D-Day 80 | Remembrance

man running with paramotor

Alex Ledger |

D-Day 80 | Remembrance

My interest in the Second World War was first developed at the tender age of 9 by my Great Uncle Joseph Kayll, a Spitfire Pilot during the Battle of Britain, credited with shooting down 7 German aircraft. In 1941, he himself was shot down in France and became a Prisoner of war. The following year he escaped and travelled over 90km with the aid of a silk map that had been sewn into the tunic of his flying jacket. Shortly after, he was recaptured. It was this silk map that he gave to me for my school's 'Show and Tell’ with the subject being the Second World War.

7 men stood with a paramotor

Since this unique experience I have been fascinated by Military History and after learning to fly in 2005, I was determined to fly over the D-Day Beaches. I managed to accomplish this goal for the first time in 2009. Since then I have run multiple Battlefield Paramotor Tours, not only over the D-Day Beaches but also the WW1 Battlefields in Northern France.

a paramotor flying over D-day beaches

Earlier this year I was approached by Levison Wood, who learnt how to fly with us in 2020. Levison suggested I run a bespoke Flying Trip to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. He had already signed Johnny Mercer up, the current Minster for Veterans Affairs who also learnt to fly with us, however 10 days before the departure date Johnny was no longer permitted to attend due to the surprise announcement of the General Election. As we had already booked the ferries and arranged all of the logistics, we decided to go ahead with the trip as planned!

person paragliding over French coastal town

Arriving in Caen on the 1st June we were treated to near perfect paragliding conditions and managed to fly for more than 4 hours along the 10km ridgeline between Port en Bessin and Arromanches. I ended up taking Levison and his friend and fellow film maker Alex Bescoby for a Tandem paragliding flight just as the sun set. It really was the perfect start to the trip!

two men with a paramotor

The following day Ted Drinkall, a fellow SkySchool Instructor, set his alarm early and had already managed 3 hours of paragliding by the time I joined him in the air. We decided to fly to Port en Bessin where we landed, bought a piping hot roast chicken from the market, stuffed it into the paraglidng harness and flew back to the campsite for lunch. In my time I’ve flown my paramotor to several pubs and restaurants, but never provided an aerial food delivery service by paraglider.

paramotor flying over D-Day beach

By the afternoon the winds had dropped and we managed to paramotor over Arromanches. We flew high out to sea over the remaining concrete caissons that the British had towed across the channel just after D-Day to provide a breakwater for the Mulberry harbour. It was at this stage that we were joined by fellow Paramotor Pilot Hugo Collis, a Lieutenant Colonel who was serving in France as a British Army Liason Officer. Hugo's younger brother Will, an old school friend, introduced me to Gilo Cardozo, the founder of Parajet, in 2004. This introduction led me into the world of paramotoring and the rest, as they say, is history...

Paramotor wind over the sea

That evening we all relocated to an airfield 2km from the coast where we flew over the British Normandy Memorial, while being treated to yet another beautiful sunset. The following day the weather continued to play ball so we decided to fly east over Juno and Sword beaches before heading inland over Pegasus Bridge, the Merville Battery and finally landing on the beach opposite Ouistreham. This was a particularly moving experience for Levison, who had served in the Parachute Regiment, as these two locations are firmly etched into the psyche of any Para reg soldier. He was overjoyed at being able to fly over them and pay his respects.

paramotor flying over Pegasus Bridge

On the final morning we were joined by two serving soldiers in the Prince of Wales's Royal Regiment. The conditions had yet again continued to be perfect and I managed to take them both for a tandem paramotor fight just before the airspace was closed for the official D-Day fly pasts and arrival of the various dignitaries for the events that were taking place the following day.

two people flying one paramotor

Oscar Manville-Hales then got to work editing the extremely large amount of content he had captured before releasing this fantastic film!

three men with paramotor on the ground

Meanwhile, I was joined by my father, an ex soldier. As he had never visited Normandy before we spent two days taking in all of the British sites by car and foot. We both agreed that we were extremely lucky to be born into a world where we didn’t have to go through what his father’s generation had.

world war two memorial with a man paying respects

I am extremely grateful for the freedom that we have in this modern day and can’t think of a better way to honour the sacrifices made than by flying over these historic locations.

Lest We Forget

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