An octogenarian D-Day veteran rolled back the years by parachuting into the same drop zone in Normandy that he landed in 70 years ago as part of the operation to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
“At my age life tends to get a little bit boring, so you’ve got to grab any chance of excitement you can,” said 89-year-old Jock Hutton after his landing.
Hutton was just 19 when, as a member of 13th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, British 6th Airborne Division, he dropped 500 feet into a dark wheat field, spearheading the Allied assault with his comrades.
The jump was so low, he told the Daily Telegraph, there was no possibility of a reserve chute opening. “If the main hadn’t opened – well, goodnight!” he told the paper.
At 89, Hutton is among the younger D-Day veterans attending the 70th anniversary commemorations, which is expected to be their last great gathering. On doctor’s orders, he made the jump in tandem with a serving soldier, Colour Sergeant Michael Blanchard.
Just last year, Hutton was still performing parachute jumps on his own – but has been advised not to go solo any more after decades of damage to his joints.
After his dramatic entry, Hutton talked with Britain’s Prince Charles.
Born in Stirling in Scotland in 1924, Hutton was abandoned by his mother and brought up in an orphanage, which he claims fostered his fearlessness and robustness. He explained: “I’ve always had a certain viciousness in my character brought on by the fact that we used to fight in the orphanage all the time. I made myself a wee bit awkward, as was my want.”
Remembering the night he landed in Normandy, Hutton said: “I must say that I felt in command of the situation. On landing, I thought: ‘This is great’.”
“The battalion CO had a good idea and took his hunting horn with him to signal where we should gather. You could hear it above the sound of the battle.”
Less than three weeks later, Hutton was wounded in the stomach by shrapnel and evacuated back to the UK. Asked about life today, he told the Daily Telegraph: “All my friends are dead now. There’s no-one around so, yes, I feel a little bit disengaged.
“We would go to gatherings together but now I’m on my own. But I’m happy. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a different life.”
Source: The Daily Telegraph, Associated Press