At the start of the Second World War in 1939, Canadian bush pilot Mannifrank Brown enlisted as a flight instructor with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By June 1943, he was transferred overseas as an instructor for the 2nd Tactical Air Force, consisting of British Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force service people preparing to invade Nazi-occupied France.
To successfully break the German front lines in Normandy and push the enemy out of France, the allies would need to fight both on land and in the air. For Spitfire pilots, the biggest obstacle was the wide English Channel separating Allied airfields in Britain from the battlefields of Normandy. These pilots could only stay in the air over the beaches for about 45 minutes before needing to return to England to refuel. Therefore, it was imperative that the German defensive lines be pushed back enough to establish temporary forward airfields for the campaign to succeed.
On June 6, 1944, Wing Commander Mannifrank Brown led No. 127 Wing advance party in large boats across the Channel. The men carried equipment and materials for constructing an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) just beyond Juno Beach. One of the Wing’s landing craft containing mostly communications equipment was sunk with casualties by German E-boats during the crossing. W/C Brown helped establish B-2, the first operational allied ALG in Normandy by June 9, 1944.
Before leaving the shores of England on D-Day, June 6, 1944, W/C Brown and the men of No. 127 Wing were assigned a life preserver and overnight pack for the invasion. This standard-issue helmet also protected Brown.