.
Lastly my wife Lesley, the understanding of why this is important to me, the gentle tutt when I’ve spent some more money and the support when things go wrong and more importantly when they go right. And no, I’m not doing it again.
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