Lurking in the British Pathé archives is an undated clip of an aircraft arriving at the Royal Air Force's Berlin base at Gatow. It taxis, comes to a stop and a figure steps out, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Commander in Chief of the British occupying forces in Germany. On the plane's side, just by the tail, we see the registration: KN628
This plane, a Douglas C-47 acquired by the RAF from the US Air Force in May 1945, was given to Montgomery for his personal use in July 1945, after he was appointed military governor of the British zone of Germany.
C-47s, the military transport variant of the DC-3 airliner, were built in large numbers during World War II: 10,174 were built between 1941 and 1945. They became known as Dakotas in the UK, stemming from an abbreviation of Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft. As a result of the large numbers in use at the end of the war, they were a common sight in Berlin and they became strongly associated with the Berlin Airlift.
In June 1946, with Montgomery being appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff in Britain and having less need to travel by air, KN628 became a general VIP aircraft with 24 squadron. It returned to Montgomery in October 1948 when he was appointed military chairman of the Western European Union's commanders in chief committee.
In 1955, the RAF retired KN628 and it was bought by Derby Aviation Ltd, an air charter company (part of the larger Air Schools Ltd, which had been established in 1938 to train RAF pilots) operating from a small grass airfield in Burnaston, Derbyshire. The aircraft was re-registered as G-AOGZ and was put into passenger service, as part of a small fleet of C-47s, running scheduled flights, initially to Jersey, then later to other destinations in the UK and mainland Europe.
In 1959, the company became Derby Airways. A few years later, a little girl stepped off a Derby Airways Dakota onto the apron at Guernsey airport, ready to begin her summer holiday with her parents. In her hands was a Kodak Brownie 44A and, as she and her parents turned to leave the airport, she took a picture of the plane after its journey from Burnaston:
The plane was G-AOGZ - Monty's C-47. The little girl was later to become my mum and the airline was later to become - you've probably guessed it by now - bmi. Monty's plane's now in El Salvador and the airfield at Burnaston's now underneath the Toyota factory, but bmi's still flying...and Berlin beckons.