Today (5 June 2019) Salvation Army Commissioner Harry Read, 95, will skydive into Sannerville, Normandy with the Red Devils as part of the 75th D-Day anniversary commemorations. This is only the second time he has parachuted since landing into Normandy on 6 June 1944, D-Day. Harry is raising money to support the Salvation Army's work supporting victims of modern slavery.
As a 20-year-old Wireless Operator in World War Two Harry was part of the Parachute Brigade landing in Normandy early on 6 June 75 years ago. To avoid attack during war time parachuting would take place as close to the ground as possible.
“On that morning at 00.50 hours I parachuted into Normandy and 30 seconds later I was on the ground. It was a very different experience to the one I’m about to undertake. I’m quite looking forward to the occasion. My doctor has assured me my heart is as healthy as a middle aged man”.
Harry had seen veterans taking part in skydives previously and after visiting the Normandy battlefields on an anniversary tour in 2018 he was inspired to look into one for himself. Ahead of this skydive at the 75-year anniversary of D-Day, Harry decided to try a dive a little closer to home and booked into The Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury on 14 September 2018 to do a test jump.
A life-long member of The Salvation Army and a great-great grandfather, in 2016, Harry was awarded France’s highest honour, the Chevalier, by order of the Légion d'Honneur for the role he played in the country’s liberation from the Nazis in June 1944.
Harry recently told the Press Association:
“I will enjoy the jump. There are very real and definite pleasures in parachuting. It might be a little bit tricky, but I’m willing to have a go. But also in my heart I will be thinking of my mates. I get very moved when I think about them. I have lived one of the most fulfilled lives that it’s possible for a person to live and they haven’t. I will stand in that cemetery and I will be speechless and I’ll weep.”
Harry explains his drive to take part in the skydive is about his sense of faith overpowering his common sense. He says: “At whatever age we are, we are more than capable of shrinking from something that we feel is beyond us. But, I believe we should not withdraw from a challenge – yesterday is not our best, our best is tomorrow.”
Harry has raised over £15,000; the money raised will be going to support the work of The Salvation Army’s Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery Unit, in particular the Victim Care Fund which helps to support victims of modern slavery outside of the support they receive through the NRM.
Harry has 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.
If you would like to support Harry’s skydive please visit his JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/harry-read