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80 Years D-Day: North Weald 


On Thursday 30 May and Friday 31 May 2024, The Centre Of Aviation Photography (COAP) organised several photo shoots at North Weald airfield in Essex that were entirely dedicated to the 80th anniversary of D-Day. North Weald airfield played an important role during the Battle of Britain. Today it is home to many private historic aircraft and the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance and the National Police Air Service. During these photo shoots, numerous scenarios were reenacted by airborne paratroopers and USAF pilot reenactors in preparation for D-Day and the Normandy landings. Especially for the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, several American based C-47 Dakota military transport aircraft flew to England in the weeks leading up to 6 June 2024 for numerous commemorative flights. Two of these historic US-based C-47 aircraft that played an important role during World War II were N88874 ‘That's All, Brother’ and N74589 ‘Placid Lassie’. These beautiful restored aircraft therefore played a starring role during the 80 Years D-Day photo shoots at North Weald airport. Despite poor weather conditions, all parties involved managed to make these photo shoots successful allowing us to briefly return to that important period that marked the beginning of the end of World War II. 

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota was developed from the civilian Douglas DC-3 and was used extensively by the Allies during World War II. These aircraft were used in large numbers for troop transport, military cargo, towing gliders and paratroopers and was therefore vital to the success of many Allied campaings. During World War II, the Royal Air Force (RAF) received about 1,930 Dakotas and they became the RAF’s main wartime transport aircraft. The US Army Air Corps, US Army Air Forces and US Air Force had many thousands of C-47 aircraft during World War II, which were eventually deployed around the world. More than 50,000 paratroops were dropped by C-47s during the first few days of the D-Day campaign also known as the invasion of Normandy, France, in June 1944. One C-47 carried about 20 paratroopers during D-Day and was operated by two pilots, a navigator and radio operator. Even after World War II, C-47 aircraft were used for a long time by the US Air Force. Thousands of these aircraft were also converted to civilian use. All together, more than 10,000 C-47 aircraft were produced in California and Oklahoma.


One of these C-47s, 'That's All, Brother', led the formation of 800 others from which approximately 13,000 U.S. paratroopers jumped on D-Day, June 6, 1944. This makes the C-47 ‘That's All, Brother’ a real American war hero and D-Day veteran. The name seen on the nose of the plane, ‘That's All, Brother’, was a message chosen by Army Air Force Lt. Col. John M. Donalson to Adolf Hitler that Nazi Germany's days were numbered. The second historical C-47 to visit North Weald airfield and feature in these photo shoots was ‘Placid Lassie’. On the morning of June 6th, 1944, this C-47 and the rest of the 74th Troop Carrier Squadron (TCS) carried 155 men and equipment for the US Army's 101st Airborne Division in assault gliders to Normandy. In the days following D-Day, Placid Lassie flew resupply missions into France in support of the 101st Airborne. After D-Day, Placid Lassie and the 74th TCS flew four missions over four days during Operation Market Garden in The Netherlands and also participated in Operation Repulse during the Battle of the Bulge. A third C-47 Dakota to take part in these photo shoots was G-ANAF ‘The Ghost of Arnhem’, owned by Aero Legends. 


The author/photographer would like to thank the Centre Of Aviation Photography (COAP), Aero Legends, D-Day Squadron, D-Day 80 Heroes Remembered and all the reenactors for these fantastic photo shoots. 

Text: Kris Christiaens
Photos: Kris Christiaens 

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