Page 1, Page 2

 

National Archives catalogue number WO 171/5128.

 

Abbreviation

190478

AA

A/B

a/c

Airldg

A/L

A/Tk

Bde

Bn

Br

Bty

Comd

Coy

Div

DZ

GOC

Gp

i/c

Infty

KOSB

LOC

Lt

LZ

MR

MT
OC

Op

OR

Pdr

Posn

PW

Regt

Rly

RUR

RV

SA

SP

Sqn

Stn
Tp

Map Reference

Anti-Aircraft
Airborne

Aircraft

Airlanding

Airlanding

Anti-Tank

Brigade

Battalion

British

Battery

Commander

Company

Division / Divisional

Drop Zone

General Officer Commanding

Group

In-Command

Infantry

King's Own Scottish Borderers

Line of Communication

Light

Landing Zone

Map Reference

Motor Transport

Officer Commanding

Operation / Observation Post (if upper case)

Other Ranks

Pounder

Position

Prisoner of War

Regiment

Railway

Royal Ulster Rifles

Rendezvous

Small Arms

Self-Propelled

Squadron

Station

Troop

 

 

OPERATION 'VARSITY'

REPORT BY COMMANDER GLIDER PILOTS

 

1.  Introduction

2.  The Plan

3.  The Weather

4.  The Take Off

5.  Execution

6.  Wing Commander's and Squadron Reports

7.  Flight Statistics

8.  Ground Statistics

9.  Casualty Report

10.  Conclusions

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

        The experience of operations in HOLLAND showed that a mass landing in the future should be avoided, to enable airborne troops to capture their objectives as soon as possible at full strength, instead of detailing quite a considerable number of troops to protect the Landing Zones for further landings.

        It was because of these conclusions that the new technique of tactical landings was introduced to operation 'VARSITY'.  The Commander Glider Pilots approached the A.O.C. 38 Group and G.O.C. 6 Br Airborne Div on this subject, and it was decided that the overall plan of the operation should be based on the principles of a tactical landing.

        The information about the ground and enemy troops in the area of future landings called for almost immediate action after touching the ground, and the time lapse between landing, concentration and attack was considered very dangerous, owing to the presence of enemy troops, concentrations of dual purpose 88 m.m. guns, small calibre A.A. guns and small arms fire.

        Furthermore the enemy expected airborne landings and was prepared for it, creating an alarm system and working out detailed plans to annihilate any airborne action behind his own lines, by immediate reaction in full strength.

        As was appreciated, the enemy misjudged our possibilities, basing his appreciation on experiences of NORMANDY and HOLLAND, where massed landings on large landing zones took place, and the concentration of our troops was accomplished only after 2-3 hours before a major attack could be made.

        One of the outstanding features of Op. 'VARSITY' is that the whole operation was completed in 4 hours.

        The operation VARSITY had the following disadvantages from our point of view, which had to be countered by speed of action and accuracy of execution:-

                1.  The elements of surprise would be lost as landings had to take place in broad daylight, and gliders landing after the parachute drop.  Thus the whole zone of operations in an area occupied by enemy troops would be alarmed before the arrival of gliders.  (In comparison with NORMANDY where initial mass landings took place at night, and in HOLLAND where there were no enemy troops in the vicinity of the Landing Zones).  To avoid a concentration of enemy fire on the LZ it was agreed that several LZs should be used, gliders landing simultaneously on all of them, thus dispersing the enemy's attention and fire, and making his judgement as to where the main effort was to come, very difficult.  To enable troops to reach their RVs and capture their objectives it was agreed that gliders should land as near to them as possible, and touch ground in the shortest possible time after release.

                2.  Enemy troops were known to be in the area of landings, the latest information giving their disposition as follows:-

                        DIERSFORDTER WALD:  1000 - 2000 yards from main Div. LZ 'P'.  Artillery positions overlooking the RHINE.

                        HAMMINKELN:  In the immediate vicinity of 6 Br Airlanding Bde LZs 'O', 'U', 'R' and its first objective - occupied by one Bn. of enemy Parachute Troops, billeted in houses and farms, which in many cases were changed into strong points.

                        HAMMINKELN Rly. Stn.  In the immediate vicinity of bridges over the R. ISSEL (objectives of 6 A/L Bde) - the station was a supply point for enemy troops and some L.O.C. Troops had to be expected there.

        In the whole area of landing enemy troops withdrawing from the line of the R. RHINE under pressure of own ground forces whose attack started at dusk on D-1, had to be expected.

        Enemy reserves might have been arriving and, though weak, could seriously effect landings.

        Furthermore the high inflammability of gliders, and presence of mobile flak guns called for immediate action after landing.

        Taking these factors into consideration the plan was worked out by planning teams of the R.A.F., 6 Br Airborne Div. and Glider Pilots.

        It is obvious now, after the operation, that the judgement was sound, and the enemy taken by surprise, because of the technique used, and the landings in tactical formation enable 6 Br Airborne Div troops to concentrate and capture the major preparation of their objectives, two and a half hours after their first drop.

        This was achieved in spite of the enemy's presence on the LZs, and in spite of bad visibility, as many parts of the area were covered by smoke from farm houses burning after artillery preparation.  The enemy also used smoke candles which undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the landings.

        The execution of the plan called for very detailed briefing and careful study of the available photographs and maps, by individual glider crews, as the success largely depended on the accuracy of their individual landings.

        The detail of the glider operation is contained in the following report, and the comments will be made in the final conclusions.

        This report is compiled verbatim from a close study of the Wing Commander's report, the Glider Squadron Commander's reports and each glider crews' de-brief.

        The Commander Glider Pilots considers that a report of this nature should not be too detailed.  Rather should the major factors be studied, balanced and judged, thereby developing a line of thought for the future.  A great deal of valuable detailed data has been gathered, which obviously cannot be entered in this report.

        It is interesting to note that in studying the data at hand, opinions vary enormously - mainly because each individual saw only his portion of the battle.  Only by piecing these together does one get a fair and proportioned view of the whole.

 

 

THE OVERALL PLAN

 

        1.  The intention of 21 Army Group was to assault the RHINE between EMMERICH and WESEL, and to establish a firm bridgehead in this area.  An Airborne force was to assist in the securing of the bridgehead, increasing the build up and seizing vital objectives along the main axis of advance.

        2.  The Airborne force consisted of XVIII U.S. Corps (Airborne) with under command 6 Brit Airborne Div and 17 U.S. Div (Airborne).  Contrary to precedent, XVIII Corps was to land EAST of the RHINE in a general area N.E. of WESEL, some ten hours after the ground assault had commenced.

        3.  The tasks allotted to 6 Brit Airborne Div. required a landing in the general area of the SCHWEPPENBURG feature and the village of HAMMINKELN, their objective being the SCHWEPPENBURG feature itself, the village, and the bridges over the river ISSEL.  This was to be accomplished by landing:-

                RIGHT - 6 A/L Bde Gp.

                CENTRE - 5 Para. Bde Gp.

                LEFT - 3 Para. Bde Gp.

        4.  The tasks of the Glider Pilot Regt. were therefore:-

                (a) To land the 6 A/L Bde Gp. in area HAMMINKELN.

                (b) To land the support Glider-borne elements of 3 and 5 Para. Bdes within their D.Z's.

                (c) To land Div H.Q. and Div Tps in the area East of DIERSFORDTER WALD.

 

THE DETAILED PLAN

        1.  Since September 1944 the Glider Pilot Regt. had been reconstituted and provisionally increased to fourteen Squadrons, the increase in glider crews being provided by the Royal Air Force.  Command of the Squadrons was equated, and Army and R.A.F. crews completely integrated throughout the Regiment.  Standing by on the 38 Group and 46 Group Stations was No.1 Wing consisting of seven Squadrons, two commanded by R.A.F. Officers.

        3.  The operation was therefore allotted to No.1 Wing, with under command A, B, C (Heavy), D, E, F and G Squadrons.  Each Squadron was to be at 60 crew strength, a requirement governed by the nature of the air lift, which included 48 Hamilcars.

        4.  The initial selection of LZs was made by the Commander Glider Pilots under the direction of the G.O.C. 6 Brit Airborne Division and the A.O.C. 38 Group R.A.F. in consultation with A.P.I.S. 1st British Airborne Corps.

