A D-Day Dakota travels home

Magical things sometimes happen when you are painting.
I spent a blissful couple of hours late yesterday afternoon, sat in the long grass by the riverside, painting a watercolour of the view down the Rib Valley.
The time had been special.
Out of time in fact.
A scene largely unchanged in decades, eye and ear unsullied by the signals of the 21st Century.
Fully relaxed with the sun on my back I had enjoyed the spectacle of a family group of four herons rising in unison from the river, a pure white little egret fishing in the shadows below me oblivious to my presence and the dabbling of a group of mallards grazing gently downstream as I struggled to capture the scene with wash and pigment. The river tinkled a soporific tune, accompanied by the song of chaffinch and goldfinch that bounced from tree to freshly leaved tree.

photo: RAF BBMF

As the sun sank further towards the horizon the unmistakeable throb of a propeller engine broke through the birdsong and grew in intensity. Far in the distance a speck of black drew slowly closer, it’s path heading straight toward me. Navigating by eye and map she was heading north up the valley, looking for her next way-mark.
Surveyed through binoculars I could identify it as a Dakota with RAF roundel clearly visible, a favourite of childhood modelling alongside the Spitfire and Lancaster bomber.

This one was special though.
Bedecked in invasion stripes – two black lines on the fuselage and each wing on a white ground to aid identification in chaotic skies above the Normandy landings – Dakota ZA947 of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was flying home to RAF Conningsby in Lincolnshire, returning like so many heroes from the 70th anniversary of D-Day Memorial in Normandy, where so many more heroes were left behind for ever  all those years ago.
A poignant moment on a poignant weekend.
I paused to remember them.

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