D-Day 70: How Wiltshire played its part

A Dakota in D-Day livery

A Dakota in D-Day livery

First published in D-Day 70

TWO RAF squadrons were based at Blakehill Farm, near Cricklade. Dakotas flew from there to Normandy on the night of June 5, towing gliders bound for Pegasus Bridge.

A Dakota from Blakehill was the first aircraft to land in France after the invasion.

More than 7,000 aircraft were modified, serviced or repaired at RAF Wroughton during the war. Many of the Airspeed Horsa gliders that played a key part in D-Day were assembled and flight-tested at the airfield.

It is thought that as many as 600 aircraft were at the base on the eve of the D-Day invasion.

Giant Hamilcar tank-carrying gliders were built at RAF Lyneham and used on D-Day, one of only three occasions they were used. They were designed to carry heavy cargo, such as the Tetrarch or M22 Locust light tank.

The Swindon Railway Works built the 4,000 landing craft used in the landings on the Normandy beaches.

The works also made gears used in the towing of barrage balloons that were vital to protect the beaches in the weeks after the invasion.

The works also made shells, generators, searchlights, radar parts and countless other pieces of military hardware throughout the war.

Hospitals in Wroughton (later the Princess Alexandra) and at Lydiard Park treated hundreds of D-Day casualties flown to Blakehill.

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