        5.  The tactical landing demands the use of a number of smaller areas into which individual groups of Gliders are landed.  After agreement in the general areas had been reached, therefore, the detailed dispositions were constructed by HQ 6 Airlanding Bde, in consultation with HQ No.1 Wing.  The Glider Pilot Squadrons on the stations worked in close liaison with the company groups they were to carry in order to break down the landing plan into detail.

 

THE COUP DE MAIN

        6.  The primary objectives in the 6 Airlanding Bde Group area were two Road bridges over the River ISSEL.  It was apparent that the appearance of Gliders in the area, already alerted by the dropping of the Para. Bdes, would precipitate the blowing of the bridges.  It was therefore decided to fly two special raid parties, each of Coy strength onto, or as near as possible to, their objectives.  These "Coup de Main" gliders headed the stream, and were therefore to be on the ground before the remainder had landed.

        7.  Fifteen glider crews (5 R.A.F. and 9 Army) were selected from 'F' Sqn, eight for the OX & BUCKS area and seven for that of the 1 R.U.R.  Each party was equipped with four Mk I Horsas fitted with "Parachute Arrester Gear".  The remainder were standard aircraft.

 

BRIEFING

        8.  Squadron Commanders were briefed by the Commander Glider Pilots on D-7.  Briefing material which included large 'Blow-ups' of each L.Z., obliques of landing areas and the run in, and individual prints of the areas for each crew, was issued at the same time.

        9.  General briefing of all crews did not commence until D-3.

 

THE GROUND ROLE

        10.  During the initial phase of the landings, whilst individual glider loads were eliminating local resistance and moving onto objectives, glider pilots were to remain with their loads.

        11.  As soon as practicable, however, the crews were to rendezvous at Bde and Div HQ's, there to be formed into ground formations in their Flights and Squadrons.

        12.  Squadrons in the 6 A/L Bde Gp area were to be withdrawn into reserve, possible roles being that of counter attack, or occupation of HAMMINKELN after capture.  Glider Pilots were also to be utilised in establishing and guarding P.O.W. cages.

        13.  On the Divisional L.Z. the Squadrons were given the tasks of close defence of Div HQ and the gun area.

 

THE WITHDRAWAL

        14.  These tasks and others of a general nature would be continued until the G.O.C. 6 Br A/B Division considered the ground situation was such that the Glider Pilots could be released.

        15.  Squadrons were then to be withdrawn under Wing arrangements, crossing the River RHINE in returning DUKWs.

        16.  Evacuation from the forward area to base airfields was to be carried out in four stages:-

                (a) Move to DUKW Dump.

                (b) Move to 12 Corps Transit Camp.

                (c) Move to 8 Corps Rest Camp.

                (d) Move to Take Off Airfield.

                        Dakota aircraft of 46 Group were to be flown as far forward as possible to pick up returning pilots and fly them to R.A.F. Station KEEVIL in UK.

        17.  From KEEVIL the returning crews were to be despatched to their new base airfields for refitting and de-briefing.

 

THE WEATHER

 

        1.  AT BASE.  At all bases the weather was fine but a little hazy.  Visibility 2-4 miles.  The surface wind was 6 to 10 m.p.h. from SSE which had increased to 10 m.p.h. at the time of take off.  Apart from the haze the conditions were excellent.

        2.  OVER ENGLAND  The weather on the route over England was very fine indeed.  The haze had cleared giving visibility of over 4 miles.  There was nil cloud, and a light (25 mph) wind from the SSE.

        3.  CHANNEL AREA  Similar conditions prevailed in this area.

        4.  OVER CONTINENT  Ideal conditions, with the haze lifting as the streams turned East.

        5.  OVER L.Zs.  Weather conditions over the LZs, as opposed to artificial conditions, would normally have given visibility of 4 miles with exception of local patches.  Surface wind under 10 m.p.h. from S.S.E.

 

THE TAKE OFF

 

        Details of the take off have been summarised under Station headings, and include gliders which returned to base or force landed very shortly after take off.

 

GOSFIELD

        1.  The first serial of 30 gliders carrying the two Coup de Main parties and elements of the 2nd Oxf & Bucks took off in thirty minutes.  This was followed almost immediately at 0633 hrs by the second serial of 30.  The last combination took off at 0657 hrs - completing the serial in 24 minutes.

        2.  All combinations were successfully airborne.  None returned to base, and there were no immediate forced landings.

 

EARLS COLNE

        1.  The first serial of 30 were airborne in 26 minutes.  One glider (154) was remarshalled owing to tug trouble but took off at the tail end of the serial.

        2.  The second group followed almost immediately at 0734.  These 30 gliders were airborne in 30 minutes, last take off being at 0804 hrs.  There were no incidents, and all combinations were successfully airborne, none returned to base, and there was no immediate forced landings.

 

GREAT DUNMOW

        1.  The first serial of 24 gliders was fully airborne in 26 minutes.

        2.  Two gliders (187 and 205) returned to base through tug failure, but took off again.

        3.  One glider (197) was unserviceable at take off, but was remarshalled at tail end of second serial.

        4.  The second serial took off at 0707 hrs, the last combination was eventually airborne ay 0801 hrs.

        5.  One glider (405) was remarshalled owing to tug crashing on take off, but was taken off at the tail of the serial.

 

MATCHING

        1.  The twenty combinations were successfully airborne in 21 minutes.  There were no incidents.

        2.  One glider (222) broke the rope three minutes after take off, the landing being successful (damage to wings).

        3.  The combination of glider 215 returned to land at base through tug engine failure, and was too late to take off again.

 

WOODBRIDGE

        1.  Horsas  The twelve Horsa combinations were airborne in seven minutes without incident.  No combinations returned to base, and there were no immediate forced landings.

        2.  Hamilcars  The forty eight Hamilcars were airborne in 28 minutes.

        3.  The rope of one glider (241) broke immediately after take off, the glider landing just outside the airfield.

        4.  No combinations returned to base.

 

SHEPHERDS GROVE

        1.  The twenty eight gliders of the first serial were all successfully airborne in 26 minutes.

        2.  One glider (309) returned to base with a fractured air line and did not take off again.  There were no incidents.

        3.  The second serial took off in 44 minutes, all combinations were successfully airborne.  No incidents, and none of the combinations were forced to return to base.

 

BIRCH

        1.  The first combination took off at 0618 hrs, and the first serial of 33 gliders was completed by 0700 hrs - in 42 minutes.  Two gliders (40 and 43) broke their tow ropes on take off but were retrieved and remarshalled at the tail of the second serial.

        2.  The second serial of 27, and the additional two remarshalled gliders took off in 30 minutes.

        3.  All gliders were successfully airborne from the airfield.  None returned to base, and there were no immediate forced landings.

 

RIVENHALL

        1.  One glider (136) broke the tow rope on take off, and was remarshalled.  The remaining 33 of the first serial took off in 25.5 minutes.

        2.  The 26 gliders of the second serial were all airborne in 37 minutes.

        3.  All gliders from this airfield were successfully airborne.  No combinations were forced to return to base, and there were no immediate forced landings.

 

SUMMARY

        All 440 glider loads became successfully airborne.  Immediate losses are tabulated below:-

 

Returned to Base

 

Forced landed after take off

Glider Chalk No.

( 215

( 309

( 222

( 241

Total.
2

 

2

 

4

 

THE FLIGHT

OVER ENGLAND

        1.  The forming up and the flight to the coast were uneventful.  Ten gliders were forced to land in the UK.  The causes are tabulated below:-

 

(a) Engine Failure

 

(b) Glider Pilot released in difficulty

 

(c) Rope broke

 

 

 

 

(d) Petrol shortage (Tug)

Total

Glider Chalk No.

( 250

( 268

( 378

( 221

( 289

( 401

( 211

( 223

( 133

187

Total.
2

 

2

 

5

 

 

 

 

1

10

 

THE CHANNEL CROSSING

        2.  There were no difficulties experienced by the majority of pilots.  Air Sea Rescue Craft were seen at frequent intervals.  Two gliders were forced to ditch.  Both crews and passengers were safely picked up.

 

(a) Rope broke

(b) Glider pilot released in difficulties

Glider Chalk No.

