This section of the website will contain many of the questions that are asked either during visits to the Trust, or by email from all over the world. This page was started on 8th April 2013 and will be added to on a regular basis. If you have a question that you would like answered, please contact the Webmaster.
Do read the Oral Histories section of the website in order to gain a better understanding of just what the airborne forces were faced with in training and combat.
If you can update or correct these FAQ's please also contact the Webmaster.
The Trust collection is being built and restored to static display condition. The Horsa assault glider is a 'new build' (or late production model as we like to think of it!) using as many original parts as is possible. The plans and drawing were provided on the understanding that the aircraft would not fly. The Waco assault glider metal frame fuselage was in poor condition when it was received, and this has been restored for static display but not to flight condition. The Dakota and Tiger Moth could in theory be restored to flying condition, but this is far beyond the means and indeed the aims of the Trust.
The Assault Glider Project, later renamed the Assault Glider Trust was formed back in the Summer of 2000. The initial aim was to build an Airspeed Horsa Assault glider as a living memorial to all airborne forces. Since then the aims of the Trust have expanded with the acquisition of an American Waco CG-4A assault glider, a Douglas C-47 Dakota transport and glider tug and a de Havilland Tiger Moth basic training aircraft.
Ah! A very good question. When the Assault Glider Project (as it was called at the time before it became a 'Trust') was first formed, it was envisaged that it would take approximately 2 years to complete the Horsa glider build. Since that time, the project has expanded to include 4 aircraft and has taken on responsibilities far beyond those originally foreseen. Working closely with RAF Shawbury and local Educational Authorities, the Trust has provided educational training to a wide age range of students including history, technology and general work experience.
The Horsa Mk 1 is a high-wing monoplane glider designed for transporting 25 troops and 2 pilots with their equipment or military equipment and light vehicles. Within the weight limitations of the glider, loads could be varied to carry more troops with less equipment or more equipment with less troops. The maximum permissible flying weight for the Horsa Mk 1 is 15,500 lbs (7,300 kg). The empty weight of the glider is approximately 8,370 lbs (3,796 kg) and therefore the load carrying capacity is approximately 7,130 lbs (3,504 kg). In modern day terms this equates to a Landrover Range Rover and 2 pilots - apart from the fact that the Range Rover wouldn't actually fit in the glider, but I'm sure that you get the idea. The Horsa is a BIG aeroplane! The later Horsa Mk 2 had a slightly higher maximum permissible weight of 15,750 lbs (7,145 kg).
Looking forward towards the cockpit, the 2 troops on the left are sitting on seats attached to the opening cargo door. Parachutes were not normally carried, so this must be a training flight or an air test.
From the pilot's notes - maximum permissible speeds (indicated air speed):
Towing: 160 m.p.h
Diving: 190 m.p.h.
Flaps half down: 110 m.p.h.
Flaps fully down: 100 m.p.h.
There was a very complicated weight and balance set that allowed the loading and of the glider to be correctly calculated. This would be used by the ground crew rather than the pilots and when dozens of gliders were being loaded for a mission, it would be impractical for the balance to be used for every aircraft loading. However, many of the loads were very similar, for instance 2 pilots, 25 troops sitting in their allocated seats and associated equipment so if the loading had been calculated for one aircraft, it should be OK for all aircraft with a similar load. The pilots worked out a very simple way of checking the balance of the aircraft. With the aircraft fully loaded, the pilot would grab the glider tail skid and lift his feet off the ground. If the glider nose-wheel slowly lifted off the ground, then all was well - however, you couldn't tell if the glider was overloaded by this test!
No, the Horsa has a pneumatic (compressed air) system. Three bottles, two outboard of the starboard pilot's seat and one on the floor across the nose, supply compressed air for operating the flaps, wheel brakes and undercarriage jettison release. When fully charged, there is enough air for three complete cycles of flap operation and for subsequent normal braking on landing.
As the Horsa was a large aircraft and capable of carrying a large load, then a powerful tug aircraft was required for operational missions. The Royal Air Force (RAF) used used the Halifax, Stirling and Albermarle bombers especially modified for towing duties. Both the RAF and the United States Army Air Force also used the C-47 Dakota. For training missions where the glider was lightly loaded, smaller or older aircraft were used as tugs and the Whitley was used in this role. Towing tests were also undertaken with Wellington and Lancaster bombers, although it's not thought that these aircraft were used on a regular basis.
The Horsa was primarily used by the British Airborne forces, but the Horsa was also used by American glider borne forces during D-Day. The American equivalent, the Waco CG-4A was a smaller glider with a lower capacity but was produced in larger numbers than the Horsa. British forces also used the Waco, especially in Burma where the wooden Horsa structure suffered in the high humidity and wet weather.
