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Hamilcar Glider

Discussion in 'Allied Aviation Of WWII' started by Jim, Oct 10, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    On Britain's huge Glider aircraft the Hamilcar, which the Germans believed to be a troop carrier depended much of the success of the Allied airborne landings on the Continent from D-Day onwards. Tremendous punch was given to ground operations, by the use of these gliders which towed by heavy bombers of the R.A.F carried a Tetrarch tank and other heavy equipment. In London on November 11th 1941, Major-General Lentaigne, successor to Wingate of the Chindits, disclosed that during the Burma fighting earlier in the year, gliders were used on a large scale for the first time for landings behind the enemy lines: These methods were reported to England, greatly influencing D-Day planning.

    Taking off towed by a stirling bomber, the laden Hamilcar glider rises into a higher position than that of towing aircraft to avoid the violent slipstream from the airscrews. Besides tanks and howitzers, Hamilcars carried engineering equipment, the latter enabled the airborne troops in Holland in October 1944 to establish vital bridge-heads and so take the enemy by surprise.

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    On board the Hamilcar the tank, carrying a gun, is started up while still airborne, and is thus ready to go into immediate action. At the moment of landing the nose of the glider swings back and the fuselage sinks to the ground to allow the tank to roll out into operation. Leading Hamilcar pilot, Major Alec Dale, R.A.F a Shropshire man, was awarded the D.F.C for his work with gliders in Sicily in the summer of 1943. “The Hamilcars are beautifully easy to handle, in spite of their weight,” he declared, “and the organization of the landings in France was so good compared with the Sicilian show that there was really nothing to it.”

    A Tetrarch tank backs into a Hamilcar glider under its own power. This light tank, around which the glider was originally tailored to fit, weighed over 7 tons. Its overall length was approximately 14 ft. (including the gun, which had remarkable fire power) width, 8 ft 5 in, height, 7 ft. Its speed was 25 mph, and it was capable of c1imbing a slope of 35 degrees and negotiating almost any kind of terrain.

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    Besides airborne troops and tanks these huge gliders had carried 75-mm howitzers, 3-in mortars, bridging material and assault boats. At Arnhem in October the assault boats proved invaluable in helping the men to cross the River Lek. The Hamilcars wing span was 110ft, 8ft. more than that of a Lancaster. It possessed, however, such manoeuvrability that it could be landed in a small meadow. By daylight and by dark it could touch down with almost mathematical precision from a release point miles away.

    The glider in flight, and its heavy-bomber towing plane, made a familiar sight in Holland during the great airborne invasion of September 17th 1944. Squadron-leader James Stewart, tow-plane pilot at Arnhem, was awarded the D.F.C. for flying his plane deliberately into flak to distract the enemy gunners from gliders on their way down.

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