213

438

Total.
1

1

2

 

FLIGHT UP TO THE RHINE

        3.  From the French Coast up to the Lower RHINE, 19 gliders were forced down.  The causes are tabulated below:-

 

(a) Engine failure

(b) Rope broke

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Glider Pilot released in difficulty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(d) Disintegration

(e) Plug pulled out (Tech Failure)

(f) No reports available

Total

Glider Chalk No.

413

( 61

( 316
( 205

( 440

( 341

( 56

( 421

( 177

( 254

( 292

( 246
( 253

( 283

( 313

( 16

262

291

30

Total.
1

6

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

1

1

19

 

EXECUTION - GENERAL

 

THE FLIGHT TO THE RHINE.

        1.  Apart from the losses already tabulated, the flight to the RHINE was uneventful, and no opposition was encountered from enemy aircraft.

        2.  The formation of the stream was, in the main, good, although on the final approach there was some inevitable bunching and jockeying for position.  It is evident that whilst the timing of some serials and individual combinations was amiss, the main effort was delivered on time, and on track.

        3.  As the stream crossed the RHINE it became apparent that the whole of the area containing the LZs was obscured by smoke and haze.  There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that a deliberate smoke screen had been laid by an enemy already alerted by the assault of the ground forces and the dropping of paratroops, although smoke canisters were seen by some pilots.  It is more probable that the screen, effective as it was, was created as a natural result of the bombing, intensive shelling, the burning houses, and the few canisters that the enemy had fired, possibly as a local screen against fighter-bomber attack.  The majority of pilots were, however, able to distinguish the area over which they had been briefed to release.  The assistance of tugs' navigators in this instance proved invaluable.

 

THE RELEASE AND LANDING.

        4.  Flak was encountered as the combinations crossed the river RHINE, and the gliders were engaged almost continuously from release to landing.  The main opposition at the release height was from concentrated belts of light 20mm flak.  This decreased as the gliders lost height, until they came within effective S.A. range of the many scattered groups of enemy in isolated farms and buildings.

        5.  The poor visibility hampered pilots, who were generally unable to distinguish anything more than the general outline of the area until within a few hundred feet of the ground.  The wind, also, had almost entirely dropped.

        6.  These combinations rendered the task a difficult one, and although the majority of landings were made on or around the correct areas, it was not possible in many cases to identify the 'spot' upon which the pilot had been briefed to land.  The drifting smoke and dust also obscured many of the obstacles in the area, and combined with accurate S.A. fire, accounted for a higher percentage of gliders damaged on landing than would normally be anticipated.

        7.  The poor visibility, however, was undoubtedly of equal nuisance value to the enemy A.A. gunners and ground troops.  Having regard to the opposition encountered in the area, it may well be that the immediate losses would have been higher had the visibility not deteriorated.

        8.  The majority of landings, particularly in the HAMMINKELN area, were opposed.  Opposition in the early stages must be expected when a dispersed landing is made onto established positions, and in fact the fiercest fighting was encountered within the first hour.

        9.  Details of the ground action are contained in the separate squadron reports.  In general, the glider pilots fought with their loads during the initial phase, withdrawing later to pre-arranged R.V's.

        10.  The gliders which suffered worst during and immediately after the landing were almost invariably those containing equipment.  They are especially vulnerable to incendiaries, and it has been established that in most cases those burnt out were carrying petrol either in bulk or in the jeep tanks.

 

THE COUP DE MAIN

L.Z. 'O'

        11.  Reports are available from only three of the crews who flew in the special raid party onto the bridge.  Concentrated light flak was encountered from the rly station at HAMMINKELN, and S.A. fire from nearby houses.  The gliders suffered considerable damage on landing, but the position itself was secured within twenty minutes.

L.Z. 'U'

        12.  The canal and the autobahn served as excellent landmarks for the seven gliders of the coup de main on L.Z. 'U', which was successful.  Light flak was met in concentrations after crossing the river RHINE and from positions around the bridge itself, causing several casualties amongst the troop loads.  All gliders were damaged on landing, and at least one was fired by incendiary bullets.  The Handcarts were left in the gliders.

        13.  The L.Z. was under mortar and S.A. fire mainly from positions East of the CANAL and AUTOBAHN.  Four enemy tanks were seen to withdraw over the bridge to the East immediately after the first landings.  Opposition was stiff during the first hour, but the position was firmly secured.

 

 

REPORT BY THE OFFICER COMMANDING No.1 WING THE GLIDER PILOT REGT.

 

Briefing Prior to the Operation

        1.  Owing to the time allowed this was most satisfactory but, if a tactical landing is required, the time allotted should not be curtailed.

        2.  The handing over of the detailed planning to the Wing Commander was most satisfactory, and with the help of the Staff of Commander Glider Pilots on technical matters no difficulties arose.

        3.  Consideration of the following points, however, would greatly assist in future planning:-

                (a) Air-landing units to decide exact glider positions as early as possible and avoid change once these are selected.

                (b) The positioning of Low-priority gliders at the bottom of the Form 'A' worked well.

                (c) It is the general opinion that Glider Pilots are not required at full R.A.F. Briefing and that the time could be more usefully employed.

                (d) If available, models of the L.Zs. for Wing H.Q. and Squadrons, would be most helpful.

                (e) Incorrect loading was caused by air landing units putting ammunition in the trailers after loading manifest had been completed and without the Glider Pilots knowledge.

 

FLIGHT AND LANDING

        1.  Generally the flight was uneventful and no enemy fighter opposition experienced.  Bunching on the final approach was evident and Tug Pilots did not stick to briefed time and heights at L.Z. with sufficient accuracy.  A result of this was that the Gliders carrying Div Troops arrived 8 minutes early and the Coy of 12 Devons, who had been allotted the task of clearing the L.Z. had insufficient time to do so.  This caused unnecessary casualties to the Gliders and personnel of Div H.Q.

        2.  The following points should be noted for future operations:-

                (a) Considerable difficulty was experienced in loading and unloading the 25 Pdr gun.

                (b) R.A.F. Glider Pilots should wear Airborne Berets.  R.A.F. Berets can easily be mistaken for the German Field Grey.

                (c) Glider Pilots should be used, more than has been the practice in the past, for the salvaging of equipment.

                (d) The present scale of G.1098 equipment proved most satisfactory.

        3.  In spite of the poor visibility a large percentage of gliders reached their allotted areas.  It is possible that the smoke hindered accurate AA fire and also gave some cover during the unloading operations.

        4.  It appeared that a great many glider crashes were caused by excessive landing speeds.  In spite of apparently clear spaces gliders were found wrecked against houses and in woods and orchards.  Some of these may have been through controls being shot away but the impression was that the landing speed was excessively high in many cases.

        5.     (a) To sum it up it is generally considered that a tactical air landing, although causing higher casualties in the initial stages, is more sound from the military point of view and ultimately means less casualties.

                (b) From all the evidence collected the gliders that suffered worst were those carrying equipment and explosives.  In all opposed landings the first wave should carry troops only and the heavy equipment put down after the opposition is distracted or overwhelmed.

 

ACTION ON GROUND AND WITHDRAWAL

        1.  Owing to little opposition after the first phase, Glider Pilots were not used to any great extent in action.  They were employed in many roles and thus relieved the AIRLDG units to a great extent.

        2.  In the initial phase it was obvious that the R.A.F. Glider Pilots were not fully prepared for the ground battle.  This was rapidly overcome and in many instances their conduct showed courage and determination.  Considering the short period of military training they have had it was only to be expected that they would be unnerved.  It is, however, considered that more battle inoculation should be given in the future.

        3.  Withdrawal was effected by Squadrons passing a check point at hour intervals and embussing on the East of the River RHINE.  The whole withdrawal was well organised and every effort was made for the men's welfare at 12 Corps Transit Camp at TWISTEDON and 8 Corps Rest Centre at HELMOND.  The customs Officials at DOWN AMPNEY had been asked and had agreed to let Glider Pilots through customs on signature of the senior officer.  This was not adhered to and some delay was caused by each Glider Pilot having to complete forms, luckily after 300 had done so, they ran out of forms.

 

The following reports deal in detail with the activities of glider pilot units:-

 

"A" Squadron - Major H.T. Bartlett - (L.Z. 'P').

        1.  Out of 60 crews from "A" Sqn, 35 crews were detailed to land on L.Z. 'P'.  The remainder were to land on L.Zs. 'U' and 'R' and were to come under the command of Major Jackson and Major Priest, respectively.

