94-year-old veteran skydives for Christian work 74 years after parachuting into Normandy on D-Day

(GoSkyDive)Harry Read mid-leap

Nearly three-quarters of a century ago, Harry Read parachuted into Normandy as part of the D-Day offensive on 6 June 1944. 

Despite turning 94 this year, the great-great grandfather jumped from the skies once more on Friday to raise money for The Salvation Army's work to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery.

For Friday's charity jump - his first high level skydive since D-Day - Read took off from The Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury and flew 10,000 feet into the air before the big leap from the plane.  

It was quite a different experience from his D-Day jump, which he made at just 20 years of age while serving as a wireless operator in the Parachute Bridade. 

'On that morning at 00.50 hours I parachuted into Normandy and 30 seconds later I was on the ground,' he recalls.

'This was my first high level skydive and whilst I was a little nervous I have always enjoyed the thrill of parachuting. It was amazing to experience the freefall and then cruising down was simply beautiful,' he said.

'I feel so lucky to have been able to experience this at my age. Before I could take part in the jump my doctor assured me my heart is as healthy as a middle aged man.'

(GoSkyDive)

Read has been a life-long member of The Salvation Army, having previously served as the leader of The Salvation Army in both the UK and East Australia, and as Chief Secretary at The Salvation Army in Canada.

In 2016, he was awarded France's highest honour, the Chevalier, by order of the Légion d'Honneur for his role in liberating the country from the Nazis in June 1944.

Read was inspired to make the jump again after visiting the Normandy battlefields earlier this year for an anniversary tour.  An anniversary jump is being planned for June next year, which marks 75 years since D-Day, but Read wanted to try a practice dive closer to home first.

'At whatever age we are, we are more than capable of shrinking from something that we feel is beyond us,' he said.

'But, I believe we should not withdraw from a challenge – yesterday is not our best, our best is tomorrow. I look forward to the chance to jump again next year in Normandy.'

Read was accompanied on his jump by his granddaughters and grandson.  His efforts have raised over £3,500, which will go towards Salvation Army projects operating across 11 countries to prevent trafficking and slavery at source.

You can support Harry's skydive via his JustGiving page here.

Lifestyle