The Glider Pilot Regiment


Very few military forces enjoy such a short but intense history. It is a remarkable tale and it is told ably in this DVD. The two presenters both have a sound knowledge of the subject and they have interviewed surviving Glider Pilots. Video and sound quality is good in PCs running Windows 7 and on Apple Mac.



Broadly Guns


NAME: The Glider Pilot Regiment
FILE: K0117
DATE: 060811
PRESENTER(S): Tim Saunders, Mike Peters
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword Military
FORMAT: Dual layer
RUNTIME: 120 minutes
PLAYERS: Personal Computer, Mac Computer, DVD Player
INTERNET: Optional
PRICE: GB £19.99
GENRE: Non-Fiction
SUBJECT: Assault gliders, glider pilots, airborne soldiers, vertical insertion, Horsa, Waco, Hamilcar, support weapons, armour, light infantry, paratroops
ISBN: 1-84884-338-0
DESCRIPTION: Most readers will think of airborne operations, and the vertical insertion of troops and support weapons, as being essentially helicopter and tilt rotor operations with paratroop dropping now being primarily a Special Forces delivery system, including HALO drops where the paratroops drop from a high altitude and open their ‘chutes close to the ground to reduce the risk of being detected by an enemy. The assault glider will be largely unknown. The history of military gliders was extremely short. The British, Germans and Americans considered the use of airborne troops in the closing stages of the 1914-1918 War but there was little enthusiasm for diverting attention to this new concept of warfare. It is entirely possible that the use of airborne troops would have been ignored until the arrival of viable vertical take-off and landing aircraft. What changed history after 1918 was the decision by the Soviet Union to train large numbers of troops to fall or parachute from bomber aircraft. Large scale exercises were impressive spectacles even if the military benefits were questionable. Stalin’s purges largely removed the airborne forces from the Red Army and during the Great Patriotic War with Germany the Red Army was often content to deliver troops be the simple expediency of having them cling to the wings of low flying aircraft and fall off, relying on the snow to save them from death or serious industry. Where the Russian commitment to airborne forces might have been variable, the Germans took paratroop and military glider operations very seriously and had the greatest early impact on the development of the concepts. Gliding was an essential way of training pilots during the period when Germany was banned from having an air force. That led to the development of the first assault gliders, carrying 8 to 9 fully equipped troops. Britain came late to the concept and a personal decision by Churchill resulted in the creation of an Army Air Corps to comprise parachute troops and assault glider pilots. The RAF fought hard to frustrate the formation and equipment of British airborne troops. This was partly a fear of further competition for funding of aircraft and crews, and partly because the RAF were already using every bomber, including obsolete and obsolescent aircraft, and desperate for airfield space to support its planned operations. The Germans had resolved similar considerations by making their airborne troops part of the Luftwaffe. Only an order from Churchill forced the RAF to make bombers and crews available to tow gliders in training and in combat. However, the glider pilots were provided and trained by the Army. Current VTOL and VSTOL aircraft make the insertion and extraction of troops look relatively simple. The crews fly in to the landing zone and fly back out again, helicopter gunships and fast attach aircraft suppressing AAA. For the glider pilot it was very different. Those who survived the landing were unable to return to their home airfield and had to fight alongside the troops they had delivered, requiring them to train as light infantry and to operate the support guns and light armour that could be delivered by glider. Airborne troops soon acquired the status of elite troops and often expectations of their abilities were unrealistic. The Germans started strongly by using glider and parachute troops to capture and neutralize Belgian forts to allow the German Army to go around the end of the French Maginot Line by attacking through neutral Belgium. After that, the German air assault on Crete produced so many casualties for German airborne forces that they were not to be used again in significant numbers for air assaults, ending as light infantry alongside the ordinary Germany soldiers. They were however used on a number of special operations, including the rescue of Mussolini from a mountain prison. As German use of airborne forces reduced, British and American airborne forces were dramatically expanded. Some early use of gliders was in commando raids behind German lines. Gliders were used by Britain during the invasion of Scilly but the initial idea of flying British gliders from Britain to North Africa was abandoned after the first gliders undertook a trial flight, and US WACO gliders were issued instead. These were very different machines and training was inadequate. There was poor choice of landing zones and the Scilly air assault became a costly live training exercise from which later assaults benefited greatly. By D-Day the British and American airborne forces were in much better shape and played important roles in taking and holding key bridges inland, to deny their use to German reinforcement and to provide a highway for troops breaking out from the beachheads to advance on Germany. The spectacular Operation Market Garden, to speed the advance through Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany, was ultimately successful only in part, but became an historically important battle. Market, the airborne element, involved the dropping of paratroops and landing of assault gliders close to strategic bridges through the Netherlands on the way to Germany. As the troops were light infantry with few support weapons, they could not be expected to hold the bridges for long. The Garden element was an armoured force with infantry racing North to relieve each bridge. The expectations were unrealistically high and only the outstanding performance of British, American and Polish airborne soldiers, made the Operation even partly successful. There were many reasons given for the failure at the Northern most bridge at Arnhem. The narrow road north through the bridges delayed the Garden ground forces, as did spirited German opposition. A lack of transport aircraft prevented the British from landing all troops in one parachute drop and glider landing at Arnhem. The presence of a German SS Panzer Division resting in Arnhem produced stronger resistance than anticipated, and poor communications in the Arhem area and with the troops fighting north to relieve them added to the woes. It is easy to think of Arnhem as a failure for the Operation, but the airborne troops held out far longer than anyone could have expected, they caused heavy casualties amongst German troops, and other objectives were achieved. Without Market Garden, the Allied Forces would have faced a tougher challenge to assemble forces for a Rhine crossing into Germany. When that crossing was undertaken, strong airborne forces were landed to support the ground troops and make the crossing practical. At the end of the war in Europe, the glider pilots value reduced. Some were sent out to the Far East to fight the Japanese and prepare for an invasion of Japan. The pilots were again equipped with American WACO gliders because the wood and canvas British gliders were unsuitable in the hot and humid climate. Pilots learned new skills when a system was developed to relaunch gliders from the jungles. This meant that pilots would no longer fight alongside the troops they had delivered,, but fly back to base, carrying casualties who could be treated in fully equipped hospitals. From that point, military gliders were used in the breaking of the siege of Berlin when the Russians closed all road and rail links, forcing the British and Americans to set up an air bridge, which included flying boats and gliders, alongside a hastily assembled force of transport aircraft flying round the clock to keep Berlin supplied with food and fuel. WACO gliders were again used and recovered as in Burma by a tug flying over and hooking the tow line to launch the gliders at similar forces to naval catapults, going from zero to nearly two hundred miles per hour almost instantly. The British Glider Regiment then contracted, soldiering on into the 1950s, when the remaining pilots were retrained to fly the fixed wing light aircraft being issued to the Army Air Corps and to convert to the helicopters becoming available for Army use. Very few military forces enjoy such a short but intense history. It is a remarkable tale and it is told ably in this DVD. The two presenters both have a sound knowledge of the subject and they have interviewed surviving Glider Pilots. Video and sound quality is good in PCs running Windows 7 and on Apple Mac. The DVD should run on other versions of computer operating system, such as Linux, where DVD player software is available. The DVD will run on DVD players with television sets providing the display screen, or using digital projectors. However, this is still an experimental period for DVD documentaries and domestic video entertainment systems are still developing. This means that some additional and bonus material included on this DVD are best accessed through a personal computer or computer workstation. As home entertainment systems develop to provide many traditional computer functions, the DVD will be able to run all of its material through home video systems.

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