        2.  From Take-Off to Release.

                (a) No hitches on take-off.

                (b) Flight over, except for slipstream in some cases, was excellent.

        3.  From Release Point to Landing.

                (a) Gliders released from varying heights and not, in all cases, from 2,500' as laid down in the briefing.

                (b) Visibility over LZ. was bad.

                (c) As a result of the smoke, and the fact that the wind's speed was even less than anticipated, combined with flak both light and heavy, Glider Pilots were not able to judge their approach.  Consequently, although landing on and in the area of LZ 'P' they did not in many cases, carry out a spot landing as briefed.

                (d) Owing to enemy opposition the three Div HQ. Areas were not tenable (caused by Snipers, Spandaus and Small Arms Fire).  Eventually all Div HQ. personnel gathered together by the Farm and orchard (MR 190478).  Thus the total collecting together of Div took some time, particularly as most loads did not attempt to get to the point they were briefed to go.  Nevertheless, a skeleton HQ. had commenced work, together with wireless set, within 40 minutes of landing.

        4.  After Landing.  Although some gliders were hit in the air, thus causing damage and casualties, other gliders were hit after coming to a standstill, by either 88 m.m., Mortar or Small Arms Fire.  Most glider pilots state that their gliders were hit one way or another whilst on the approach.  Almost all burnt out gliders were carrying petrol either in the jeep or, in the case of Hamilcars in cans.  American Parachutists dropped 2 miles North of their D.Z., assisted in clearing L.Z. 'P'.  They were of very great use in winkling out very small bodies of the enemy from the various farms in the area.  They were particularly useful in the initial period of the operation, when due to the haze, a certain amount of disorganisation existed.  Div HQ. was set up in the orchard (MR 190478) and glider pilots of "A" Sqn took up and all round close defensive position.  Together with "A" Sqn at Div HQ. were pilots of "C" Sqn under Captain Ashton.  "C" Sqn were given the area of Div HQ facing in a South-Easterly direction, whilst "A" Sqn together with the Defence Coy were dug-in around the rest of the perimeter.  From the time of landing, and until approx 1630 hrs, "A" & "C" Sqn glider pilots were continually checking in.  Three flights were formed under:

                (i) Captain Ashton

                (ii) Captain Urquhart

                (iii) F/Lt. Lodge.

                        By 1630 hrs most glider pilots had arrived, although odd crews (about 5 in number) continued to join Div HQ. until 1500 hrs on D plus 1.

        5.  Other Duties Performed by Glider Pilots.  12 glider pilots were detailed to assist a Platoon of Devons to act as guard to 3 Airborne Tanks, which were patrolling the Wood West of Div HQ. on D night.  They took up positions on the high ground West of the Railway running along the edge of the wood, in order to guard the tanks at night.  A further 10 pilots from "C" Sqn were detailed to act as a Standing Patrol round the Farm House, at (MR. 194478), to prevent any enemy from getting into these buildings under the cover of darkness.  Glider pilots were used for escorting prisoners to the RHINE.  Glider pilots were used to salvage serviceable equipment from the gliders.  Glider pilots were also, on D plus 2, sent round gliders to inspect them for damage.  Glider pilots remained in defence of Div HQ. until ordered to evacuate at 0630 hrs on D plus 3.

 

"B" Squadron - Major T.I.J. Toler - (L.Z. 'P').

        1.  Take-Off, Flight and Landing.  Take off was satisfactory, the first thirty combinations being pre-marshalled.  The flight was uneventful except that in some cases the sun was very trying when in the low tow.  In most cases opposition was met on landing, but was greatly reduced by the American Parachutists, who had dropped on Landing Zone, prior to the glider landings, in error.

        2.  Unloading - 25 Pounder.  Great difficulty was experienced in both loading and unloading this special load and more trials are required before it is operationally satisfactory.  In spite of this the 25 pounder was brought into action and was instrumental in indicating targets to the Typhoons.

        3.  Military Situation.  Immediately upon landing and having unloaded my glider I proceeded to the RV (188486) which was only 50 yds away, and found that it was in our hands.  Approximately 16 pilots of "B" Sqn were there.  I left them to take over the house and proceeded with my load to the next farm RV.2 (191487) which was also in our hands.  Here there were about 100 prisoners and I allotted glider pilots to search and guard them and also to defend RV.2 which was the 53rd Light Regt HQ.  Civilians were being guarded in a room in the house.  There were large quantities of food in both farms which I took charge of and put under guard.  Lieut. James of "C" Sqn who had become detached from his Sqn joined the party in RV.2.  During the afternoon I went to Div HQ. and contacted Major Bartlett and noted his dispositions.  I decided to occupy a farm (193485) behind RV.2 which had been evacuated by the Americans and in which were 14 civilians at large, whom I put under guard.  At night Capt. Miller organised patrols to collect ammunition for the Light Regt.  During the night 24/25th at approx. 1848 hrs a company of 74 Germans approached RV.2 and on being fired on by a Bren Gun, they put down their arms and gave themselves up.  As well as this, four other Germans gave themselves up during the night at various times.  On interrogation the party consisted of:- 1 Hauptfeldwebel, 1 Feldwebel, 3 Unteroffizer, 34 P.W. - 84 Div, 3 P.W. - 7 Para Div, 1 P.W. - 8 Para Div, 10 P.W. 1096 G.H.Q. Artillery Bty., 26 P.W. - Artillery Regt. Elbe.  On D plus 1 prisoners were taken to Div HQ. but orders were received from Div HQ. that civilians could be released.  However, I did not consider that we could allow them access to our positions so continued to guard them.  7th Para Bn who were in reserve now put up their HQ. in house adjoining RV.1 (188485).  I made contact with Lieut. Percival of "D" Sqn who was in command of approximately 17 pilots of "D" Sqn who had landed on LZ. 'P'.  He was in position approx. 185487 and as this fitted in with 7th Para Bn dispositions, I ordered him to remain there.  The enemy put half a dozen mortars on to the gun position by RV.2 without inflicting any casualties, but the Troop immediately moved its position.  I contacted F/O. George of "G" Sqn who was with approx 4 crews of "G" Sqn and a 4.2" Mortar, in position on the farm (195486).  On the night of D plus 1 the area around the farm at RV.1 was attacked by an enemy aircraft, believed to be a J.U.88 which fired bursts of cannon and machine gun fire within 30 yds of the position.  On D plus 2 I contacted the Sqn in the farm behind RV.2 (193485) leaving a Flight in RV.2.  All other Sqn pilots returned to their Sqns.

        4.  Evacuation.  The Sqn moved out of farm (193485) at 0700 hrs on D plus 3, passed the check point at Div HQ. at 0715 hrs and marched to cross roads (169462) where we embussed on 6 Airborne Div transport, in which we were taken to the Transit Camp, at TWISTEDON where we stayed the night.  On D plus 5 transport arrived (8 lorries) to take a party to an airstrip approximately 5 miles away.  I sent off "A" Sqn and part of "B" Sqn.  Shortly afterwards they returned as the weather was too bad.  At mid-day I was informed that no aircraft would take off that day but that transport would take all pilots to HELMOND Rest Camp.  I sent off the eight lorries with "A" Sqn and part of "B" Sqn., after lunch.  Later 13 lorries of 3 Corps R.A.S.C. arrived, and I sent off the remainder of "B" Sqn, "C", "D", "E" and part of "F" Sqns to HELMOND, leaving approximately 160 pilots who spent another night at TWISTEDON.  On D plus 6 12 lorries arrived at approx. 0930 hrs, and I embussed the remainder of "F" Sqn, "G" Sqn, and all stragglers and myself, and proceeded to HELMOND.  Arriving there at approx. 1300 hrs we were given a meal and organised into parties of 20/24.  The first five parties proceeded by lorry to EINDHOVEN airfield, emplaned in Dakotas of No.46 Group at 1545 hrs and landed at DOWN AMPNEY at 1845 hrs.  Major Priest and two parties of "A" Sqn remained behind at HELMOND to be lifted the following day.

 

"C" Squadron - Major J.A. Dale D.F.C.

        The gliders of this Squadron were deployed over the LZs.  The main activities are therefore included in other reports.

