A VETERAN British paratrooper has parachuted back into Normandy 70 years after the D-Day landings – and 89-year-old Jock Hutton landed in exactly the same field as he did in 1944, but this time in front of Prince Charles.
He had been part of the 22,000 British, Canadian and US parachutists and glider troops who landed miles behind the D-Day beaches to take vital strongpoints.
Last night, just before midnight, he joined 300 other British, US, French and Canadians to take off from RAF Brize Norton for a mass jump to commemorate the first troops into battle.
The Scot, from Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, jumped from 5,000ft in a tandem freefall jump with a paratrooper from 13th Battalion under a huge square Help for Heroes parachute.
Unlike 70 years ago with the famous round parachutes where Mr Hutton had little control, Colour Sergeant Michael Blanchard was last night able to land him right in front of the royal welcoming party outside Ranville, which was the first French village to be liberated.
Prince Charles, Colonel of the Parachute Regiment, shook Jock’s hand. Asked later if he had been terrified on the jump, Mr Hutton said: “Terrified? I’ve never been terrified in my life. I’m just a vicious little Scotsman!”
He added: “At my age life tends to get a little bit boring, so you’ve got to grab any chance of excitement you can”
He said that last night’s jump – in perfect weather on a bright night – was unlike that of 70 years ago when they jumped from 1,600ft: “It was very dark, obviously, and we could not see where we were going. It was raining a little and the Moon was busting through the clouds. It was a kind of a ‘Welcome to France’.”
Then as others joined the group he spotted an old comrade, 89-year-old Bert Marsh, who had fought with him in the Ardennes, and shouted: “Bertie you old beast! I thocht ye were deid!”
To mark the D-Day 70th anniversary in Normandy, The Connexion has produced a 16-page souvenir section in June including exclusive photos and interviews with two of the last surviving members of "Churchill's Special Army"; the SOE secret agents who parachuted into France to set up resistance networks, blow up bridges, and generally cause mayhem across France. There are also exclusive interviews with veterans who joined paratroops, infantrymen, Commandos, sailors, demolitions experts, and airfield builders on June 6 1944.
There is also an exclusive interview with Forces' Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.
The June edition of The Connexion with this D-Day special pull-out section is on sale in newsagents throughout France now. We have printed extra copies due to the exceptional demand but to make sure you get your copy you can buy one at a newsagent near you here or by calling Nathalie on 06 40 61 71 97 or 0844 256 9881 (4p per minute from UK) - and we can post one to you. The cost is €3.50 (plus p&p for a posted copy).
Photo: Leon Neal/Pool/AFP