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Prepare for take off

D-Day troops didn't all land at the five designated beaches nor were they all British or American. They were found in the air, on the ground and at sea; men and women from many nations across the Commonwealth and from around the world.

George Oliver, an Australian pilot of a Sterling Bomber was one of the Commonwealth servicemen involved in dropping paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division into Normandy in the early hours of 6 June. He vividly recalled the apprehension he felt before taking off and his flight across the channel.

We were given the position of the drop on a map and had to work out our flight plan - all in the normal way. Then we had to go out and start up our aircraft; when we walked up there, we saw these three white stripes about a foot wide painted on each wing and the fuselage. We were told any aircraft that didn’t have these white stripes on it would be subject to attack as enemy. We checked our aircraft over, and there was nothing to do then so we just had to wait.

I had a few butterflies in my stomach at the time, a mixture of apprehension and excitement in a way. There was no way that I could just sit still. I walked back to my hut, had a shower, a shave, polished my shoes, all for something to do. I really felt that we were going into the unknown and I remember thinking to myself ‘I wonder what it will be like’ and ‘will I come back from it?’

DD_Pathfinders_NAM79123

Preparing to drop

When I went out to the aircraft there were all these airborne soldiers there, with blacked faces, leaves over their helmets and grenades hanging on them, they looked really fearsome, I remember thinking ‘I’m glad they're on our side!’

Preparing to drop

When I went out to the aircraft there were all these airborne soldiers there, with blacked faces, leaves over their helmets and grenades hanging on them, they looked really fearsome, I remember thinking ‘I’m glad they're on our side!’

(courtesy of the National Army Museum)

The butterflies disappeared as soon as I started the engines up, I was so absorbed with what I had to do that I felt ok. We lined up on the perimeter track with our troops and away we went. We took off with our troops all on-board, seventeen of them with all their equipment. We headed off towards Normandy. It was very windy and gusty and as we crossed the channel, we could see searchlights and flak flashing out.

As we got closer in there were hundreds of aircraft around. Eventually the navigator called out and we saw the lights down there on the drop zone. We were very intensely involved, I had to fly an exact height and control the airspeed, the bomb aimer gave us directions towards these lights, left, left, right, right, steady, steady, steady, ‘Green’ and way they went.


Imperial War Museum Sound Archive [IWMSA], Ref: 28897, G.R. Oliver, Oral History (2006), (Extracts)

The Stories of D-Day

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