As we transfer in the direction of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion subsequent yr, there are a selection of teams around the globe getting ready to participate within the Daks Over Normandy commemorative ceremonies which can see a number of dozen Douglas C-47s/Dakotas re-enacting the paratroop drops over France on June sixth, 2019. One among these organizations is working at fever pitch to completely restore and refurbish Douglas C-47A-65-DL 42-100521 virtually from the bottom up. Nicknamed Night time-Fright, this plane is a veteran of the D-Day marketing campaign herself, flying from RAF Membury with the 79th Troop Service Squadron of the 436th Troop Service Group out of RAF Membury, close to Lambourn in Berkshire, England.
RAF and USAAF transports flew in giant formations on D-Day, with every having a selected Drop Zone (or a Touchdown Zone in the event that they have been towing gliders). With such an enormous invasion, involving actually hundreds of plane, the Ninth Troop Service Command assigned every of their plane formations a ‘Serial’ quantity to make it simpler to offer orders that everybody would perceive. And inside every ‘Serial’, every plane acquired a selected ‘Chalk’ quantity… a quantity actually written in chalk on the plane’s entry door. This stored issues easy, so that every soldier would know which plane to board for the flight. On D-Day, Night time Fright took half in Serial 10 as Chalk #38. They have been participating in Operation Albany, the 101st Airborne Infantry’s effort to seize 5 key places in help of the American amphibious assault as a result of happen at ‘Utah Beach’ on the Cotentin Peninsular. Night time-Fright’s crew consisted of Pilot; William Watson, Co-pilot; James Hardt, Radio Operator; Robert McKnight, Navigator; Arthur E. Thornton and Crew Chief; Owen Voss. They took off for the French coast at 0108 hrs early within the morning of June sixth, 1944 with parts of ‘A’ Battery from the 377th Subject Artillery Battalion. They flew in Serial 10’s first vee of three, simply off the best wing of Maj. John Kreyssler, the 79th TCS’ CO, in C-47A 43-15358 nicknamed Child.
The mission is described as follows on Night time-Fright’s web site, “Many of the groups of Pathfinders encountered difficulties in setting up their homing beacons due to enemy troop concentrations, ground conditions, lost or damaged equipment and mis-drops. This meant that when serial #10 encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and an unexpected cloud bank over the west coast of the Cotentin peninsular, their subsequent drop was widely scattered, as were a number of other such drops on the night. Chalk #38 most likely landed in a group with nine other sticks just to the north of St-Marcouf, some five miles north west of the intended drop zone ‘A’, which should have been set up to the south-west of Saint-Martin-de-Varreville but was actually set up close to Foucarville, a mile north of the intended location. The drop pattern map left shows just how scattered the unit was reported to have been, based on de-briefing reports taken from the Paratroopers upon their return to England, though this has been a contentious issue between the Troop Carrier members and Paratroopers ever since. Another problem came about when the packs that were to be pushed out prior to the troopers exit got wedged into the door frame on a number of aircraft, resulting in the troopers landing far from the DZs or requiring the aircraft to make additional passes and therefore increasing the risk of being hit by ground fire. One trooper witnessed a C-47 making three passes in trying to place its troopers on the correct spot. After a less eventful return flight, the Group’s aircraft all returned to Membury by 0353hrs.”
Night time-Fright flew not one, however two missions on D-Day although, as she once more took to the skies with many others from the 436th TCG towing gliders as a part of Serial 32 in Operation Elmira, a part of the re-provide and reinforcement mission for D-Day, and the ultimate 82nd Airborne Infantry flight of the invasion. Night time-Fright’s web site describes the motion as follows, “Mission Elmira was deliberate for the late night of the sixth June. Serial 32 of consisted of two CG-4As and forty-eight Horsa gliders towed by the 436th TCG, departing from Membury at 2037hrs (Double British Summer time Time) assembly the 363rd Fighter Group’s P-51Bs over St. Alban’s Head and taking a bearing for the path to LZ ‘W’ between St. Mere-Eglise and Carentan. The gliders carried members of the US 82nd Airborne Division’s 319th Glider Area Artillery Battalion, the 307th Airborne Medic Firm, ‘A’ Firm of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion and the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery. Sadly most of the gliders have been launched prematurely and a few landed in or near German-held territory at round 2300hrs because the solar was near setting. Most of the gliders and C-47s encountered heavy floor hearth after having to fly over German-held territory, main to 3 plane from Serials 32 and 33 being pressured to ditch within the Channel on their return.
