The ‘Hotspur’ was a glider designed by FF Crocombe to transport troops and was manufactured by General Aircraft Ltd. The design of the Hotspur, model designated as GAL 48, was instigated in June 1940 following the order to form Airborne Forces. Gliders were perceived as an integral element of airborne forces but as with parachute forces the Army was beginning from scratch in the design, development and usage of glider borne infantry.
The name Hotspur was chosen to follow the British convention of naming gliders with names beginning with the letter 'H' of historical characters. In history Sir Henry 'Hotspur' Percy was a knight killed in battle.
The Hotspur was of all wood construction and designed to transport 8 soldiers and their equipment in a role initially envisaged as a raiding force. As conceived, gliders would be released up to 100 miles and at a height of 20,000 feet from the target landing zone to glide silently onto the objective without alerting enemy forces. To allow this long silent glide the wingspan was 62 feet.
The first Hotspur flew in November 1940 and was operational by spring 1941 at the Central Landing Establishment. The Mk 1 Hotspur had a tandem cockpit for pilot and co-pilot with portholes along the side and jettisonable undercarriage. Once the glider was at its target the top of the fuselage acted like a lid and could be opened to allow easy exit.
This was followed by the Mk II which dispensed with the lidded top and added doors for entry, strengthened the fuselage and reduced the wingspan to 45 feet to facilitate being launched closer to the target and undertaking a steep dive to the target landing zone.
The later Mk III was used for training and added a strengthened tail plane and dual controls for an instructor.
As training and development continued, however, it was soon realised that the role of glider borne infantry was evolving from a small raiding force to that of a full-fledged military unit capable of landing large numbers of troops on operations.
This encouraged the design of the ‘Twin Hotspur’ which saw 2 Hotspur fuselages linked together with a section of wing and capable of carrying 15 troops. However, development of the Horsa gliders meant this was not pursued. Although consideration was given to use the Hotspur for transporting cargo and equipment it was never used in action.
However, the Hotspur was utilised for development and training into 1943 with just over 1000 produced by General Aircraft, Harris Lebus and Slingsby.
Specification (Mk 2):
Length 39 feet 3.5 inches (11.98m)
Weight: 3,600 pounds (1,600kg) – of which load was 1,880 pounds (850kg).
Wingspan: 45 feet 10.75 inches (13.99m)