80th Anniversary D-Day Walk honouring American bravery

South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) is marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day with events commemorating America’s local presence and military actions in 1944.

Three guided information walks at former American-occupied RAF North Witham and a talk at Grantham Museum will illustrate how American troops flew from South Kesteven to spearhead the invasion of Normandy.

  • Thursday 30 May at 5.30pm – RAF North Witham
  • Wednesday 5th June at 5.30pm – RAF North Witham
  • Thursday 6th June at 2pm – Grantham Museum
  • Thursday 13th June at 5.30pm – RAF North Witham

🔗: https://ow.ly/5Jea50RA4l9

How much do you know about America’s military presence in South Kesteven and the US troops who flew from a local airfield to spearhead the allied invasion of Europe?

The eve of D-Day mission from RAF North Witham near Colsterworth is an incredible story – when aircraft of America’s lX Troop Carrier Command carried specially trained paratroopers from the US Army’s 101st and 82 Airborne behind enemy lines in advance of the main taskforce.

Come and join one of our hosted walks at former RAF North Witham (then United States Army Air Force Station 479) or an illustrated talk at Grantham Museum to hear the full story, courtesy of aviation heritage specialist Brian Riley.

Be guided around the airfield’s still intact runways and hear how, at precisely 21:54 on 5 June 1944, the first of 20 Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft took off carrying elite American Pathfinder troops, skimming the channel at 50ft to fly under enemy radar on their way to Normandy.

Paratroopers had spent months training behind armed security for the mission – to position Eureka radio signalling beacons and visual markers behind enemy lines. Within the hour the invasion of Normandy was in full swing.

Grantham Museum already hosts a special exhibition, entitled ‘Tip of the Spear’ celebrating the mission with clothing, equipment, and descriptions of the ‘rodeo’ organised to attract the best pilots.

The walks and talk will focus on how Pathfinder troops were lured into applying for a mission with no promise of a safe return, including the story of Captain Frank Lillyman – the first man to jump – who earned a national citation for valour.

The walks, lasting around two and a half hours, start at 5.30pm from the main Twyford Wood car park, off the A151 Colsterworth to Bourne Road.

On this day 80 years ago tensions would have been rising and training intensified as elite US paratroopers prepared for a mission that would mark the start of D-Day. Hear about the levels of secrecy around the Pathfinders’ presence at RAF North Witham and the care taken to keep the mission under wraps. C-47 Dakotas were parked and readied on the airfield ‘spectacles’ – still visible today – and the Pathfinder quarters were under close guard.

We do have various events to celebrate this anniversary with organised walks at Twyford Wood, Colsterworth – 5 June & 13 June and a talk at Grantham Museum on 6th June 2024. See other listings.

If this event sells out or you require further information please contact communityengagement@southkesteven.gov.uk

Update: I attended the presentation on the 30th May 2024, which was absolutely brilliant.