        Captain E. Akenhead  Very few gliders landed successfully on their proper zone owing to the mixed haze and smoke that covered the whole area with the result that it was several hours before many crews reached their respective RVs.  Main RVs. were at Div HQ. and 5 Para Bde HQ. at both of which pilots of this Sqn. came under command of other Sqn. Comds., and were given roles of local defence or guarding prisoners.  By this time enemy opposition had practically vanished and there remains nothing of interest to report.  Reports of actual landings by crews show that there was a considerable amount of light flak in many parts of the area but that opposition on the ground although in some cases intense for a short period after landing had in most cases petered out within an hour.  No organised counter attacks were made.

        Captain F.C. Aston  This force R.V'd at Div HQ.  It was late in arriving owing to the dispersed landings, the first crews arriving about 1230 hrs.  On arrival the force came under command of Major Bartlett who worked into the general defence scheme for the HQ.  One party of nine N.C.Os. and one officer was despatched to a nearby farm as a standing patrol.  There was practically no activity by the enemy in the Div HQ. area the whole time, and little mortar or shell fire.  There was some strafing in the area during the night of D plus 2 by enemy night fighters.

        Captain B. Halsall M.C.  On arriving at the RV. (5 Para Bde) I found that none of the glider pilots of my force had arrived or been seen.  I therefore reported to 5 Para Bde HQ. and found an assortment of glider pilots of various Sqns under the command of S/Ldr. Huntley.  Apart from a small German Patrol which reached the Bde HQ. area at 0230 hrs 25 Mar. and were beaten off, there was no active enemy opposition.  Glider pilots formed part of the Bde HQ. defence force, and guarded prisoners, which eventually totalled over 700.  The detachment was withdrawn at 0900 hrs D plus 2 to Div HQ Area.

 

"D" Squadron - S/Ldr. G.L. Huntley - (L.Z. 'P').

        On the morning in question the take off was to schedule and after forming up on the flight over base, it was apparent that the Sqn was at full strength.  On the flight out there was little or no cloud.  The visibility was 15 to 20 miles, and the tow to the target was perfect, frequent checks indicating that we were on track the whole way out.  On crossing the RHINE it was apparent that ahead of us smoke was drifting over the LZ area.  I recognised the release point from the topographical features, released, and started to make my approach.  At 2,000 ft the glider was engaged by concentrated light flak, and I took evasive action.  We were hit at a height of 200/300 ft over the LZ. and were forced to make a crash landing.  The jeep was rendered useless by a sniper during unloading, and the load was abandoned.  We obtained a lift towards my RV. which I reached at approximately 1245 hrs.  The original RV - a house - was on fire, and there were no glider pilots in the vicinity.  I therefore made my way back to HQ. 5 Para Bde where I contacted 11 crews.  I reported to the Bde Cmd., and received orders to dig in along the immediate perimeter of Bde HQ. and to supply a guard for Bde. Prisoners.  The digging completed I ordered a stand to.  Between 1500 and 1700 hrs. six extra crews came in, but with the exception of guarding the prisoners, there was little to do.  We stood to at dusk and again at dawn.  I reported to Wing HQ. at 1000 hrs on D plus 1 and then again, twice daily.  As far as my force was concerned on LZ. 'B' there was no action as the battle had stabilised, and no counter attacks were evident.  Later on D plus 2 I went round the LZs. to try and form an estimate of Sqn Casualties and the number of loads landed.  I visited Lieut. Percival and Sqn. crews on LZ. 'P' - Percival having taken over the Flight on the death of Capt. Strathearn.  It appeared that casualties had been light although they had encountered stiff opposition in the initial stage of the battle.  I was unable to contact Captain Murdoch's Flight.  The order to withdraw was given at 0700 hrs Tuesday 27th March.  We passed through the Sqn check point at 0740 hrs and accomplished the remainder of the withdrawal without incident.

 

"E" Squadron - Major B.H. Jackson - (L.Z. 'U').

        1.  The Landing.  Owing to smoke from the ground the LZs. were obscured.  However most gliders got down somewhere in the right area.

        2.  Action After Landing on L.Z. 'U'.

                1st 15 minutes  Enemy of approximately 2 Company strength were in the area of LZ 'U'.  He also had two Armoured cars (heavy 6 wheeled) also two half tracks.  The enemy infantry were armed with the usual infantry weapons.  At first they put up some fairly stiff opposition but after some reasonably offensive action by the Ulsters, Glider Pilots and various Americans on LZ 'U', many of the enemy were killed and many taken prisoner.  The two armoured cars were knocked out and the two half tracks refused to give battle and ran away.

                After 1 Hour  After 1 hour the LZ. and environs were under control, and the Adjutant Ulsters and myself being the senior officers present decided to move from the RV. to take our objective.  At this time I had collected some thirty glider pilots of all Sqns.

                The Move from RV. to 1st Position  Accordingly we advanced to our first position the level crossing and goods yard near HAMMINKELN.  The glider pilots were responsible for (a) The Right Flank (b) The Prisoners.  The move went well, a few more prisoners were taken and a few Germans killed.

                1500 - 1800 hrs.  By 1500 hrs the Ulsters and the Sqn were firmly dug in and consolidated in our briefed position.  At this time I had under command some fifty glider pilots of all Sqns. divided into two Flights of two Sections each, we were responsible for the railway crossing and prisoners.

                At 1830 hrs  The Sqn returned 248 prisoners to Bde HQ.  The night of 24/25 passed without incident double sentries being posted.  Stand to was ordered at 0500 hrs owing to a suspected counter attack.

                Day 25th  The day was spent quietly drinking Schnapps and watching the Typhoons blasting the enemy positions.  A little mortaring and shelling was experienced during the morning.  One attack consisting of 10 infantry and one Panther tank was broken up.  The infantry and tank were both destroyed.  In the afternoon one Piper Cub a/c forced landed mile in front of our positions.  A party of glider pilots was sent out and both Piper Cub and pilots were brought in over the bridge to Sqn HQ.  The enemy made no effort to impede this operation.

                Night 25/26  The night was spent quietly listening to our own barrage.  A little shell fire was experienced.

                Monday 26th  The Sqn. moved back into reserve in the Div Area, where a defensive posn was taken up.  The day was spent cleaning up and sorting ourselves out.   By this time 69 members of the Sqn had been found, and others returned to their Sqns.

                Tuesday 27th  The Sqn moved back to TWISTEDON by march route and M.T. without incident.

                Wednesday 28th - Tea Time 29th.  TWISTEDON, Cornucopia Camp.

                29th  8 Corps Rest Camp, HELMOND.

                30th.  Returned to UK - landing DOWN AMPNEY.

 

"F" Squadron - S/Ldr. K.H. Reynolds - (L.Z. 'O').

        The take off and form up for "F" Sqn was carried out without a hitch.  The trip across being in fine and clear weather.

        The turning points were clearly pin-pointed and finally the River RHINE was crossed on track.

        The area East of the RHINE was badly obscured by some sort of smoke and pin-pointing of the actual LZ. was difficult.

        Light flak was experienced just before pull off and this increased in intensity and accuracy in free flight.  So far as can be ascertained, every glider was hit by flak, in some cases killing pilots, wounding them or their loads, damaging gliders and in a few cases setting fire to gliders in flight.

        I was carrying the Officer Commanding 2nd Oxf & Bucks Lt Infty. and part of their Bn. HQ. and my landing point was on the East side of the Railway 217493., as near to the Station Buildings as possible.  In the centre of this area, immediately between the Station Offices and the River ISSEL was a four pit Lt AA Bty., which engaged us the whole way down.  I ordered my second pilot to open up with the sten through the front clear visual panel, when we came within range, and landed alongside the AA posn., between it and the Railway Station.  The port wheel having been shot off the glider canted to port when it came to rest and the mainplane gave a certain amount of cover while we deplaned.

        After the AA posn had been captured, I went to the Railway Station, which had been captured by a Coy of the 2nd Oxf & Bucks. and glider pilots, and reported to the O.C.

        Glider Pilots of "D" and "F" Sqns rendezvoused at the Station as they were released by their loads, and by 1230 hrs I had about 20 glider pilots.  The Oxf & Bucks had suffered rather heavy casualties so their C.O. asked me to relieve "C" Coy which was holding the buildings at 214494, and to hold the position.  I formed the glider pilots into two sections, one under Lieut. Chapman and the other under a Lieut. from "D" Sqn., collected about thirty prisoners and took over the buildings.  The buildings had been used as a Forced Labour Camp with high wire netted surrounds, and very good defensive positions had been dug around the Northern and Eastern sides.

