Harry Read was just 20 years old when he parachuted into Normandy during the D-Day invasion as a Wireless Operator in the Parachute Brigade. He hasn’t performed the stunt since 1944, but this year, 74 years later, the WWII hero decided to have a go at jumping out of a plane once again.
“At whatever age we are, we are more than capable of shrinking from something that we feel is beyond us,” says Harry. “But I believe we should not withdraw from a challenge – yesterday is not our best, our best is tomorrow.”
This time, the Bournemouth native is making the jump in an effort to raise money for The Salvation Army’s Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery work. Harry has served as leader of The Salvation Army in both the UK and East Australia, as well as Chief Secretary at The Salvation Army in Canada. And now, at the age of 94, he’s also raised over £5,000 to help stop human trafficking.
“It’d surprise our western world that trafficking is so rife here, that young women can be trafficked, our society always thought we were clear of this sort of thing, but it happens to men as well as women,” says Harry. “It’s practically on our doorstep, and well, we ought to be doing something very special for it.”
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During the war, most parachuting jumps were performed as close to the ground as possible to minimize the risk of attack, so this was Harry’s first high-level skydive, made from 10,000 feet.
“On that morning at 00.50 hours, I parachuted into Normandy, and 30 seconds later I was on the ground,” he says. “It was a very different experience to the one I just had.”
Harry admits he was nervous but also excited, as he has always enjoyed the thrill of parachuting. He had his heart and overall health checked out before taking off with his granddaughters, Lianne and Joanna, as well as great-grandson Josh, to go skydiving on September 14, 2018, at The Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury.
“I’m bursting with life and vitality!” Harry exclaimed after the jump. “It was amazing to experience the free fall and then cruising down was simply beautiful. I feel so lucky to have been able to experience this at my age.”
Check out the footage of Harry’s jump in the video below:
Harry hopes to have the opportunity to skydive again next June in Normandy in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?