Night Fright C-47 Skytrain
This project began in 2012 with a search for a C-47 aircraft that had flown from Membury Airfield in World War 2.
After extensive research by local Historian Roger Day and aviation engineer and researcher Tom Woodhouse C-47A N308SF was first noticed on an eBay auction and then spotted on Google Earth at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. This was the very same airfield that she had flown to at the end of hostilities on October the 30th 1945. Research showed that this C-47 was 42-100521 from the 79th Troop Carrier Squadron (TCS)/436th Troop Carrier Group (TCG), and she had indeed flown from Membury Airfield during World War 2.
The aircraft and crew had arrived at their new ‘home’ of Bottesford, Nottinghamshire on Jan 7th, 1944 as part of the US 9th Army Air Force’s newly created IX Troop Carrier Command. The 436th didn’t stay at Bottesford for long and on the 3rd of March 1944 the Group consisting of four squadrons moved south to Station 466 at Membury, Wiltshire.
Prior to D-Day the aircraft gained the nose art of ‘Night Fright’, a play on words from Antoine de Saint–Exupéry’s book ‘Night Flight’ which was a favourite of Bill Watson. ‘Night Fright’ flew as Chalk No 20 in the first of the two serials that took-off from Membury at 2300 hours, carrying elements of 1st Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment and arrived over the DZ ‘A’ near Saint-Germain-de-Varreville at 0108hrs on 6th June 1944. Night Fright took around one hundred hits during her second mission that day whilst towing a Horsa glider, putting her out of service for repairs for four days. After repairs were completed, ‘Night Fright’ returned to service to carry out resupply missions, medical evacuations and freight-moving flights during the rest of the month. She would then go on to take part in various other missions, including the invasion of Southern France – Operation Dragoon, Operation ‘Market-Garden’, Operation ‘Repulse’ – Bastogne and Operation ‘Varsity’ – The Rhine Crossing.
On the 10th of July 1945 the 79th TCS set off on their journey back to the US returning via the same southern route they had used to enter the ETO in early 1944. By early October the remnants of the group, including ‘Night Fright’ was absorbed into the 434th TCG and shortly after the aircraft was declared surplus, being flown to Walnut Ridge airfield, Arkansas for sale or disposal thus ending her wartime career.
Since her return to England in 2016, ‘Night Fright’ is now currently being restored at Coventry Airport by Heritage Aviation Services, and the team plan to return the aircraft to the sky to become a flying memorial to the men of Troop Carrier Command and the 436th Troop Carrier Group who fought and died for the liberation of Europe.
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.
For more information about the restoration of this magnificent aircraft, please visit www.night-fright.com or see The Night Fright C-47 Restoration Project’s social media pages for updates.