        The prisoners were housed in the buildings under guard together with other prisoners as they were brought in by glider pilots from other parts of the L.Z.  Some civilian prisoners were housed separately, and about 50 foreign workers were also kept in custody.

        All round defence was laid down with the available glider pilots and as more arrived they were given separate section positions.

        A certain amount of sniping was experienced from AA positions at 213493 - 214491.

        At 1400 hrs a message was received from O.C. 2nd Oxf & Bucks ordering the glider pilots to attack these positions at 1500 hrs, covering fire to be provided from Brens from the Station Buildings.

        However, the sniping from this AA Bty became quite irritating, and I ordered a PIAT to be brought up and fire laid onto the pits (we had no mortar at the time) and after three close shots, the No.1 on the PIAT F/O Bailey of "F" Sqn, scored a direct hit on the Lt AA gun mounting, of the centre pit, killing the crew.

        F/Lt. Ince and an N.C.O. had meanwhile worked their way West of the Windmill at 212491, and making a lone attack on the most Westerly AA position, killed the occupants.

        The Battery Commander then hoisted a white flag and surrendered with two officers and 20 O.Rs. at 1440 hrs.

        At 1600 hrs we were ordered by O.C. 2nd Oxf & Bucks to take over a section of the line, along the railway line between the Oxf & Bucks troops, and the R.U.Rs., 217492 to 217487.

        Accompanied by my 2nd i/c, Captain T.B.D. McMillen M.C., and the 2nd i/c of the Oxf & Bucks., I recce'd the posn. and brought up the glider pilots, now about 40 strong, at 1730 hrs.  Meanwhile the prisoners had increased to 150 so permission being received, these were marched under escort, together with the male civilians, and the foreign workers, to the Bde Cage at HAMMINKELN.

        I deployed my glider pilots in position either side of the railway line, with one PIAT covering the road and another the railway track.  My Sqn dug-in before dusk.  Stand to period was quiet except for shelling by our own medium guns, some shells falling short.

        About eight o'clock the enemy appeared active in the area of RINGENBURG with S.Ps., two Tigers and one Panther tank recce'd the bridge at 217497.  One Tiger had got on the bridge before being driven back, and as the Coy of Ox & Bucks on this bridge was not very strong, the bridge was blown.

        The enemy tanks then made a nuisance during the night with 40 m.m. and light Spandau fire.

        In the first light of Sunday, one Tiger attacked the lower bridge at 223485 but this was eventually "brewed-up" by (believed) 17 pdr. A/Tk Gun from R.U.R. positions.

        Two ME 109s which flew over the position at about 1800 hrs were effectively dealt with by R.A.F. Tempests and cab-rank rocketing was carried out by Typhoons on the S.P. guns around RINGENBURG.

        Allied medium artillery was in action most of the day scattering the attempted enemy armour and artillery concentration in the RINGENBURG.

        The only action taken by glider pilots was sporadic sniping and winkling of enemy snipers across the River ISSEL.

        Advanced Elements of the British 2nd Army linked up with the Oxf & Bucks on Sunday afternoon, and half tracks and 17 pdr. S.Ps. arrived during the evening.

        Stand-to on Sunday evening was rather more exciting as the enemy S.Ps. laid down a little hate on HAMMINKELN, believing the church to be used as an O.P., and a certain amount of 40 m.m. and Spandau was thrown across the river at the glider pilots section.

        The Cameronians took over from the Oxf & Bucks during the night.

        There was the usual amount of mortar fire and a lot of noise from our mediums during the night, but patrols were quiet.

        At 0500 hrs I was ordered by O.C. Cameronians to move the glider pilots to reserve, so I moved back to Wing HQ. and after breakfast deployed the Sqn. in defensive positions in the area North of Wing HQ.  The day was spent quietly.

        On Tuesday morning the Sqn. moved off with the other Sqns in the Wing to TWISTEDON, Holland, from where it was evacuated to UK. on Friday 29 March, 1945.

 

"G" Squadron - Major M.W.D. Priest - (L.Z. 'R').

        80 crews took off on operation 'Varsity' from this Sqn 60 from GREAT DUNMOW and 20 from MATCHING.

        HAMMINKELN Area.  The village of HAMMINKELN was occupied by 12 Devons by 1200 hrs on D day.  The initial advance into the village was made by 2 Platoons of the 12 Devons accompanied by three glider pilots of this Sqn.  A little sniping and harassing fire was encountered on the approaches to the village but once in the outskirts there was little opposition.

        At the cross roads, approaching from the North East, approximately twelve prisoners were taken.  One Platoon was left in this area to consolidate and the remainder, with the glider pilots, moved onto the next cross roads.  Further prisoners were taken on route.  The second platoon consolidated the area of the second cross roads and Bn HQ. was established at the School.

        C.O. 12 Devons ordered me to take over duties of guarding prisoners, rounding up civilians, and to provide a small fighting reserve as soon as sufficient glider pilots became available.  By 1400 hrs more glider pilots had arrived and our strength was in the region of 20 all ranks.

        A room was set aside for the searching of prisoners coming in from sub units defending the village perimeters.  After searching, prisoners were marched to the cage at Bde HQ.  A shuttle service was maintained and at 0800 hrs D plus 1 about 500 prisoners had passed through our hands, excluding parties that were marched straight through to Bde HQ. by other glider pilot Sqns.

        All civilians were rounded up and women and children were separated from the male population.  Two churches and a large hall were set aside for the housing of the civilians about 200 in all.  Enemy food stocks found in the area were centralized and the village baker was ordered to produce bread.  The civilians were fed up to the time of our leaving, on bread, syrup, sausage and water.  In addition to the civilians, a party of approximately 60 forced labourers were rounded up.  These consisted of Dutch, Russian and Italian labourers.  These were also kept under guard in separated accommodation.

        Captain Turner and his Flight reported to me early in the morning of D plus 1.  Glider pilots from other Sqns. had also been filtered in up to this time and the total glider pilot strength in the village was about 50.  In addition to guarding civilians, defence positions were allotted to glider pilots in the event of enemy attack.

        On the night of D plus 1 a small amount of shell and mortar fire was directed on the village.  One church, housing the women and children was hit.  Four women were killed and a number wounded.  A proportion of the occupants were moved into a large cellar under the brewery.

        At 0600 hrs on D plus 2, 12 Devons moved out of the village and their positions were taken over by a Bn. of the K.O.S.B. who also took over the duties of guarding civilians and prisoners.

        By 1300 hrs on D plus 2 the concentration of "G" Sqn. in the village of HAMMINKELN was completed and defensive areas were allotted to Flights in the area of the cross roads.

        During the morning of D plus 2 most of the civilians were released on the orders of the Divisional Public Relations Officer.

        During the afternoon D plus 2 the K.O.S.B. left the village without notifying us of their intention.  This Sqn remained in their positions until withdrawn at 0730 hrs D plus 3 in accordance with Wing Orders.

        Apart from individual crews, detachments from "B" and "C" Sqns did not link up with this Sqn on the ground.

        Out of 160 personnel participating in operation 'Varsity' from this Sqn., 114 are safe at base, 10 are wounded in Allied hands, 3 are missing believed killed, 6 are killed and 27 missing.

        9 Flight.  Approximately half of the flight on D day, came under the command of Lieut. Cartwright at Bde HQ. and the remainder were in HAMMINKELN under Sqn HQ command.

        10 Flight.  60% of the Flight landed on the LZ and for the first day they stayed with their loads defending Para Bn HQ. and looking after Prisoners of War.  On D plus 1 they took over duties as outlined in Sqn HQ. report.  A small detachment under command of Lieut. Cartwright, after gathering refugees from the surrounding farms and sending them to HAMMINKELN occupied the North perimeter of Bde HQ. moving into HAMMINKELN on D plus 2.  The remainder of the Flight landed away from the LZ. and stayed with their loads.  They were employed in the area collecting casualties and in the defence of local HQ.  They eventually linked up with Sqn HQ. in HAMMINKELN.

