The BBMF and 16th Air Assault Brigade Mark D-Day 75

As part of the D-Day 75th Anniversary events, the BBMF recreated a parachute drop over Normandy with 16th Air Assault Brigade.

Availability of the BBMF Dakota ZA947 (8.33 kHz radio fitting), the crew (all volunteers who have other RAF roles), and of suitable weather squeezed the window of opportunity for a training jump at RAF Weston-on-the-Green, but persistence paid off, the practice was completed and all was set for France.

On 5th June 2019, the BBMF Dakota, mirroring the 139 Dakotas involved in dropping Parachute Brigades in June of 1944, carried 12 Paratroopers of 16th Air Assault Brigade to the Drop Zone at Sannerville, escorted by Spitfire Mk Vb AB910, an historic aircraft which flew numerous cover patrols over the D-Day invasion beach heads on 6 June 1944 and afterwards.

AB910 is currently painted in the colour scheme of a 64 Sqn Spitfire at the time of D-Day, with full invasion stripes, and Dakota ZA947 represents a 233 Sqn aircraft which was involved in Para-dropping operations on the eve of D-Day and subsequently in re-supply and casualty evacuation missions into and out of forward airfields in the combat areas.

BBMF Dakota at Arromanches
The BBMF Dakota flies over Arromanches (Image: ACCSU)

As well as the Para-drop, the BBMF Dakota and Spitfire provided flypasts at Bayeux War Cemetery, at Arromanches and at Port-en-Bessin.

For the crews involved, it was a real privilege to take part in something that brought them so close to those who flew these aircraft in 1944 and was a reminder of the cooperation between forces that contributed to the success of the operation.

Whilst the Dakota and AB910 were in Normandy, Spitfire PR Mk XIX PM631 (presented as a PR XIX of No 541 Sqn which performed photographic reconnaissance missions over the Europe from early 1944 to the end of the war) and Hurricane Mk IIc LF363 were at Portsmouth, providing flypasts for the D-Day event on land and at sea for the MV Boudicca, aboard which the veterans sailed to France.

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