THe Horsa glider was made of wood with many metal brackets and fixings. During WW2, metal was is short supply but the wooden construction of the Horsa overcame this problem. The wooden construction also meant that the component parts of the glider could be built by sub-contractors who had no experience of making aircraft parts. Many furniture factories and other woodworking companies produced parts for the Horsa.
The Horsa Mk 1 had a large loading door in the side of the fuselage on the left just behind the cockpit. If the glider was to carry a jeep and a field gun or a Jeep and trailer, then a ramp was positioned next to the loading door to allow the Jeep to be driven into the glider. However, there wasn't enough room for the Jeep to turn into the fuselage, so the vehicle would be physically manhandled or 'bounced' into the fuselage where it could then be pushed towards the tail of the glider. The gun or trailer would also be manhandled into the glider and attached to the Jeep. After landing, especially if under attack from ground forces, there wasn't enough time to take the Jeep out the way it had come in. The whole tail would be removed using quick release bolts and the vehicle would be driven out of the fuselage on 2 metal wheel tracks. If the glider had been damaged on landing, it could be impossible to remove the tail. Combat engineers would sometimes wrap explosive detonating cord around the tail and blow it off to get the vehicle out. The later Horsa Mk 2 had a hinging cockpit so that the glider could be loaded and unloaded more easily.
The glider is a forerunner of the support helicopter. If helicopters had been around in WW2 then they would have been used instead of gliders. The same question applies today, why use helicopters when you could use paratroops? Paratroops require specialist training and also they are limited to what they can carry in the way of weapons and supplies. Of course, additional supplies can also be dropped by parachute, but after landing the paratroops and supplies will be spread over a large area. The time taken to join up with the rest of the platoon and to recover enough equipment is time wasted in a hostile environment. Gliderborne troops do not rehire the additional parachute training and already in small fighting units as soon as they land. The glider pilot has more control over where he lands than a parachutist, so it is easier for the troops to reform after landing.
It is a general misconception that an assault glider was only used once. Certainly, for operational use when landing in a hostile area under enemy control, then the glider would probably be damaged on landing or in the fighting. Although there would be an intention of recovering some of the gliders, this would often be impractical. However, for training purposes, the gliders were used many times including being used as transport aircraft in their own right. Both the tug and glider could be loaded with men and equipment and the glider released over the destination airfield and the tug aircraft would land after the glider.
The glider pilots were trained as normal powered aircraft pilots before moving on to become glider pilots. Many of the British and Commonwealth glider pilots received training on the de Havilland Tiger moth - as displayed in the Trust collection.
The British Army glider pilots were soldiers who were trained to fly (see Airborne History, the Glider Pilot Regiment on this site). This meant that after landing, not only were the pilots able to defend themselves, but they became a very important and aggressive part of the fighting force. As they were not specifically attached to the airborne troops they were carrying, they would often join up to form small fighting units and help out wherever they were needed. The glider pilots were supposed to withdraw from the fighting as soon as they could so that they were available to fly further glider missions. Often they stayed in the fight! After the Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden, a bridge too far?) where the Glider Pilot Regiment suffered 90% casualties, 1,500 RAF pilots were drafted into the Regiment for the Crossing of the Rhine (see RAF Glider Pilots on this site). Although they received rudimentary infantry training, this must have come as a bit of a shock!
The aim of the Trust has always been to display the collection, especially the Horsa, close to where many of the aircraft were built, assembled and test flown and close to where glider tug pilots were trained during WW2 in the West Midlands of the UK. Not only is this area historically significant, but it is where the majority of the AGT volunteer workforce are based. Negotiations have been underway for a number of years with the RAF Museum Cosford with the aim of having the Horsa and Waco gliders on permanent display. As of September 2014, the gliders are in storage at the adjacent RAF Cosford site awaiting acceptance by the RAF Museum
The AGT departed RAF Shawbury in April 2014. The plan to move the 2 gliders into the RAF Museum Cosford failed at the very last moment when the museum were unable to accept them due to a lack of space. RAF Cosford (a completely separate organisation to the RAF Museum) kindly offered temporary storage space in a hangar on the far side of the airfield and this is where the Horsa and Waco are residing at present. The RAF Museum did not want the Dakota and Tiger Moth as they already have these types in their collection. The Dakota was donated to the RAF Transport Command Memorial (Dakotair) at North Weald airfield where it is hoped that it will be restored to flying condition. The Tiger Moth was donated to the Army Historic Aircraft Flight and will also hopefully be restored to flying condition.
The AGT collection, other than the aircraft, is on permanent loan to the Shropshire Wartime Aircraft Recovery Group based at Sleap airfield in North Shropshire.