Short Stirling as a Glider Tug and Paratrooper transport

The Stirling received a new lease of life as a glider tug during 1944 and 1945. The Mk IV Stirling was modified to suit the new role, and a total of 577 were produced, some by converting existing aircraft. The type was basically surplus to requirement as a main line bomber by 1944, having been superseded by the Lancaster and Halifax bombers.

The Stirling was used to tow the Airspeed Horsa glider, the most numerous British glider during the invasion of Europe. The Stirling acts as both a paratrooper transport and glider tug on D-Day. Nos 190, 196, 299 and 620 Squadrons began the day by dropping troops of the British 6th Airborne Division around the bridges over the Orne and Caen Canals. They returned later in the day towing Horsa gliders carrying reinforcements for the airborne troops.

The Stirling squadrons suffered heavy losses during Operation Market Garden. On 17 September 1944 No. 38 Group contained six Stirling squadrons, with a total of 112 aircraft. This entire force took part in the attack on Arnhem, carrying paratroops and towing gliders containing the 1st British Airborne Division.

The Stirlings were then heavily involved in the supply operation. Loses were heavy and most of the supplies failed to reach the British troops. Between 17 September and 24 September when the last supply mission ended, sixty-three Stirlings had been lost, 56% losses.

The Stirling also played a role in the much better planned crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. This was a somewhat less ambitious operation, carried out with rather more resources. Nearly 700 Allied aircraft were involved in transported 21,680 airborne troops across the Rhine. Amongst then were 199 Stirling Mk IVs.

The Mk IV was also used to drop SOE agents and their supplies into occupied Europe. Finally, the Mk IV was one of many types of aircraft used to repatriate Prisoners of War freed at the end of the war.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (pending), Short Stirling as a Glider Tug and Paratrooper transport, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_short_stirling_tug.html

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