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Douglas Dakota III - KG437

On 5th June 1944 at 10.50pm, thirty Dakotas towing six Horsa gliders and carrying 407 paratroops began taking off from Blakehill Farm as 233 Squadron joined the force that dropped the main elements of the 3rd Parachute Brigade in advance of the main landings on D-Day.  One of the aircraft involved was Douglas Dakota III KG437 of 233 Squadron which was again involved in the ill-fated Operation 'Market Garden'.  KG437 was struck off RAF charge on 8th February 1946 to begin a long and varied civilian career that began with the fledgling British European Airways as G-AGYX 'RMA George Holt-Thomas'.  It served in this capacity until April 1961, when it was sold to Libya before finding its way to the Netherlands for use on charter work for Martinair.  Some time was later spent in Nigeria and Malta before being seen as derelict in Khartoum in 1980.  By 1987 the aircraft had been moved to Malta but was minus its wings and engines.  Eventually the aircraft was returned to the UK for use in the Dakotas 'American Bistro at John Woodhouse's Flying Services Facility at Fleet in Hampshire.  It was at this point that the nose section parted company with the fuselage, the fuselage and tailplane being placed in Fleet Pond as a display feature to attract custom, the fuselage itself having been cut longitudinally to form two sides of the cocktail bar.  The cockpit, main undercarriage leg, tailwheel oleo and a refurbished R1830-92 engine went on display in the bar.

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