The Horsa was initially flown by the Glider Pilot Regt, (Army Air Corps) but due to heavy losses at Arnhem there were not enough army pilots therefore RAF pilots were not used until later, the gliders themselves were RAF assetts, purchased by the Air Ministry and carrying RAF Serial numbers. The first aircraft flew in the autumn of 1941 and orders for 3,792 aircraft soon followed. The simple, all-wooden construction meant that large quantities of the aircraft could be made by a wide number of sub-contractors, and its use of wood did not further reduce the vital supplies of steel for other aircraft.
A Horsa could carry 28 Airborne Soldiers and made its operational debut in November 1942 during the failed attack on a German heavy water plant in Norway. Due to the range which the aircraft had to be towed (by Halifaxes), each aircraft only carried 15 troops for this operation. More success was had during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, but its during the two major air assaults of 1944, Overlord and Market Garden that the Horsa acquitted itself, delivering many thousands of men to landing grounds on the continent. Three Horsas were used to insert the party which took the important Pegasus Bridge in the very first moments of the invasion.
Manufacturers: Airspeed, Christchurch
Accommodation: Up to 28 Airborne Soldiers, crew of two.
Dimensions: Span 88ft, Length 67ft
Gliding speed: 100 mph
Of all the gliders used by the allies in World War II, the General Aircraft Hamilcar was the largest. First flown in March 1942, the Hamilcar was used primarily to carry heavy freight (it could carry a 7-ton tank) and had a crew of 2Wednesday, June 2, 2004 11:39 AMust over 410 aircraft were built.
Far fewer Hamilcars were involved in the Normandy landings (only seventy in total towed by Stirlings and Halifaxes), but their contribution was nonetheless a vital one.
Manufacturers: General Aircraft Ltd., Hanworth, Middlesex.
Accommodation: Load up to seven tons, crew of two.
Dimensions: Span 110ft, length 68ft, height 20ft 3in.
Towing speed: 150mph