The origins of the Assault Glider Trust (AGT) go back to the year 2000, when veterans of the Midland Branch of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association decided to construct a complete Airspeed Horsa assault glider to serve as an appropriate memorial to airborne forces in the Midlands. Of the several hundred Horsas used in the Second World War many were built in Birmingham, and were assembled and tested at West Midlands airfields such as RAF Cosford, Shawbury and Sleap before being delivered to the Glider Pilot Regiment’s operational squadrons. Surprisingly, no complete example of the Horsa has been preserved anywhere in the world.
While honoring two Midlands glider-borne regiments, the South Staffords and the Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry, both of which acquitted themselves with outstanding gallantry, no memorial would be complete without reference to the Royal Air Force crews who towed the gliders, dropped paratroops and kept ground forces resupplied during the battle. The great airborne battles in NW Europe and the Mediterranean are well chronicled, but the Burma campaign must never be forgotten. Six brigades of Chindits were inserted behind Japanese lines, many by glider, and were resupplied almost entirely from the air. The smaller, metal-framed American Waco CG4A glider was used in these operations.
In June 2001 Royal Air Force Station Shawbury, in Shropshire, offered hangar space for the construction of a Mk 1 Horsa by a team of volunteers living in the local area, and the station continues to support the volunteer team. Initially a section of Horsa fuselage, recovered after the war from a landing site in Normandy, was loaned for the volunteers to copy. A year later copies of the original working drawings were donated by BAe Systems Ltd to allow Horsa construction to develop provided an assurance was given that the new aircraft would not be flown.
In 2004 the Trust acquired a Dakota aircraft, as a gift from Air Atlantique, Coventry, and funds were raised to convert it to its former glider-towing and para-dropping role and to give it back its wartime identity.
In 2005 the Trust received a consignment of CG4-A Waco parts from the Silent Wings Museum at Lubbock, Texas, and the fuselage and cockpit have now been completely reassembled by a small team of volunteers working alongside the Horsa. The Trust completed its collection of aircraft in 2007 with the acquisition of a DH-82 Tiger Moth, used to train glider pilots in the 1940s, which has now been fully restored.
The main fuselage of the Horsa is virtually complete, with work now concentrating on the outer wing sections. Similarly, the Waco team are focusing their efforts on wing construction. Work on the Dakota’s internal fittings continues as does refurbishment of the Tiger Moth engine.
Ultimately the Trust aims to put its aircraft and associated weapons, vehicles, uniforms and other memorabilia on permanent display for the general public, ideally as part of an existing museum in the Midlands, to serve as a tribute and permanent memorial to all those Service personnel, both Army and RAF, and civilians involved in assault glider operations in the Second World War.
Formed out of the Assault Glider Association, the AGT is a registered charity (No 1088895) whose purpose is to organize and administer the project. The President and Trustees are serving or retired officers or civilian members with close connections to the Royal Air Force and airborne regiments. Our distinguished Patrons have historic connections with airborne forces. The Viscount Montgomery connects us with the great Field Marshal. Viscountess Montgomery is the daughter of General Sir Frederick Browning who commanded the Allied airborne corps on Operation Market Garden, and who married Daphne Du Maurier, the famous novelist.
Legend has it that Daphne chose the maroon shade of the red beret, designed the Glider Pilot's cap badge with its eagle flying backwards, and the glider pilot wings. Members of the Glider Pilot Regiment, who sometimes called themselves "Daphne's Private Army", were proud of the legend and the badges they wore.