        14 Flight.  All gliders with the exception of Chalk No.401 landed on L.Z. 'P'.  On average gliders took 20 minutes to unload and all crews had reported to their respective RVs. by 1400 hrs on D day.  Four crews reported to Bde HQ. with their gun crews and on the following morning proceeded to Div HQ. where they guarded prisoners.  Four crews reported straight to Div HQ.  Three crews reported to HQ. 53 Lt. Regt. where they were responsible for local defence.  These crews also carried out patrols and prisoners were taken.  They remained with 53 Lt Regt HQ. until rendezvousing in HAMMINKELN at 1100 hrs on D plus 2.

        24 Flight.  This Flight supplied 18 crews for the operation of which 8 crews have been accounted for.  The majority of these crews were carrying 4.2" Mortars and they operated with their loads in various locations until ordered to concentrate with the Sqn. in HAMMINKELN on D plus 2.

 

 

FLIGHT STATISTICS

 

Glider Pilot Squadron

Station

Numbers of Gliders

Shot Down

Pilot Casualties in the Air

Failure of

Damage by

C.A.I.

Intercomn.

Light Flak

Heavy Flak

A

RIVENHALL

23

6

40

23

No accurate figures can be compiled. The closest approximation is a total of TEN.

5

B

EARLS COLNE

3

4

32

5

4

C

TARRANT RUSHTON

18

5

16

14

2

D

SHEPHERDS GROVE

7

6

18

10

-

E

BLAKEHILL FARM

8

11

35

116

3

F

BROADWELL

5

6

35

9

4

G

GREAT DUNMOW

10

4

31

-

3

 

 

GROUND STATISTICS

 

L.Z.

Damaged on Landing

Failed to unload immediately owing to:

Damage by

Burned Out

Damage on Landing

Failure to Remove Nose or Tail

Enemy Opposition

O

33

2

1

11

7

U

32

3

1

9

5

R

47

1

1

8

5

P

69

12

-

9

9

A

7

-

-

-

3

B

13

2

1

1

3

 

 

REPORT ON CASUALTIES  OPERATION 'VARSITY'

 

Note:-  TOTAL TAKE OFF - 440 CREWS PLUS 10 ADMINISTRATIVE PERSONNEL (ARMY) - 890 PERSONNEL.

 

Pilots

Admin - Army

Officers

Other Ranks

Army

R.A.F.

Total

Army

R.A.F.

Total

Total Army

Total R.A.F.

Grand Total

Officers

O.R.

Total

Grand Total P & Admin

Took Off

55

146

201

344

335

679

399

481

880

1

9

10

890

Failed to Arrive at L.Z.

1

2

3

35

26

61

36

28

64

64

Returned

39

96

135

222

209

431

261

305

566

1

7

8

574

Wounded

8

15

21

27

29

56

33

44

77

77

Missing

5

22

27

49

59

108

54

81

135

1

1

136

Killed

4

11

15

11

12

23

15

23

38

1

1

39

 

NOTE:- Personnel shown as "Failed to arrive at L.Z." have returned and are not shown in "Returned" column.

 

 

PERCENTAGES OF CASUALTIES (PILOTS ONLY)

 

Officers

Other Ranks

All Ranks Army and R.A.F.

Army

R.A.F.

Army

R.A.F.

Total

Failed to Arrive

1.818

1.48

10.19

7.7

7.243

Returned

70.907

65.40

64.42

62.6

64.471

Wounded

10.908

10.32

7.87

8.6

8.6

Missing

9.095

15.20

14.29

17.6

15.284

Killed

7.272

7.60

3.23

3.5

4.277

TOTAL

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

 

NOTES:-

        1.  ARMY PILOTS sustained 40.8% of the total casualties.

        2.  R.A.F. PILOTS sustained 59.2% of the total casualties.

        3.  25.2% of the total casualties were sustained by OFFICERS.

        4.  74.8% of the total casualties were sustained by OTHER RANKS.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

RE-ORGANISATION.

        1.  Before summing up this operation, it is necessary to make a few comments on the situation of the Glider Pilot Regt., before and up to the time of the take off.

        2.  When the results of ARNHEM had been digested it was found that only 48 Officers and 666 Other Ranks were left.  It can be fully realised how serious this situation was as far as the Regiment was concerned.  However, it was eventually decided that the Supreme Commander would require 1000 crews on the British side.  Therefore, some 500 - 600 crews were to be supplied by the R.A.F. from their reserve of air-crew.

        3.  These pilots were given a short refresher course, the 1st pilots on Horsas and 2nd pilots of Hotspurs, and a military course at the Glider Pilot Depot.

        4.  During this build up, Operation VARSITY became apparent, and it had to be decided whether all the remaining army crews should be used, or a mixture of both R.A.F. and Army.

        5.  In the first case, those planning the operation had to appreciate that the army pilots had faced 3 or 4 operations previously, whereas the R.A.F. crews had no experience of this form of warfare.  A technique had to be adopted to make the R.A.F. crews adaptable to glider operations, as rapidly as possible, and it had to be decided whether the R.A.F. crews would produce a satisfactory result in the short time available.

        6.  Only as late as the 8th January 1945, could the new re-organisation be formed.  It was decided that the Regiment should be split and that there should be roughly 50% R.A.F. and 50% Army.

        7.  No.1 Wing was instructed to form 7 Squadrons situated on the Airfields of 38 and 46 Groups RAF, with 4 majors and 3 Squadron Leaders under Command.  Each Squadron was sub-divided, the Army element was so placed that it could assist the R.A.F. crews as much as possible.  So, in fact every command, from the Wing Commander to the most junior section commander had an opposite number - even the crews in each section were balanced Army - R.A.F.

        8.  It was with this organisation that the Glider Pilot Regiment faced the Operation 'VARSITY'.  It is mentioned in this summary because it must be realised that it was with this entirely new organisation that the Glider Squadrons carried out the Operation VARSITY.

        9.  The fact that two services, with two different environments, could combine in such a short period of time, and take on a major operation with such success, is of great credit to the ordinary Rank and File - because it is here that success or failure lies, and it is also here that the rub of a new organisation is really felt.

        10.  It can safely be said that in just on 10 weeks the Glider Pilots re-organised, trained and carried off Operation VARSITY successfully.

        11.  In order that some idea may be given of the complicated organisation of a Glider Pilot Squadron, a diagram is appended.

 

                                                                          OC SQN ARMY MAJOR

                                                                                2i/c SQN RAF F/Lt.

                                                                                               |

                            ____________________________________________________________________

                            |                                            |                                            |                                              |

                    No.1 Flight                            No.2 Flight                            No.3 Flight                            No.4 Flight

                    Commander:                          Commander:                         Commander:                          Commander:

                    Army Captain                        R.A.F. F/Lt                           Army Captain                         R.A.F. F/Lt

                            |                                            |                                            |                                              |

    ___________________                   ___________________       As for No.1 Flight                 As for No.2 Flight

    |                  |                  |                   |                  |                  |

Section       Section        Section        Section       Section        Section

Comdr       Comdr         Comdr        Comdr        Comdr         Comdr

RAF           Army           RAF           Army          RAF            Army

Officer        Subalt.         Officer        Subalt         Officer         Subalt

    |                  |                  |

3 Army       2 Army       3 Army       

Crews        Crews         Crews

    |                  |                  |

3 RAF       3 RAF         3 RAF

Crews        Crews         Crews

 

'OR'

                                                                            OC SQN RAF S/LDR

                                                                         2i/c SQN ARMY CAPTAIN

                                                                                               |

                            ____________________________________________________________________

                            |                                            |                                            |                                              |

                                                                     Flights as shown in above diagram

 

        12.  In conclusion, the Commander Glider Pilots considers that this organisation has worked more than satisfactorily.

 

TRAINING

        1.  There is no doubt that the approach to landing a large number of gliders needs careful and good training.  The Commander Glider Pilots introduced the calculated run in and release point, based on scientific study.  This system has been proved in operations.  It should be said in criticism that the Glider Squadron Commanders were inclined to be sceptical, with the result that not all the attention was paid to this form of training that should have been.  This resulted in some very erratic flying in the operation, accentuated by the exceptional conditions.  The Commander Glider Pilots considers the essentials in training are as follows, and they must be most carefully adhered to in the future:-

                (A) Careful briefing resulting in complete understanding between tug and glider crews.

                (B) Careful run in by tug.  (If the height has increased or decreased both tug and glider crews must calculate an alternative.  This was not done with the result that many gliders overshot.)

