CLAUDIA CONNELL: After D-Day heroes’ own stories, this parachute stunt fell sadly flat4 min read

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Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing

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Piers Morgan’s Life Stories

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With the D-Day 75th anniversary later this week, broadcasters are queuing up to commemorate it.

Getting in first was Channel 4 with Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing — as Martin, a motorcycle racer turned TV presenter, paid his own unique tribute to the brave troops who took part in the world’s biggest military assault.

Paratroopers were the first to land in Normandy, six hours before the beaches were stormed, and it was these men Martin wanted to honour by parachuting into France out of a restored Douglas Dakota.

With the D-Day 75th anniversary later this week, broadcasters are queuing up to commemorate it with shows such as Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing (above), writes Claudia Connell

With the D-Day 75th anniversary later this week, broadcasters are queuing up to commemorate it with shows such as Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing (above), writes Claudia Connell

To achieve this, he helped with the six-month-long £1 million refurbishment of a Dakota, rescued from an Arkansas scrapyard by a World War II enthusiast.

‘Let’s hope I qualify as a parachutist,’ said Martin at the start. It would certainly have made for a terrible ending if he hadn’t — not least because Night Fright, the Dakota undergoing refurbishment, ended up not being ready in time and another was drafted in.

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Thankfully, he passed the training and undertook a series of tandem and solo jumps in preparation.

Clips of surviving D-Day veterans sharing their memories were the most moving and enjoyable part of the two-hour programme. Bob Stoodley, 95, was one of the Pathfinders, the first men to jump and tasked with planting radio beacons to guide the aircraft.

Because they were going to be landing at midnight in the pitch black, Bob and his pals had been instructed to eat bags of carrots for better vision.

Guy Martin, a motorcycle racer turned TV presenter, paid his own unique tribute to the brave troops who took part in the world’s biggest military assault, writes Claudia Connell

Guy Martin, a motorcycle racer turned TV presenter, paid his own unique tribute to the brave troops who took part in the world’s biggest military assault, writes Claudia Connell

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After the invasion progressed inland, Dakotas flew the wounded out of France. On board they were nursed by the ‘Flying Nightingales’, including Margaret Wilson who recalled getting paid eightpence extra for each flight she made.

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Joe Cattini, 96, took part in the sea invasion, Operation Neptune, and witnessed terrified young men in the landing boats who cried for their mothers before going ashore.

After hearing the veterans’ own stories, Martin’s parachute jump fell sadly flat.

A charismatic and likeable man, Martin wanted to jump as a tribute to his D-Day veteran grandfather, John. Learning more about John would have been a better way to fill the time.

It takes a different kind of guts to interview a man widely accepted as one of the greatest TV interviewers of all time. But that’s what happened in Piers Morgan’s Life Stories when Sir Michael Parkinson was his guest.

At the start, Parky quipped that he’d worked in TV for 63 years and ‘the only thing I’m known for is being attacked by a bloody bird’, a reference to the assault he suffered at the hands of Rod Hull’s Emu puppet. Of course, he is known for much more and famous faces including Tony Blair, Cliff Richard and Twiggy queued up to pay tribute.

Parky’s coal miner father, Jack, wanted a better life for his only child. As motivational speeches go, telling Michael ‘if I ever see you at the pit gate I’ll kick your a*** all the way home’ seemed to do the trick.

Parky wept when reliving the death of the father, who often sat in the audience of his chat shows and once urged his son to ‘thump’ Muhammad Ali.

He admitted to cringing at his 1975 interview with Helen Mirren where he focused on her body. But ‘nobody got hurt, nobody died’, he shrugged, stopping short of an apology.

The term ‘national treasure’ is overused, but in Parky’s case it feels deserved. He even handled Morgan’s constant fishing for compliments with wit and grace.

  • CHRISTOPHER STEVENS is away