Douglas C-47 Dakota, ZA947, ‘KWICHERBICHEN’, The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF Coningsby, 2015
Despite performing some of the more mundane aviation tasks of the Second World War, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain (or Dakota in RAF service) has to be considered as one of the most important aircraft of WWII. Described by General Dwight D Eisenhower as one of the most vital pieces of equipment in the eventual Allied victory, the C-47 proved to be a reliable airborne re-supply asset that kept Allied forces advancing on all fronts and delivered paratroopers to take strategically important military targets. The strength of the C-47 design allowed wartime payloads to be carried that doubled the original specification that accompanied the aircrafts service introduction, a feature that was to prove critical during the D-Day landings of June 1944 and the Berlin Airlift of 1948. When production of the Douglas C-47 (and civilian DC-3) finally ceased, an impressive 10,692 aircraft had been constructed, with many going on to see service long after the end of the Second World War – indeed, large numbers of these impressive aircraft can still be seen operating to this day.
As one of the most popular Airshow performers on the UK Airshow circuit, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have operated a Douglas C-47 Dakota since being presented with ZA947 in March 1993. Continually being renovated to as authentic a wartime condition as possible, the Dakota allows the Flight’s Lancaster pilots to obtain multi-engined tail wheel conversion and currency training, essential in the continued operation of their much loved aircraft. More than this, the Dakota has become a sought after display aircraft in her own right and is a regular sight at UK Airshows, performing by herself, or with a BBMF Spitfire or Hurricane on each wingtip. The aircraft is currently presented as Dakota FZ692 ‘KWICHERBICHIN’ of RAF No.233 Squadron, which flew numerous flights in support of the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden and the Rhine crossing. Operating from her base at RAF Blakehill Farm, near Swindon, FZ692 delivered paratroopers and supplies in support of the Allied invasion of Europe, before transferring to forward operating airfields in France as they became available. Once troops and supplies had been delivered, the aircraft would be used to transfer casualties back to the UK to receive the medical attention they could not obtain in the field. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Douglas C-47 Dakota is a fitting tribute to the work of this magnificent aircraft and the unsung heroes of the RAF’s transport squadrons.