Buckingham Covers - First Day Covers

Jim Wallwork DFM

 

Jim Wallwork was one of the first to transfer from an infantry regiment to join the – then unknown – Glider Pilot Regiment. Upon acceptance, first question was, "Thanks, but what is it ?" He soon knew. On delivery, the glider pilot just like his troops must earn his trip by taking part in whatever the operation. The first glider operation was from North Africa to the attack on Sicily flying an American Waco glider with only 13 troops aboard. Wallwork was one of the few to cast off in time to make land and join the attack.

Back to Britain for a go at the European war...

The Capture of Two Bridges was Key to D-Day. Training, training and more flying from daylight to full, to half, to (on the serious night) a sickle moon, to try the first attack into France. The plan was to capture the bridges about six miles inland from the Normandy coast astride the River Orne and Caen Canal, considered vital for the expansion of the major offensive arriving by sea at dawn that day.

In line astern at one-minute intervals, they took off from Tarrant Rushton. Gliders 1,2,3 for the Canal and 4,5,6 for the River bridge. Total load was 138 Ox & Bucks (Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) and 30 engineers, plus arms and ammo. All under command of Major John Howard.

Flying No. 1 Wallwork cast off at 6000 feet as he reached the French coast a few minutes before midnight June 5/6, as in turn did the following five. With Ainsworth, his co-pilot keeping time, Wallwork maintaining fixed airspeed flew the first leg on compass course for, say, 3 min 55 until Ainsworth shouted "Turn", then a controlled rate-one of 90-degrees to the second fixed course, and immediately word is "ON", Ainsworth starts the watch for the cross-wind leg of 1 min 10. At call "Turn", another controlled 90-degrees, and right there ahead, was the little field!

Touchdown was too fast – so the arrester-chute was deployed for two seconds. It brakes quick and fast, so discarded it and run into Pegasus Bridge abutment to leave as much of the small field for Nos. 2 and 3 following to avoid being rammed.

Ainsworth and Wallwork go through the cockpit perspex as expected – neither too damaged. Troops were okay, so they got on with the job as Nos. 2 and 3 arrive.

The remainder of the plan went like clockwork for all six gliders given a little diversion here and there. And both bridges were taken intact as planned thanks to Major John Howard and his merry men, who were magnificent.