BACKGROUND INFORMATION - The Full Story
About two years ago, a few veterans of the Midland Branch of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association decided that an appropriate memorial to airborne forces in the Midlands might be a complete Airspeed Horsa assault glider. Many Horsa's were built in Birmingham and were assembled and tested at RAF Cosford, Shawbury and Sleap before being flown out to squadrons of the Glider Pilot Regiment.
It was decided that no airborne memorial could be complete without reference to the crews of the Royal Air Force who towed the gliders, dropped the paratroops and resupplied them during the battle. Two Midlands regiments, the South Staffords and the Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry were glider borne regiments, and they acquitted themselves with outstanding gallantry.
The great airborne battles in NW Europe are well recorded by the media. The Burma campaign must never be forgotten. Six brigades of "Chindits" were inserted behind Japanese lines, many by glider, and were almost entirely supplied from the air. The smaller, metal-framed American Waco CG4A glider was used in these operations and we intend to build one of these.
In June 2001, Royal Air Force Station Shawbury offered a home for the construction of the aircraft and continues to be wonderfully supportive to the volunteer team. A very large section of Horsa wreck was loaned for the volunteers to copy. Eventually. BAe Systems Ltd found the original working drawings and allowed these to be used provided an assurance was given that the new aircraft would not be flown.
The project has attracted much media publicity resulting in many more parts being acquired by donation or purchase. Veterans, their relatives and friends, airborne regiments, the Lottery and Midlands firms have contributed funds to buy machine tools and materials.
The main fuselage of the new Horsa is almost complete in September 2002, and is being fitted out with details and flying controls. Waco parts are now being offered and acquired by donation and purchase. A Dakota aircraft has been offered and funds are required to convert this to its former glider towing, para dropping role and giving it back its wartime identity.
It is hoped that the whole exhibition of aircraft, weapons, vehicles, uniforms etc will be accepted by an existing museum in the Midlands as a "bolt on" permanent memorial to RAF Transport Command and airborne operations in WW2. We hope to "roll out" the three aircraft together at RAF Shawbury in late Summer 2003. This entirely depends upon our ability to raise funds to purchase parts and material and to find many more volunteers to build the aeroplanes.
The Assault Glider Trust was formed as a registered charity, No 1088895 to organise and administer the project. The president and the trustees are all serving or retired officers with close connections to the Royal Air Force and airborne regiments. Our distinguished patrons have historic connections with airborne forces. The Viscount Montgomery connects us with the great Field Marshal. Viscountess Montgomery is the daughter of General Sir Frederick Browning who commanded the Allied airborne corps at Market Garden, and Daphne Du Maurier, the famous novelist.
Legend has it that Daphne chose the maroon shade of the red beret, designed the Glider Pilot's cap badge with its eagle flying backwards, and the glider pilot wings. Members of the Glider Pilot Regiment sometimes called themselves "Daphne's Private Army", were proud of the legend and the badges they wore.
A memorial book is to be kept with the gliders in which donations may be dedicated to relatives, friends, units etc in accordance with the donor's wishes.