[bJ]ust wanted to share this with you all as it was a very special day If the pictures are to big for your screen then let me know as I have left them big so you can get the full impact
This C47 trip was organised by the 1st Division Memorial Group; mainly by the efforts of Pete Eakers and every seat was taken.
It was an experience that is going to be tough to beat; flying at around eight hundred feet above Normandy in a C-47, sitting next to your 10 year old son; is something that memories are made of.
Sometimes luck is just your side, as the plane that we were supposed to be in was, as the pilot stated, ?broke?. So we had to take another one. This was no drama, but the problem we had was that it couldn?t carry so much fuel. You would be right in thinking that this would mean less time over Normandy but not so when you are dealing with Pete Eakers. What it meant was that on our way back we would have to stop and refuel at Biggin Hill and unfortunately we would have to fly at around eight hundred feet above London. Pete then when on to say that he was working on Air Atlantique (Classic Flight.com) to get clearance to fly above the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, up the Thames and past Buckingham Palace. I am really not sure how the hell he managed it but it was purely and simply the icing on the cake. With the governments current trend of installing fear into people with the current buzz word of ?terrorism? then it must very rare to get clearance to fly over London like we did.
We left Coventry airport at around 11.45am and I think we got back at around 17.00. It is Jesse?s 11th birthday on the 4th July and I took him for a birthday treat and it was the first time he had ever flown. The flight over the UK was rough but if you have flown before than it was nothing that you haven?t come across already, but poor Jess looked like he had the stuffing knocked out of him. He stood in the cockpit for while, then came back and slept until we got over to France. He was fine when he woke up.
For me, I just love flying and for someone who has studied rural history and rural landscapes since I was young it is fascinating viewpoint to study the landscape from the air. Whilst flying down over the UK I am sure we flew over the Time Team doing a dig but I couldn?t tell you what part of the country we were in ? I am guessing at Oxfordshire. We flew straight down to Southampton, over the Isle of Wight and then into Normandy. What a view.
We have all studied history of the place and have walked it and read the books. We?ve studied the pictures, seen the films and have been moved by the stories of the veterans and acts of bravery of the civilian population, but there is nothing that will put all of that into total context than seeing all of the battlefields from the air ? it is a unique perspective.
I think one of the biggest questions we all ask ourselves is how on earth did they manage to pull D-Day together? You will not find the answer to that from looking from the air either, it is just as incomprehensible from there too. What you will grasp is the height that the American paratroopers jumped from and despite the criticism that was levelled at the pilots of the Troop Carrier Group that took the 101st and 82nd in to Normandy (the criticism came mainly from Stephen Ambrose ? whilst not interviewing any TCG vets). You will be amazed at how clever they were to put men on the ground and not in the English Channel ? you only get seconds to make the right assumptions and decisions at that height. I was even more shocked at how the glider pilots put the gliders down at Pegasus and you can fully understand why it is said that this was the most remarkable piece of flying of WWII. Again, you can only get this perspective from circling above it ? there is not much room for error in a feat like that. God bless them all.
The sites that we visited
We flew over Ste Mere Eglise and circled around so both sides of the plane could get a good view. We went along Utah, my favourite place in the whole of Normandy. We had a beautiful view of Pointe Du Hoc as we circled it. A couple of weeks ago we were in Weymouth seeing where the Rangers left from and then we were flying over their objectives, an awesome connection. We flew along Omaha and circled St. Laurent-sur-Mer, having an amazing view of the cemetery.
POINT DU HOC
Then onto the British sector. I was looking forward to seeing Mulberry harbour ? I was not disappointed. Having just watched a documentary on them with some footage that I have never seen before, it was great to be able to put the entire jigsaw together. The scale of it is incredible and I was hoping or dreaming, to see if there were any traces of the Gooseberries (the sunken ships ? forming part of the break water). The caisson looked like shipwrecks themselves and you can envisage the thousands of tons of supplies being unloaded there.
We flew along Gold, Juno and Sword to our left until we got to Pegasus. We circled three times and we had incredible view of the whole area and you can?t stop your mind from thinking how the hell did they do that. For me I could see Ox and Bucks screaming Ham and Jam.
Heading for home: Biggin Hill and Buckingham Palace.
We left Pegasus and made our way back home and as we did so I looked right back along the beaches. It was a nice way to say good bye to Normandy and gave some thoughts to the RAF pilots who flew low level reconnaissance along them. We had to land at Biggin Hill to refuel and we had half hour to stretch our legs. Not only had we just flown over the battlefields of Normandy but we got to land and take off from a Battle of Britain airfield. Biggin Hill was bombed extensively by the Luftwaffe so, again, it was a day of extremes for all of us to have visited all these historical contrasts.
The take off from Biggin Hill was great and as soon as we got up to height we were flying over London. Jess has never been to London and I have been about twice so we were over the moon with that. We flew at eight hundred feet above Parliament, the London eye, and to our left was Buckingham Palace, the MI5 building and I dare say we were on their radar ? with a finger on the button. To be able to fly across London like this, at that height, must surely be a once in a lifetime experience.
We got back to Coventry, stumbled out of the C-47, shook hands and left with many things to think about and analyse.
I have had some great times since being involved in this hobby and this was without doubt one of the best day I have had. It is a real shame that these flights will no longer happen as I wouldn?t think twice about doing it again ? it really is something that everyone should experience. As I said at the beginning, days like these are what memories are made of and it is something that will stay with Jess and I forever.
I would just like to thank Pete Eakers, again, for making this day happen as it was fully appreciated and if it wasn?t for Jim Clark and Pete then Jess and I wouldn?t have experienced it.
I thank you for these magnificent photos.
Sight of height it is impréssionant!
What a beautiful landscape, is then the soldiers who fought low sound really of to drool!
excusez mon anglais, je parle pas super bien...
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Enfin du "Neuf" et du "beau" depuis mon retour de vacances ici.
Il aura fallu un topic venant d'angleterre et ces belles photos aeriennes offerte par Pathfinder UK, et en plus d'un C-47.
Nice Pictures with good and simple explanation regarding the flight.
Thanx Pathfinder uk ,continue to divide your photographs like that with us on this D.day forum
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