A memorial service was held at the Civic War Memorial on the Lee-on-the-Solent seafront in the evening of 3 June to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of D-Day – one of many such events each side of the Channel. The Memorial is located just a few hundred yards from HMS Daedalus, an airfield which played a major part in the embarkation of troops for ‘Operation Overlord’. Much of the local area became a launch point for the huge military operation – both airborne and seaborne. A record 435 sorties operated from the airfield on D-Day itself, with aircraft from the RAF, FAA, USAAF, USN, SAAF, RAAF and RCN working around the clock.
The Service was followed by flypasts from a number of aircraft representing some of those air arms, themselves flying out of the same airfield. Additional aircraft had gathered at Lee – including a eight C-47 Dakotas/Skytrains – and would depart the following day for mainland Europe and further commemorations and troop-dropping re-enactments. A number of those crews and ‘troops’ attended the Service, alongside veterans and local dignitaries.
The weather for the service was luckily better than forecast, though the timing of the flypasts coincided with a tall and threatening front moving in from the west which blocked out the light, making photography awkward.
A planned poppy-drop by C-47 ‘Union Jack Dak’ when passing the memorial met with a slight technical difficulty which sadly caused the petals to fall beyond the intended dropping point. This Skytrain is a D-Day veteran, having departed in the early hours of 6 June 1944 heading for Normandy towing a Waco glider.
Those onboard in 1944 – and the tens of thousands of other brave souls airborne at that time – were spearheading the Allied attack on ‘Fortress Europe’, from which they might not return.
‘Lest we Forget’