Owners of the Membury Estate, the Walker Family, are well on their way of fulfilling their dream of restoring a C-47 aircraft that had flown from Membury airfield in World War 2.
In December 2012 a potential C-47 was identified in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. This was the very same airfield that she had flown to at the end of hostilities on 30 October 1945 when transferred to the Reconstruction Finance Company by the US Air Force. N308SF had gone full circle, had 52,000 hours on the clock to prove it and was potentially facing being scrapped again!
Listen to the full story from Charlie Walker (from 20 minutes):
The plane’s wartime history was confirmed with help from local historian Roger Day (Author of Membury at War) and it was clear that this C-47 was 42-100521, formerley of the 79th TCS, 436th TCG and nicknamed ‘Night Fright’ by her pilot. And yes, she had definitely flown from Membury Airfield.
So the aircraft was purchased by Philip & Charlie Walker and was flown from Walnut Ridge to Punta Gorda Florida where the wings were removed to allow for road transport to Shell Creek, Florida for refurbishment to commence. Even though she was converted to cargo configuration and the interior bulkheads were removed, most likely while in service with the French Aeronavale, the aircraft still retains a number of rare features including all of the exterior formation-flying lights and many patch-repairs due to battle damage received during her service in the Army Air Force.
In 2016 Clive Edwards and Gordon Gray prepared the aircraft, still in an unfinished state, for containerisation and shipping to the UK, this was completed in March 2016 and Night Fright is now back in England with the restoration team led by Ben Cox at Coventry to return the aircraft to the sky and become a flying memorial to the men of the 436th Troop Carrier Group who fought and died for the liberation of Europe.
TV presenter Guy Martin became involved in the restoration project for 12 months as part of his documentary about D-Day.
Membury’s Role in ‘Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing’ Documentary
The Night Fright team have had an amazing few weeks at Membury. Sunday 19th May saw Charlie Walker and Neil Jones fly in with the Aero Legends C-47 Drag ’em Oot, the first C-47 landing at Membury since October 1946.
Then on Monday 20th May the team flew out of Membury to DZ ‘A’ in Saint Germain-de-Varreville to drop a stick of RCPT Paratroopers into the heart of Normandy, recreating what would have taken place from Membury as part of Operation Albany on D-Day 75 years ago.
The drop was part of a documentary that the Night Fright team have been working closely on, collaborating with North One Television and Guy Martin for over 12 months remembering D-Day 75. The feature length production “Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing” aired on Channel 4 on Sunday 2nd June and can be played again until the end of June.
The team would like to give a special thanks go to Round Canopy Parachuting Team UK, Aero Legends and everyone who helped make this hugely significant day possible and to Heritage Air Services for putting up with TV cameras for over a year.
This video goes behind the scenes of the documentary filming:
Plans for a Permanent Home for ‘Night Fright’ at Membury
Eventually part of the original runway at Membury will be restored to allow her to operate from her original WWII airfield, the only C-47 in the World to do so. There are also exciting plans to build a museum on the Membury airfield site which will not only tell the story about Night Fright but also the history surrounding Membury and the wartime role of the area.