Daks Over Duxford, IWM Duxford, 4th June 2019

1st July 2019
Written by: Rob Slusar

2019 marks 75 years since the biggest invasion in military history. D-Day. On the 6th of June 1944, more than 150,000 men took part in “Operation Overlord”, landing on 5 beaches with one mission. Free occupied Europe.

One important element of the operation was the large number of paratroopers that dropped into the fields of France the night before. Daks Over Duxford(Normandy) was set up to commemorate these troopers.

The plan was simple. Get as many C-47s and DC-3s as possible, fill them with paratroopers and drop them into the fields of Normandy. The staging area would be Duxford.

The Show

The overall plan was ambitious, and even though we didn’t get the 40+ Dakotas we were promised, we ended up with 23 from Europe and the US. This is the most I have seen in any one place, and I was in heaven. The weather, however, was no heavenly.

It was wet (again), windy and surprisingly cold for June. Sadly, the wind speed meant that we didn’t get the air drops that we were promised. Ultimately, safety comes first.

It was a cracking day however, with us getting a large number of the planes into the air. This took the form off a 6 plane flypast, a solo display and a 3 ship formation. As is often the case with that many vintage planes in one place it was not without its issues.

One Harvard was involved in a bird strike (luckily not affected) and one of the DC-3s had its own issues. After taking off as part of a 7 ship formation, it notably pulled away from the main group and came back round to land. It was only as it approached that we saw one engine was completely out, the other running at half power. We later learnt that it had suffered a double engine far and was forced to emergency land. It was a great example of how to act under pressure from the pilot. Whilst it was landed safely it did force the closure of the runway for a period of time.

The Photos

Having had practice at Duxford a week before, I was ready for this day in photography terms. I absolutely love Dakotas so getting to photograph so many (my previous was 2 in one show) was a great experience.

You may remember that last year my lens got wet and one of the air shows and steamed up something bad. This year I was prepared for this and bought a sleeve for it to keep it dry. It worked a treat.

As there was very little sun, there was no issues with light for the most part. The only exposure issues I had was in some cases shooting into the flat grey sky but I have been able to rectify much of that.

I kept so many from this show (I justified it by it being a once in a lifetime event). Here are the first batch.

Final Thoughts

I was in my element on this day. It didn’t even matter that it was raining. We didn’t get all of the jumps we were promised, but at the end of the day, safety has to come first.

Despite the weather, it was a genuinely good day. I couldn’t wait to get back for the second day and the mass departure to Normandy.