Douglas Dakota KP208 Gate Guardian at Aldershot and Colchester

Dakota KP208 stood outside the Aldershot Airborne Forces Museum for many years and was extensively photographed in the background of passing out platoon images.

In 2008 the Dakota was transferred to 16 Air Assault Brigade to be the gate guardian at Merville Barracks, Colchester.

The below is taken from a leaflet on Dakota KP208 which used to be the gate guardian in Aldershot and is now at Colchester:

"Airborne Forces Day, May 27, 1970, was the day that Dakota KP208, which stands outside the Airborne Forces Museum, Aldershot, was dedicated to the thousands of men of Airborne Forces who flew in, or were towed in gliders by the Dakotas of World War II. On that day the Colonel Commandant of The Parachute Regiment, Lt-General Sir Mervyn Butler, KCB, CBE, DSO, MC, received the aircraft from Air Vice Marshall A.D. Franks, CB, CBE, DSO, DFC, BA, Senior Staff Officer at Air Support Command.

It was just nine days since it had made its last flight from No. 5 Maintenance Unit, Kemble, Wiltshire to R.A.F. Odiham, Hants. There to be dismantled and brought by road to its present site. It was resplendent in the colours of Air Support Command. Silver overall, with a white roof and a blue line above the windows. A red, white and blue tricolour on the fin, and roundels on the fuselage after of the door, and above and below the wings near the tips. KP208 was just 25 years old with 4, 164 flying hours in her log book. As Dakota’s go, a youngster!

A Dakota Mk IV, c/n. 16670/33419, ‘208’ was delivered to the U.S.A.A.F. from the Douglas Aircraft Plant, Oklahoma City on June 6, 1945 as 44-77087. The following day it was delivered to the R.A.F. at Montreal, Canada and it was there it was given the serial number, KP208 and prepared for the long Atlantic delivery flight. But, there was no great demand for Dakotas in the U.K., so it was not until September 12, 1945 did ‘208’ arrive in the U.K. A further five months were to pass before it went to No. 24 Squadron based at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire. This was the V.I.P. Squadron. During its time with No. 24 Squadron, ‘208’ carried many famous people, including Lord Mountbatten and Field Marshal Montgomery.

On February 19, 1947 it was moved to R.A.F. Brize Norton, Oxfordshire there to serve with the Transport Command Development Unit. But, November 26 saw ‘208’ back with No. 24 Squadron at Bassingbourn, serving with this squadron for a further two years. On May 6, 1949, ‘208’ went into storage with No. 12 M.U., Kirkbride, Cumberland, and there it remained until February 4, 1953. It was then brought down to R.A.F. Northolt, Middlesex to serve on the H.Q. Coastal Command Communications Flight. Service with this Flight lasted, again, two years. February 18, 1958, saw it back in storage, this time with No. 22 M.U., Silloth, Cumberland. There ‘208’ remained for the next four years.

Brought out of storage on February 26, 1962, it was back to Northolt and to be used by the Station Flight as a general communications aircraft. Another two years passed before it was refurbished again for V.I.P. work. This time out to India to be based in New Delhi for the Air Attache, this was August 11, 1964.

By 1967 ‘208’ was back from India and in the U.K. Still used as a V.I.P. aircraft in April of that year it became the personal aircraft of the Commander in Chief Allied Forces Northern Europe, General Sir Kenneth Darling, CBE, DCB, DSO, ADC, and was based in Oslo/Fornebu, Norway. ‘208’ served the General until August 31, 1967. During these months it flew to most points in Europe, even going up over the Arctic Circle. General darling would appear to have had great affection for ‘208’, to him she was “the old girl”. Once more into storage, with No. 5 M.U., Kemble in September 1967. Three years later she came here to her final resting place at the Airborne Forces Museum.


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