You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

D-day veterans in their 90s parachute into Normandy once more

The Guardian logo The Guardian 05/06/2019 Caroline Davies in Sannerville

Replay Video
UP NEXT
1
Cancel
UP NEXT
UP NEXT
Video by Press Association

Seventy-five years ago, they jumped into the unknown, landing noiselessly in Normandy’s fields in the inky dark and pumped with adrenalin over what horrors might await them.

Now in their nineties, two D-day veterans made the same landing on Wednesday, this time to loud applause as part of a spectacular Red Devils’ display with flags and signature red smoke before a cheering crowd.

Harry Read, 95, a retired Salvation Army officer, was a 20-year-old wireless operator with the Royal Signals, when he was pushed out of his plane in the early hours of 6 June 1944. John “Jock” Hutton, 94, from Larkfield, Kent, was 19, and serving with the 13th Lancashire Parachute regiment when he descended over the famous Pegasus Bridge.

Veteran Harry Read, 95, completing his tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils during the Commemorative Parachute Descent over Sannerville, France, during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Veteran Harry Read, 95, completing his tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils during the Commemorative Parachute Descent over Sannerville, France, during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

On Wednesday both performed tandem jumps with the British army’s Red Devils, recreating the famous airborne landings at a historic drop zone at Sannerville. The pair were part of a display which also included 280 British and French paratroopers. Both men gave a thumbs up to the crowd as they landed.

More on D-Day 75th Aniversary:

'On behalf of the free world, thank you': Queen's moving D-Day tribute (HuffPost UK)

'On D-Day I was terrified, everyone was': Veteran relives his experience (Mirror)

MV Boudicca and veterans waved off by PM as Normandy journey begins (Press Association)

Read told reporters: “I thought the jump was brilliant. The jump was wonderful in every way. I feel good. My health is good and my mind is still ticking away.”.

Hutton said: “Its great to be back on French soil.” He said though he thought he should have “more sense at 94”. The landing was not as smooth as he had hoped and he had a sore backside, he joked, after landing “on a bunch of boulders”.

Veteran Harry Read, 95, completing his tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils during the Commemorative Parachute Descent over Sannerville, France, during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Veteran Harry Read, 95, completing his tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils during the Commemorative Parachute Descent over Sannerville, France, during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

Reflecting on his jump in 1944, he said he had enjoyed it because he had previously done a lot of freefalling.

Both men had been worried that because of problems with the availability of their original aircraft, their jump might not go ahead.

“We were looking out of the window and all of the mist was coming in,” Hutton said. “All this bloody way and we’re not going to get out of the aircraft.”

Gallery: 75th D-Day anniversary commemorations (Photos Services)

In the earliest hours of that longest day thousands of Allied troops were disgorged into the night sky from Horsa and Hamilcar gliders and planes. They included more than 4,000 from the 6th Airborne division, including Major John Howard’s 181 men of the “Ox and Bucks” who swooped in on six wood-and-canvas Horsas to take two crucial bridges over the river Orne and the Caen canal in the first hour of D-day.

In Operation Deadstick Howard’s troops landed on target and on time, at 00.16. After a fierce 10-minute firefight the action was over by 00.26 – a full six hours before the beach landings. Ninety minutes after taking off from Britain, Howard was able to send the code words “Ham and Jam” indicating both bridges, critical to defending the invasions left flank, had been successfully taken.

Henceforth the bridge over the Caen canal has been known as Pegasus Bridge, after the winged mythical stallion that is the defining symbol of the British airborne forces, and in tribute to what has been described as “the most outstanding flying achievements of the war”.

SANNERVILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 05: D-Day veteran John Hutton, aka Jock, 94, speaks to paratroopers after he joined parachutists, in full Allied uniforms, in a parachute drop onto fields at Sannerville on June 05, 2019 at Sannerville, France. Veterans, families, visitors and military personnel are gathering in Normandy on June 6th to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings which heralded the Allied advance towards Germany and victory in Europe 11 months later. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) © 2019 Getty Images SANNERVILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 05: D-Day veteran John Hutton, aka Jock, 94, speaks to paratroopers after he joined parachutists, in full Allied uniforms, in a parachute drop onto fields at Sannerville on June 05, 2019 at Sannerville, France. Veterans, families, visitors and military personnel are gathering in Normandy on June 6th to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings which heralded the Allied advance towards Germany and victory in Europe 11 months later. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

On the eve of the 75th anniversary paratroopers from the 16 Air Assault Brigade and their French counterparts, joined the mass jump into Sannerville, dropping from the RAF Hercules aircraft and a C-47 Dakota.

Among them was a British army officer whose grandfather fought for the German forces during the second world war. Warrant officer Maik Briggs said he was born and raised in Germany and his grandfather had been an infantry officer. “For me this is a huge occasion. I just jumped French there, under a French parachute, it’s all about collaboration. It’s a huge occasion for myself because of my German links, but also to pay tribute to what the Allies did as well 75 years ago.”

On Wednesday, the veterans followed next. Accompanied by a team of 12 Red Devils, they jumped from a Beech 99 and a Cessna Caravan aircraft, which crossed the channel.

SANNERVILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 05: Red Devil Corporal Stacey Briggs welcomes D-Day veteran Harry Read, aged 95, as he comes into land as he tandem jumped with the Red Devils of the Royal parachute Regiment in a parachute drop onto fields at Sannerville on June 05, 2019 at Sannerville, France. Veterans, families, visitors and military personnel are gathering in Normandy on June 6th to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings which heralded the Allied advance towards Germany and victory in Europe 11 months later. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) © 2019 Getty Images SANNERVILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 05: Red Devil Corporal Stacey Briggs welcomes D-Day veteran Harry Read, aged 95, as he comes into land as he tandem jumped with the Red Devils of the Royal parachute Regiment in a parachute drop onto fields at Sannerville on June 05, 2019 at Sannerville, France. Veterans, families, visitors and military personnel are gathering in Normandy on June 6th to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings which heralded the Allied advance towards Germany and victory in Europe 11 months later. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The two aircraft had to be hastily arranged by the Ministry of Defence at the eleventh hour to save the day because of issues over the availability of the civilian plane that was to transport them. At one point it looked as though the jumpers would not get to fulfil their wish. But flight plans for the substitute aircraft were submitted just two hours before being approved by the French authorities.

Many on D-day had paid the ultimate price. Men were lost to the swamps and flooded trenches, dragged down to their deaths by heavy equipment. Some gliders crash landed scouring deep wakes of furrowed soil. Many paratroopers were blown off course, landing alone miles from their allotted rendezvous points.

Just minutes into D-day the first house on French soil was liberated, and the first Allied soldier of the invasion, Lt Den Brotheridge, 28, was killed, cut down by enemy machine gun fire.

Veteran Harry Read, who is taking part in a parachute drop in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, being interviewed in Bournemouth. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Veteran Harry Read, who is taking part in a parachute drop in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, being interviewed in Bournemouth. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

This year, like every year, a vigil and silent march by 1 Battalion The Rifles and the Army Air Corps will be held at Pegasus bridge at midnight, and a bottle of champagne opened at Cafe Gondrée, the site of the first combat of the invasion in those first minutes of the longest day.

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Guardian

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon