Glider Pilots in Sicily, Mike Peters

Glider Pilots in Sicily, Mike Peters

The Allied invasion of Sicily saw the first large-scale deployment of British glider borne forces, and was marred by heavy losses before the troops even reached land. This book examines the creation and deployment of the Glider Pilot Regiment, looking at their creation and early training (and the thinking behind it), their move to Africa and the negative impact it had on training, the planning for the invasion of Sicily, the disastrous flights in and the hard fighting that followed.

The glider borne troops were the victims of a series of problems during the invasion of Sicily. There was very little connection between the glider pilots and the all-important tug pilots, and many gliders were released too far out to sea or too low to reach their destinations (one of the nice features of this book is that the authors have traced the fate of the gliders that ditched in the sea, while many accounts of the Sicily campaign mention the ditching but stop there).

The first operations were badly planned, with seemingly little attention paid to the landing zones and potential problems ignored (possibly because the senior airborne commanders wanted to make sure their new units were actually used). No satisfactory way of protecting the glider fleets from Allied anti-aircraft fire was ever developed, and the first major operation was marred when the gliders came under very heavy AA fire from the Allied fleets. Finally the second major operation ran into unexpectedly heavy German opposition.

A key theme here is the impressive way in which the glider pilots and the airborne troops adapted to the disastrous trip to Sicily, gathered in small bands and attempted to carry out their missions. Their main role was to capture key bridges just behind enemy lines and prevent the Italians and Germans from destroying them. In both cases they succeeded in keeping the bridges intact, although at heavy cost, and in their second major operation they were driven off the bridge before the Allied relief force arrived. The lessons learnt on Sicily went on to play a major role in the success of the airborne operations in Normandy in 1944, and in particular the spectacular capture of Pegasus Bridge.

This is a fascinating detailed examination of the first major British airborne operation, pulling no punches when there are failures to report but giving a clear idea of the high quality of the glider pilots and the risks they faced both in the air and on the ground.

Prologue: Greeks and Romans
1 - Nothing is Impossible
2 - Orders to Embark
3 - Monty's Excalibur
4 - Wings of Icarus
5 - Operation BEGGAR - The First Wave
6 - Turkey Buzzards - Running the Gauntlet
7 - A Race Against Time
8 - Objective Waterloo
9 - Operation LADBROKE
10 - Ill Met By Moonlight
11 - One Way Ticket
12 - The Battle for the Ponte Grande
13 - Pyrrhic Victory
14 - Operation FUSTIAN
15 - Red Devils Over Etna
16 - The Battle for the Ponte di Primosole
Appendix 1 - Operation LADBROKE Post Mission Reports
Appendix 2 - Operation FUSTIAN Post Mission Reports
Appendix 3 - National Archive Source Documents

Author: Mike Peters
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012

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