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Thread: Gliders landings/losses near Calais in September 1944

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    Default Gliders landings/losses near Calais in September 1944

    Hello,

    A German naval officer assieged in Calais wrote, according to a French book, that on 11th September 1944, several allied gliders flew over Calais area and were fired at by Flak. At least 5 were seen. Some gliders landed near St Inglevert and Landrethun-le-Nord, apparently loaded with supplies.

    Im wondering whether these could have been gliders being brought forward on the continent to be used in Market-Garden , this airborne operation starting six days later (but Ive never read that gliders took-off from continental airfields), or indeed gliders flown in to Calais on purpose, or if this could be a typo, correct date being 17th September, matching with the start of Market-Garden .

    Ive checked the Air-Britain volumes for Airspeed Horsas (blocks DP279 to DP841, HG736 to HG989, HS101 to HS150, LF886 to LJ334, PF690 to PF817, PW637 to PW897, RJ111 to RJ389, RN309 to RN941, even RX534 to RZ408), General Aircraft Hamilcars (DR851 to DR860, HH921 to HH975, LA632 to LA750, even later batches), and also Waco Hadrians for sure, and Ive not stumbled across losses or ops on 11th September 1944 near Calais.

    Can someone give me some clues ? I know there are a few books about airborne operations in Market-Garden ?

    I'm also looking for references of files at Kew (which I suspect should be in AIR 37 ?) on this subject.

    Thanks in advance

    Joss

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    Hi Joss
    I don't know whether this helps but Martin Middlebrook wrote a book "Arnhem-1944" published for the 50th Anniversary of the battle.From a map in the book it is possible that a/c and gliders could have strayed close to the Calais area from the southernmost route used into the Market Garden operation. The 101st US Airborne used the route into Eindhoven flying, nominally, Hatfield(N of London)- Manston(Kent) and N of Brussels.It would have passed close enough to Calais for navigation errors or u/s aircraft to have come within range of Calais guns and your source seems to mention only a few a/c.I don't remember the book well enough to know if the Americans went into action on this op using any Gliders and I haven't re-read it.It does ,of course , depend on the accuracy of the date from your source.
    As a guess I would have thought that Market Garden would have needed such resources as to leave no room for any use of the a/c and gliders until the date specified for the actual start of the Operation.
    Edit: There are at least 2 further books about the operation,1 by Geoffrey Powell-"Men at Arnhem" which concentrates on Powell's own experience of Arnhem and 2 by Robert Kershaw " It never Snows in September" which sees the whole operation from the German perspective. I wouldn't expect either to have much detail on losses on the flight inbound
    Regards
    Dick
    Last edited by Dick; 22nd January 2010 at 18:19.

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    Hello,

    Thanks Dick for your message. I've been able to pin-point the flight plan for "Varsity" (the Rhine crossing), from TNA archives, which enabled me to find that this was my own father witnessed, back in March 1945. It also helped to identify a Horsa which landed south of St Omer due to an engine u/s in the Stirling tug. That day two other gliders landed around St Omer, but these proved elusive to positively identify (give them a serial number or a "chalk" number)

    This query is a new one, based on a French book quoting a German officer, and I'd like to find out what's the part of truth in it. I'm sure that I could find some files at Kew about the gliders lost "en route". For "Varsity" the route flown managed to cross the Channel at its shortest, i.e. Dover to Calais. But I'm not sure about "Market-Garden", as I've read about "a northern route" which clearly flew over the north sea. With the limited detailed informations I have about "Market-Garden", I know that the airborne forces were split in two routes, one flying this "northern route" over the north Sea, another flying a "southern route", Kent to Oostend and accross Belgium. Calais is obviously more linked to the "southern route", either the gliders and tug flew the shortest sea crossing from Dover to Calais then flew along the coast, or they flew direct and some with mecanical troubles flew to the closest spot of land (Calais...)

    Thanks again for your help.

    Joss
    Last edited by jossleclercq; 23rd January 2010 at 12:23.

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    Hi Joss
    From the same book and map the Northern Route left the English coast over Aldebrough in Suffolk and crossed the continental coast behind the German Front line at Schouwen,splitting NW of Eindhoven for the US 82nd Airborne to go to Nijmegen and the British 1st Airborne to turn for Arnhem.The Southern Route stayed over Allied held territory until just before the drop(with areas like Calais and Dunkirk still held by the Germans).
    Oddly enough some of the gliders took off from Manston,but these were towed by Albermarles(short range) and flew N E to join the Northern Route.
    The bulk of the Glider effort took off from airfields in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire as did the US Airborne divisions. The coast at Aldebrough was the joining point for these with the British Air Dropped troops that took off from Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire
    Any that were seen around Calais would almost certainly have come from the Southern Route
    Regards
    Dick

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    Hello Dick,

    I'm acknowledging your last message and I thank your for it.

    As far as gliders are concerned, they needed towing aircraft, so I'll check No. 38 and No. 46 Groups O.R.B. during my next visit at Kew. Gliders towing missions on 11th September 1944 should be recorded if they indeed existed. From there, if positive, I'll go down to Squadron levels to eventually find out more details.

    I should also be able to have the navigation pin-points and flight plans from the appendices of the Groups O.R.B.s, which would tell me how far or how close they were to Calais when they crossed the Channel, i.e. the shortest sea crossing (as in "Varsity") or a longer leg (from North Foreland / Manston) to Oostende...

    Joss

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