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On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, 89-year-old veteran John 'Jock' Hutton has repeated a feat he undertook in June 1944, arriving at a commemoration of the landings by parachuting into a field in Normandy.
Hutton was just 19 when – as a member of 13th Battalion the Parachute Regiment, part of the British 6th Airborne Division – he dropped 500 feet into a dark wheat field, spearheading the Allied assault with his comrades.
The jump was so low, he told the Daily Telegraph, there was no possibility of a reserve chute opening. "If the main hadn't opened – well, goodnight!" he told the paper.
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At 89, Hutton is among the younger D-Day veterans attending tomorrow's commemoration, expected to be their last great gathering. On doctor's orders, he will make the jump in tandem with a serving soldier, Colour Sergeant Michael Blanchard.
Just last year, Hutton was still performing parachute jumps on his own – but has been advised not to go solo any more after decades of damage to his joints.
After his dramatic entry, Hutton talked with Prince Charles. Also attending today's ceremonies are the Queen, Barack Obama, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and – controversially – Vladimir Putin.
Born in Stirling in 1924, Hutton was abandoned by his mother and brought up in an orphanage, for which he credits his toughness. He said: "I've always had a certain viciousness in my character brought on by the fact that we used to fight in the orphanage all the time. I made myself a wee bit awkward, as was my want."
Remembering the night he landed in Normandy, Hutton said: "I must say that I felt in command of the situation. On landing, I thought: 'This is great.'
"The battalion CO had a good idea and took his hunting horn with him to signal where we should gather. You could hear it above the sound of the battle."
Less than three weeks later, Hutton was wounded in the stomach with shrapnel he still carries today, and evacuated to the UK. Asked about life today, he told the paper: "All my friends are dead now. There's no-one around so, yes, I feel a little bit disengaged.
"We would go to gatherings together but now I'm on my own. But I'm happy. I've been lucky. I've had a different life."
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