‘It was wonderful in every way’: D-Day veterans, 94 and 95, parachute into Normandy 75 years after invasion

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

A pair of veterans have celebrated parachuting into Normandy 75 years after they did so for D-Day.

Harry Read, 95, and John Hutton, 94, both took part in the original landings on 6 June 1944, and were part of a tandem jump with the Red Devils on Wednesday afternoon.

The pair took off from Duxford in Cambridgeshire and flew over to France, landing in fields overlooked by poppies which was the original drop zone for the 8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion, who went on to destroy bridges in a bid to restrict German movements during the missions.

Veterans Jock Hutton (left) and Harry Read (right) parachuted into Normandy 75 years after D-Day (PA)
The pair, now in their 90s, first jumped out onto Normandy in 1944 (PA)

They were the first two out of a Cessna aircraft at between 800ft and 1,000ft followed by a 5,000 sq ft Union Flag.

But their jump was in danger of being cancelled after being fraught with delays and technical difficulties when there was a problem with civilian Dakota aircraft “availability".

When another aircraft was found it was a race against time to get into French airspace in time in order to get clearance from the authorities to land.

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Now a retired Salvation Army officer living in Bournemouth, Dorset, Mr Read was a 20-year-old wireless operator with the Royal Signals who had a battery the size and weight of a toolbox strapped to his right leg when he was pushed out of the plane in the early hours of June 6 1944.

He told reporters afterwards: "I feel good. My health is good and my mind is still ticking away very nicely.

"I thought the jump was brilliant. I just had thoughts of anticipation after looking forward to it.

Mr Hutton said it was 'great to be back on French soil' (PA)
Mr Read completing his tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils (PA)

"Everything is worth the wait. The jump was wonderful in every way.

"I couldn't believe the drop was going to be postponed in any way because I had his assurance from God.

"If that had happened I was going to be examining my faith.

"I don't think I'll do another jump again.”

The jump was in danger of being cancelled after being fraught with delays and technical difficulties (PA)

Mr Hutton - known by his friends as Jock who was 19 when he served in the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion - said it was "great to be back on French soil”.

He said: "It's such a relief to get the 75th out of the way.”

However Mr Hutton, who thinks "he should have more sense at 94", said the landing was not as smooth as he had hoped, as he joked about a sore backside after he "landed on a bunch of boulders”.

Reflecting on his jump in 1944, Mr Hutton said: "I enjoyed the fall, I had done a lot of free falling.

The Commemorative Parachute Descent took place over Sannerville, France, during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings (PA)

"But [the French] thought that we were German soldiers on exercise.”

D-Day veteran John Eden, 94, who lives in Lancashire, watched the parachute drop after missing out of jumping out of a glider as part of his role on June 6 1944 with the 12th Devonshire Regiment.

The plan was abandoned at the last minute and they were sent over on landing craft instead.

He said: "I was little sad not to get the chance. It was great to watch them today and celebrate the success of D-Day and to remember those who died.”