                (C) Calculated Release.

                (D) Slow landing speed: 75-80 m.p.h. max.

        2.  It is essential that crews receive as much BALBO training as possible.  Each landing should be most carefully briefed and carried out correctly.

        3.  It was only possible to give the R.A.F. crews two major BALBO practices - this is inclined to be insufficient - especially as the main landing was known to be into the face of the enemy.  However, time did not give the opportunity to increase the number of Group BALBOs.

        4.  The average training that the crews received was as follows:-

SQUADRON

DAY

NIGHT

Total No. of Lifts

Average per Crew

Total No. of Lifts

Average per Crew

'A'

734

12.2

68

1.1

'B'

998

16.6

133

2.2

'C'

2095

34.9

1

-

'D'

622

10.3

99

1.6

'E'

1064

17.7

234

3.9

'F'

843

14.0

292

4.8

'G'

371

6.2

95

1.5

No.1 Wing (A-G)

6727

15.9

922

2.5

        5.  This table shows that the training requirements stipulated by the Commander Glider Pilots - minimum of four hours per month, giving eight lifts of half an hour - was practically completed during this period.  The average number of lifts for each crew was eighteen, and it is interesting to compare their state of training with the result they achieved in the operation.

        6.  During this period the R.A.F. crews had to accustom themselves to the training in loading and maintenance of gliders, and general squadron life.

 

MILITARY.

        7.  The aim of the Regiment was to equip the R.A.F. Glider Pilot with sufficient knowledge to acquit himself in the field as an infantry soldier.  The fact that on average the R.A.F. bore themselves well, gives credit to the military training carried out in the squadrons.

        8.  The outstanding problem was the training of the commanders.

        9.  Fortunately an excellent course was run by the Oxford U.S.T.C. which gave all R.A.F. commanders a full junior officer's military course.  This proved extremely helpful.  However, there is little doubt that it is asking a lot of an R.A.F. officer to achieve the standing of an infantry coy commander in ten weeks.  The fact that the R.A.F. Squadron Commanders did so well in the field is a great credit to them.

        10.  By all accounts the R.A.F. pilots acquitted themselves splendidly and all the pilots took part in various actions in the field.

 

PLANNING

        1.  The planning in this operation was good.  Close contact was maintained with 6 Br Airborne Div. throughout.

                COUP DE MAIN

        2.  There is no doubt that this form of landing is most successful.  The enemy was completely surprised by the audacity of the effort, and the objectives were carried.  In conversation with the crews, it would seem that the 'arrester gear' was appreciated but practice was not available.  This is impossible as the glider is strained whenever the parachute arrester is used.  Some other form of arrester should be evolved, which would allow practice.

        3.  Some of the gliders carried explosives.  It is not considered that this is the correct form of load for this type of operation, especially if a glider is to be landed on to bridges or objectives which are known to be held by the enemy.

        4.  There is no doubt that this is an infantry cum sapper operation, and it is considered that only men should be carried in the gliders.  This, of course, need not be so if the coup de main is one which is calculated to seize a cross roads or point which is unprotected.

                TACTICAL LANDING

        5.  There is no doubt that this produced the right answer.  This is accentuated by the fact that the conditions were so difficult.  From study it would seem that 60% of the operation came off which gave the 6 Brit Airborne Division the result they so desired.

        6.  It can be accepted that the enemy expected an airborne landing, and were prepared in more ways than one, but by this new application and some very un-orthodox landings included, they were completely overwhelmed.  It has been stated that a P.O.W. has confessed that they expected a massed landing on LZ 'B' which on the old system, was a reasonable enough appreciation by the enemy.

        7.  There are one or two outstanding features which should be born in mind in the future application of glider landings of this nature.

                SEIZURE AND HOLDING OF L.Z.

        8.  One of the main difficulties of Op VARSITY was the immediate engagement by the enemy - especially with A.A.

        9.  As an Airborne Div. is constituted today the seizure of a L.Z. can be carried out in two ways:-

                (a) Parachute  A parachute drop can precede the glider drop, and the parachutists can seize and hold the L.Z.  This has two disadvantages in that the enemy will be warned by parachutists of a pending glider drop, as they were warned in fact, in Op VARSITY, and secondly it immediately limits the possibilities of an Airborne Div., as the parachutists cannot be used elsewhere.

                (b) Glider  All the first arrival gliders should be infantry carriers, with a specific landing and military plan to seize and hold the L.Z. in order that the heavier loads may fly in under calmer conditions.

        10.  There is no doubt of the disadvantages of flying in guns, jeeps and bulldozers in the initial load.  In the first place any petrol that is carried is most vulnerable to immediate A.A. and S.A. fire, as was seen in Op VARSITY.  Secondly, the psychological effect on the pilot landing this load is marked.  If he encounters immediate difficulties he tends to land fast - with the result that he crashes on landing.  This, too, was accentuated in operation VARSITY.  If, on the other hand, he arrives to find the position more or less in hand he will land slower and with confidence, with the result that the heavier load will be undamaged.  It has already been studied at length in 'Notes on Airborne Landings', but it can bear repetition of thought.

        11.  In short, the initial glider landing should be in the form of a large Coup de Main - may be battalion strength - to seize and to hold, the load being purely infantry, with the remainder of the operation a heavy load, fly-in.

                HAMILCAR

        12.  It has been stated elsewhere that there was disturbance at the number of Hamilcars which were lost, both in the air and on the ground.

        13.  This is not really surprising.  This huge glider was applied in a similar fashion to the Waco and the Horsa.  It was carrying a load of eight tons and was expected to land under the most trying of conditions.

        14.  It should be appreciated that this glider, with load, weighs 36,000 lbs.  It is quite a problem to land on a runway - let alone a battlefield, covered with smoke and haze.  In most cases it was carrying a load with petrol fuel.  It is a splendid target - with the result that in many cases it was hit.  In some cases the gliders caught fire, and the loads exploded.

        15.  This being the case, it should definitely be considered whether it is wise to apply the Hamilcar until the situation is more in hand, especially as the loads will be vital to the success of the operation in the later stages.

                HORSA Mk II

        16.  This aircraft proved a success on the whole but many pilots found it inclined to roll excessively in the slip stream.

        17.  Both the nose and tail openings were invaluable, and the speed of unloading brought down the timing of the operation on the ground considerably.

        18.  There is little doubt that the use of the Mark II had quite a good deal to do with the success of the operation and all the pilots were high in its praise.

                BLIND FLYING INSTRUMENTS

        19.  There is no doubt that we have not yet arrived at a satisfactory answer to blind flying in the Horsa.

        20.  Although it was not necessary to use it in this operation, there were many cases of failure and it was fortunate that the weather was good.

                VISIBILITY

        21.  There is no doubt that this played a great part in the operation.  The fact that there was smoke and dust could not be helped, as the L.Z. was in the vicinity of one of the major battles of the war.

        22.  The pilots claim that the smoke canisters which the enemy used were very effective.  This cannot be considered as a normal hazard, as the landing was of a exceptional type.  We knew the Germans were anticipating airborne landings, and that we should land immediately in front of the Second Army was reasonable enough.  Whether the canisters were used in an attempt to prevent airborne landings has yet to be established.

        23.  Visibility has been taken into account, and the A.O.C. 38 Group had stated that the operation was not possible with less than 3000 yds visibility.  These unusual local conditions did not warrant a cancellation.

 

        Finally, it can be claimed that the operation was a complete success.  However, the fact that the Regiment was carrying out an operation of a new kind with mixed and inexperienced crews into the face of the enemy must give rise to mistakes.  That the pilots succeeded as they did was all the more remarkable.  As far as the landings were concerned, mistakes were due to four main reasons:-

                (1) Many crews arrived at 3,500 ft rather than 2,500 ft.  Instead of releasing earlier, they adhered to their original points, and overshot.  More attention must be paid to calculated releases.

                (2) The ground haze and smoke put the pilots off.  This could not be helped.

                (3) Many of the landings were made at excessive speed resulting in an abnormal number of crashes.  This has always been a major fault, mainly due to inexperience and the excitement of the moment.

                (4) There is no doubt that the A.A. put the pilots off, for to be shot at during landing, is most disconcerting, and the pilots cannot be blamed.

        For all these points the operation succeeded excellently, and great experience and data have been gained for future reference.