D-Day, RAF Keevil


It was 23.19hrs on the night of 5th June, 1944. A Short Stirling IV aircraft of 196 Sqn, RAF slowly accelerated down this runway at RAF Keevil, and took off for Normandy. It was followed by 45 others, from both 196 and 299 Sqns (38 Group), each carrying 20 airborne troops of the 6th Airborne Division of the British Army. 38 Group comprised crews from the RAF, RCAF, RAAF and RZNAF, with the Canadian and Australian contingents being particularly strong.

Units such as 12th Battalion (Yorks.) Parachute Regiment, and 225th Para Field Ambulance, 5th Parachute Brigade were headed for the Ranville area, and some heavy fighting. The Stirlings would return (minus casualties), and form up in a second wave – this time towing Airspeed Horsa gliders – with a take-off time around 1800hrs.

S/Sgt R. E. White, The Glider Pilot Regt., was awarded the DCM for conspicuous gallantry on D-Day; he single-handedly manned a 6 pounder anti-tank gun, destroyed a German self-propelled gun, and fought off tank attacks, just one of many acts of heroism amongst the Airborne Forces. RAF Keevil was also used to launch the abortive attack on Arnhem, Holland – Operation Market (part of Market-Garden). Keevil is still as lush and green as it was on that June day in 1944, and it was a moving visit for me.

S/Sgt R .E. White, DCM, died at Arnhem.

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