Thankfully for the 436th all of their plane returned to Membury, albeit many having sustained injury, Night time Fright herself taking round 100 hits, placing her out of service for repairs for 4 days. The Group’s glider pilots weren’t so fortunate, out of the the seven males misplaced by the Group, the 79th TCS misplaced 1stLt. John Partitions and 2ndLt. Richard Hoag, each as a result of floor hearth, with quite a lot of others injured. Between the ninth and 13th of June the 436th carried out various sorties, towing CG-4As for resupply and troop actions to LZs close to St-Mere-Eglise.
The 436th TCG at Melun in France in March, 1945 as they ready to launch throughout Operation Varsity. Every C-47 was hooked up to 2 CG-4A gliders! (photograph by way of Night time-Fright workforce)
After repairs have been accomplished a number of days later Night time Fright returned to service to hold out resupply missions, medical evacuations and freight-shifting flights throughout the remainder of the month.”
The 436th took half in lots of additional actions throughout the remainder of the conflict, together with Operations Dragoon, Dove, Market-Backyard, and Repulse. Whereas it’s unclear whether or not Night time-Fright took half in these missions at current, it’s probably that she participated in a few of them, and the plane is understood to have flown as Chalk #51 in Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine, on March 24th, 1945. Lt.Watson was on the controls once more as they towed two Waco CG-4A gliders (Chalk#101 45-6155 and #102 43-43304) to Touchdown Zone “S”. It was a bushy mission, with heavy flak, however Night time-Fright and her crew made it house safely.
Following the top of hostilities, Night time-Fright flew residence to the USA. She handed into civilian possession in 1946, and flew for quite a lot of home airways earlier than she once more returned to army service in 1963, this time with the French Navy, who operated her in an aircrew coaching position till the early 1980s! Basler Flight Providers imported her again to the USA and overhauled her to be used within the air cargo commerce, a task by which she soldiered on till lastly retired in 2008. Her future seemed fairly dim at this level, as she now belonged to Common Asset Administration, famous principally for parting out/scrapping airframes. Paradoxically the corporate was based mostly at Walnut Ridge in Arkansa, the place so many plane ended up after the U.S. army put them up for disposal on the finish of WWII, Night time-Fright being one them. Nevertheless, this C-47’s affiliation with each D-Day and RAF Membury proved to be her salvation.
Again within the early 1990s, the Walker household acquired the Membury Property, which encompasses the land and buildings as soon as generally known as RAF Membury. They based mostly their enterprise right here, Walker Logistics Ltd. utilizing a variety of the unique wartime hangars, plus some new-construct buildings as properly. As time moved on, they turned keenly conscious of the airfield’s historical past and determined to do one thing significant in memorializing that. In 2012 they started on the lookout for a C-47 which had served on the airfield through the conflict, and thus our topic plane got here into their arms. Initially, it was merely going to be a static restoration, however as soon as the the plane’s wealthy historic provenance emerged, it was clear that they needed to do one thing extra. The perfect finish aim is to fly the plane from Membury, whereas additionally establishing a Troop Service Museum on the identical airfield from which she flew through the struggle as a testomony to all of those that sacrificed a lot in WWII to protect our freedom. This in fact would require the refurbishment of Membury’s runway as properly, in order that will probably be a while off.
The C-47’s restoration started with Frank and Glenn Moss in Shell Creek, Florida in 2012, the place a whole lot of progress was made. In mid-2017, the Walker household moved the airframe to Coventry in England, the place she is presently underneath care of Ben Cox of Air Atlantique, who has a unprecedented degree of expertise on C-47s having helped keep the airline’s fleet of DC-3s, DC-6s and so on. over a few years.
Charlie Waker associated the next about what has occurred because the plane moved again to the UK as follows…
“Since we moved the aircraft from the US to the UK last year we have mainly been working on thoroughly stripping and cleaning all areas of the aircraft, structural repairs to both the centre section and fuselage where there was corrosion and defects, overhauling the landing gear and brakes, looking for parts etc etc.”
The restoration effort has been relentless, and the workforce just lately celebrated two main milestones with the set up of Night time-Fright’s touchdown gear being accomplished on December seventh, and her engines on December 12th, so the plane is regaining her form quickly now. We’ll make sure you convey extra particulars as we obtain them, however individuals keen on studying extra ought to go to Night time-Fright’s Web site, Fb Web page, On-line Retailer, Twitterfeed and Instagram web page.
Many because of Charlie Walker for all of his assist in getting ready this text. We want him nicely with the restoration, and look forwards to extra updates within the coming weeks and months!
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