THIS summer’s Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford will feature a tribute to a Wiltshire-based aircraft that was involved in preparations for the historic Pegasus Bridge landings on D-Day during World War Two.
Among the hundreds of aircraft taking part in the Air Tattoo, on July 16-17, will be a Dakota from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, painted in D-Day invasion stripes and with the markings carried by No233 Squadron Dakota FZ692. This aircraft was delivered to No233 squadron at RAF Blakehill Farm, Wiltshire in March 1944, and on the night of June 5 1944, 30 Dakotas from the squadron took gliders and parachutists from the 3rd Parachute Brigade to Normandy, returning later in the day to drop supplies.
Nurses stationed at Blakehill Farm who looked after wounded soldiers on evacuation flights became the first female RAF aircrew to fly into the combat zone. A Dakota from No233 Sqn became the first aircraft to land at a British-controlled airstrip in France after the invasion, on June 13. The squadron went on to provide aircraft towing gliders that carried troops from the 1st Airborne Division to Arnhem for Operation Market Garden, the attempt to capture key bridges across the Rhine in September 1944.
This summer’s Air Tattoo will be marking its 40th anniversary and hosting a gathering of specially-decorated ‘Tiger’ aircraft from the NATO Tiger Association. ‘Tiger’ aircraft come from NATO squadrons that have a Tiger or Big Cat in their emblem and their association marks its 50th anniversary in 2011. The ‘operational’ spotlight STAR 11 will focus on aircraft and equipment involved in the roles of Strike and Reconnaissance.
Tickets are available by visiting www.airtattoo.com or calling 0800 107 1940. All tickets must be purchased in advance. All accompanied under-16s go free.
Colour photo: Oliver Curtis.