Essex Para honours relative in D-Day 75 jump
- Credit: PA
Colonel Andrew Jackson, deputy commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade at Colchester, parachuted into Normandy clutching the medals earned by a relative who fought on D-Day 75 years ago
He jumped today at Sannerville - where British airborne forces landed on the night of June 5 ahead of the beach landings - holding the medals earned by his wife Kate's great-uncle Lieutenant Richard Prince.
He jumped in on D-Day as part of the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion.
Lt Prince's unit had the mission of relieving the glider troops who had captured Pegasus Bridge.
He was injured a few days into the campaign but survived the war and later served in Palestine and Malaya.
Col Jackson was one of the first to jump from a Dakota before two fearless D-Day veterans aged in their 90s follow in a tandem jump later on.
The service medals he held earned by Lt Prince include the 1939-1945 star, the France and Germany star for the 1944-1945 campaign, defence and victory medals, as well as the general service medal for his work in Palestine.
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Col Jackson said: "He came in on D-Day and was wounded in action on June 17.
"I've got his medals with me and my father-in-law asked me if I would jump them in 75 years after the owner first arrived here. It's a real pleasure and honour to do that.
"My wife will be in the drop zone today to see it.
"The opportunity to jump from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota is just something else.
"There are so few left flying and they are so precious.
"Today is all about the veterans who make it what it is within our history."
The D-Day vetarans jumping with him were Harry Read, 95, and 94-year-old John Hutton.
Col Jackson had huge praise for the veterans, saying: "I think it's pretty brave of them, to say the least.
"It's a real privilege to have these guys out here.
"As they have got older, fewer and fewer have been able to parachute."
Now a retired Salvation Army officer living in Bournemouth, Dorset, Mr Read was a 20-year-old wireless operator with the Royal Signals who had a battery the size and weight of a toolbox strapped to his right leg when he was pushed out of the plane in the early hours of June 6, 1944.
Mr Hutton - known by his friends as Jock - was 19 when he served in the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion.
Along with around 280 paratroopers, the pair boarded a Dakota aircraft in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, and flew over Suffolk and Essex en route to Sannerville with the Parachute Regiment's famous Red Devils display team to perform a tandem jump.
They landed in the fields used as a drop zone for the 8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion, who went on to destroy bridges in a bid to restrict German movements.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Wise, who was piloting the Dakota leading the fleet of aircraft before dropping the military parachutists, said of the veterans: "It shows the strength, courage, determination, camaraderie - everything we are all about.
"We want to show the next generation what these gentlemen did."
Seb Cox, chief historian for the Royal Air Force, said paratroopers played a vital role in Operation Overlord by ensuring the beaches had safe exits for soldiers and also taking hold of all the bridges so they could advance while causing "havoc" for the enemy.
He said: "This caused such a confusion and panic for the Germans.
"If they didn't hold the bridges, there were barriers preventing them from advancing.
"One of the things people don't understand about D-Day - they think it's just about June 1944 and landing craft on the beaches.
"But for the air force, the Battle of Normandy started in March. They had already suffered 12,000 casualties by this time (D-Day)."