2000: Second wave of glider troops depart

Part of 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, waiting to leave RAF Tarrant Rushton on the evening of 6 June 1944. On the runway are Hamilcar heavy gliders, preceded by two Horsa troop-carrying gliders, while parked on each side of them are Handley Page Halifax glider-tugs of Nos. 298 and 644 Squadrons RAF.

Part of 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, waiting to leave RAF Tarrant Rushton on the evening of 6 June 1944. On the runway are Hamilcar heavy gliders, preceded by two Horsa troop-carrying gliders, while parked on each side of them are Handley Page Halifax glider-tugs of Nos. 298 and 644 Squadrons RAF.

Troops of 6th Airlanding Brigade smile from the door of their Horsa glider on an RAF airfield as they prepare to fly out as part of 6th Airborne Division's second lift on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Troops of 6th Airlanding Brigade smile from the door of their Horsa glider on an RAF airfield as they prepare to fly out as part of 6th Airborne Division’s second lift on the evening of 6 June 1944.

One of the major limiting factors of Operation Neptune was the number of aircraft, gliders and landing craft to transport the troops across the Channel. After the disaster off Slapton Sands there were no spare Landing Craft available. It was only just possible to add the 82nd Airborne to the drop in the American sector by using every last aircraft available.

The British 6th Airborne Division had to wait all day to come up to full strength on the eastern end of the beachhead.

Patricia Roach was a 14 year old schoolgirl living in the south coast town of Bognor Regis:

We were sent home from school early that day and the wireless was never turned off just in case there would be more news. My brother, Michael Long, was in the Glider Pilot Regiment, and at the time we had had no word from him.

Aroound 8.0 p.m. that evening, we heard the sound of aircraft approaching so we all made our way onto our balcony overlooking the sea.

Within minutes, the sky was filled with gliders and the tugs (aircraft that towed the gliders were known as tugs). Apparently there were 250 gliders, plus the 250 tugs – so the sky was full of 500 aircraft as far as the eye could see. I think Armada is the only word that can describe this scene.

There were aircraft to the right of you, aircraft to the left and aircraft as far as you could see. It was an amazing experience and one I shall never forget. We put up the Union Jack (always kept at hand!) and waved our hankies madly. The aircraft were flying fairly low so they could easily see us.

There was a strange silence after they disappeared over the horizon. We were still anxious for my brother as the phone had remained silent.

Later that evening, about 9.30 to 9.45 p.m. (I remember we had a marvellous sunset), I went up on the balcony by myself and listened to the lapping of the waves. Suddenly the drone of aircraft could be heard – the tugs were on their way home. It was a very poignant moment.

I remember tears pouring down my face as I thought of all those young men who were now in France – wondering what was happening to them – was my brother amongst them. It was a very sad moment and one I will never forget.

Around 10.00 p.m., the phone rang. It was my brother, Michael, telling us he was still in England. We were very relieved. He went to Arnhem three months later, was shot through the leg, and taken prisoner. But that is another story.

Read the whole of this account on BBC People’s War.

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade with captured Germans in a jeep, with gliders of 6th Airlanding Brigade in the background, near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade with captured Germans in a jeep, with gliders of 6th Airlanding Brigade in the background, near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Foley June 28, 2014 at 3:11 am

Am just re-reading these many posts you put up for D-Day. You have really done a fantastic job of capturing the full scope of the operation in all its many interlocking pieces. Well done!

Chuck June 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm

This…

Mort Dubois June 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm

The posts you put up to cover D-Day: incredible work. I love this blog, and you have really surpassed your previous high standard. Thank you!

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