WWII glider pilots

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Dubb_al_Ibn, Dec 14, 2010.

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  1. Just been discussing the allyness or not of a glider-borne US Para on the Ally thread which led me to thinking about glider pilots.

    Does anyone know if they had a specific plan after they had landed/crashed their glider, ie did they try to re-group as a unit or did they just "join in" with the unit they had delivered? It's mentioned in "A Bridge Too Far" that the arty commander, Thompson, got an ad hoc force of glider pilots together outside Arnhem but I think that was just force of necessity on the day rather than a pre-conceived plan.

    Or, more chillingly, were they just "written off."
  2. British glider pilots were usually meant to regroup for specific tasks after landing; remember unlike their US counterparts they were all trained as infantrymen and equipped with rifles and SMGs. These tasks were typically but not always defensive or to act as a reserve. The aim was for the glider pilots to be withdrawn pretty quickly (at Normandy most were back in UK within a few days) though of course this wasn't always possible.

    See here for the report and for some biographical information on the truly one-off Maj John Royle, who was cashiered out of the army before the war, re-enlisted as a ranker on its outbreak and rose very quickly to RSM before regaining his commission, first in the Recce Corps before transferring to the Glider Pilot Regt. He was killed at Arnhem:

    Major John Royle
  3. American Glider Pilots used to just make coffee after landing, on the Groesbeek heights (sp) after landing, Gavin wasnt happy they didnt seem to want to fight the Germans, NOTE thats not all American Glider Pilots, some who were rathing loons who scared the Germans shiteless.

    Get the book Glider Pilots at Arnhem and they were rather good at their job, to say the least.

    Thompson organised a force of Glider Pilots,Staffords and 11TH Battalion Paras, most Glider Pilots fought in their 'wing' detachments.
  4. Not entirely their own fault. As I noted above US glider pilots unlike the British were not on the whole organised, trained or equipped for land fighting and hadn't been given specific orders and tasks to perform. They were very much airmen rather than soldiers despite being part of the army (the US Army Air Force was officially still part of the army but in reality semi-independent).
  5. Thanks guys; I knew people would know. And yet another book to buy off Amazon for the Dubb Military History Library (don't tell the wife).

    Seriously though, it seemed to be a fairly unforgiving job. Much respect to them.

    PS: I would love to have heard the details of Royle's court martial.
  6. Not just infantrymen - Guardsmen, thanks to Chatterton.
  7. I met one a few years ago in Normandy. He said his role on landing was as an anti tank gunner. His story ties in with the account in von Luck about one of the 21st Pz Div attacks running into anti tank guns.
  8. The Glider Pilot Regiment initially fought with the units they had landed, but would be rallied as Flights, Squadrons and Wings as soon as possible after landing. In Normandy they were largely evacuated on D+1, but at Arnhem they fought as coherent Glider Pilot Regiment units, being re-amalgamated with other units as losses took their toll.

    Louis Hagen's 'Arnhem Lift' provides one of the best first-hand accounts of what it was like to fight as a Glider Pilot. Hagen also bemoans the fact that their training time would have been far better spent learning how to operate a PIAT (for example) than having Guards NCOs endlessly attempting to square-bash their 'slack RAF ways' out of them following periods of flying training!
  9. Something that still goes on today.
  10. Air-landed 6pdr and 17pdr anti-tank guns were part of the Airborne Division orbat. Airlanding Battalions (i.e. glider-landed infantry) had eight 6pdrs apiece, while the division's two Royal Artillery Airlanding Anti-Tank Batteries each had 12x 6pdrs and 4x 17pdrs (increased to 8x 17pdrs by Arnhem). The Glider Pilots would have assisted the gun-crews until contact was made with other units, at which point the Glider Pilots coalesced into their own units before being evacuated (or not, in the case of Arnhem).
  11. Very rare. One was either a Paratrooper or a Gliderrider. Only the 11th Airborne Div in the Pacific was dual qualified mainly to maximise whatever transport was available. In the ETO you were Glider Infantry or Artillery men were no different then normal ground units. Extra Pay, a Glider Badge didnt even come about until 1945. Glidermen didnt get the M42 jumpsuits or Corcoran boots, and it wasnt until after Normandy they were refitted with the M43 uniform.

    I've met a few Gliderriders, over the years. At Ft. Campbell they have a CG-4 WACO and the Old Duffer there told me he didn't volunteer for the Glider Inf. he was courtmartialed and given the choice

    10 years hard Labor, or the Glider Infantry. Said in retrospect he should have taken the 10 years.

    US Glider Pilots were part of the USAAF and were given very basic combat skills. They were supposed to be evacuated asap after the landings, or the recovery of their mounts.
  12. I met one old boy who volunteered for glider pilot training but was rather pleased to be RTU'd after being injured in a landing accident because, as he put it, 'there was more spit and polish than flying training'.
  13. Jim Wallwork - Wikipedia of the Glider Pilot Regiment landed the No. 1 glider carrying D Coy OXF & BUCKS within 47 metres of what is now Pegasus Bridge. Leigh-Mallory described it as ""the greatest feat of flying of the second world war"

    Due to their importance SOPs where to avoid fighting. AIUI he later landed at Arnhem - now how would THAT have turned out if it had been a Coup de Main effort...
  15. My uncle was a member of the British Glider Pilot Regiment and was a part of the unit after landing then back for next project. He gave all of his records and medals to his first wife when they divorced (makes no sense) so looking for his records. He was Sgt. Eric Alan Taylor, went on to be the Historic Art Director for the government in London till retirement then took up making violins, violas and cellos. Married an ambassador's daughter and their daughter became a prima ballerina for the Royal Swedish Ballet, now has her own scholl of ballet in London