Personal account from Alf Parker, POW following Op Varsity, 1945
We were led to a barn in the middle of the field and some sort of documenting was done and we were counted.
On 5 September 1940 volunteers from No 2 Commando were selected for pilot training and attached to RAF Army Cooperation Squadrons. There were only a few single seat civilian gliders in early 1940. The first Hotspur training glider flew in November and a prototype Horsa assault glider in September 1941.
In September 1941 it was decided that all glider pilots would conform to RAF selection procedures and undertake standard RAF elementary flying training in powered aircraft before converting to gliders. When the Army Air Corps was formed on 21 December, the Glider Pilot Regiment was included within it.
The initial 40 volunteers completed training in March 1942, beginning a number of small scale glider exercises with troops providing valuable experience in evolving basic techniques.
The War Office decided the glider pilots were to train and fight as soldiers once they were on the ground. They were trained to fight with any weapon used by airborne troops. All were either officers or NCOs. An extremely high degree of intelligence, initiative and discipline was required. Once qualified pilots wore the Army Flying Badge, their numbers reached a peak of 2,500 pilots in 1945.
Personnel of The Glider Pilot Regiment performed distinguished service in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Southern France, Holland, Rhine Crossing and in the Far East during the Second World War.
Gliders were not used in action after the war, but the pilots served in Palestine, Korea, Malaya and elsewhere until they were disbanded in 1957.
Quite early in the war the Germans were known to be working towards the production of an atomic bomb; it was thought they had made considerable progress in the production of Heavy Water, an essential component.
Make a donation to Airborne Assault ParaData to help preserve the history of The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces