Airfield plays host to a friendly invasion of France 68 years on

The pilot of veteran Dakota DC-3 "Drag-em-oot"Geoff Pell at HMS Daedalus

The pilot of veteran Dakota DC-3 "Drag-em-oot"Geoff Pell at HMS Daedalus

Michelle Bates, WO2 Lloyd Gillingham, Noah, six, and Gunner Ryan Hancock
Pictures: Habibur Rahman

Portsmouth shows its support with celebrations on Armed Forces Day

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IT WAS 68 years ago parachutists jumped out of planes into France in an assault that marked a turning point in the Second World War.

And now using Lee-on-the-Solent as their base, they have done it again.

Hubert Achten, president of the Round Canopy Parachuting Team,  prepares with his men for their drop over the French town of St Mere Eglise from a veteran Dakota DC-3 which was in operation on the night of June 5, 1944

Hubert Achten, president of the Round Canopy Parachuting Team, prepares with his men for their drop over the French town of St Mere Eglise from a veteran Dakota DC-3 which was in operation on the night of June 5, 1944

A group of 20 parachutists from the US and Europe gathered at the Daedalus airfield in Chark Lane yesterday to mark 68 years since the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Stretching out on the grass in full military uniform, they anxiously awaited the arrival of a Douglas DC-3 Dakota aircraft.

The American plane, which saw action on D-Day and now belongs to a private owner, flew over Gosport at 1.40pm to pick up the jumpers.

It then took off around an hour later before heading to France where it dropped the parachutists over Sainte Mere Eglise – the first town to be liberated on June 6, 1944

Crew chief Geoff Pell, 65, from Alverstoke, was on board the plane for its journey from Lincolnshire to Lee-on-the-Solent.

He said: ‘It’s fantastic.

‘It’s nice to see a plane this large at Daedalus.

‘We needed somewhere to pick up the parachutists and I thought it would be nice to come here.

‘It’s good for the airfield and for the locals to see it here, exactly how she looked in 1944.’

The friendly invasion was being held as part of French commemorations of D-Day.

Hubert Achten, the president of the parachuting team, said: ‘Staging something like this is the top of what guys like us can dream of.

‘The only difference is we will not have any enemies over there.

‘We do this in memory of the veterans.

‘We will follow exactly the same path as those in 1944.’

The aircraft, named ‘Drag-’em-oot’, also flew with the Royal Air Force in September 1944 over Arnhem.

Richard Goman, 60, was taken on board a light aircraft which flew alongside the Dakota for its journey south as a birthday present from his family.

The 60-year-old is also a member of the Gosport Aviation Society.

He said: ‘It was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.

‘To be in the air with a view of that aircraft was so memorable.

‘It is a wonderful living memorial to those who gave their lives.’

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