Sunday, 18 November 2012

RAF Glider Pilots

Chalk has now been running as a Living History Group for just over eighteen months. In that time, we have attended several events solely portraying the Glider Pilot Regiment, we have been received extremely well by members of the public, museum and event organisers as well as serving and ex-members of the Armed Forces.

Now that we feel established, and more confident with our display of GPR uniforms, equipment and general gliderborne information, we feel it is time to also represent those Glider Pilots who's numbers were drawn directly from the RAF in late 1944/45. Up until now, we haven't had any uniforms relating to the RAF Glider Pilots - mainly because accurate photographic evidence is so thin on the ground, but also because the sheer expense of putting together everything needed to portray Army GP's has been extremely prohibitive.

However, as we now have almost everything required for our Army GP display (except, of course, we don't have any gliders!) then we feel it only right to put together a decent, and accurate, RAF Glider Pilot section.

I've recently started the ball rolling with a good reproduction 2nd pattern Denison smock, a BD blouse, RAF wings, RAF Sgt stripes and an RAF beret (see image below).

What I really need are more accurate photographs of RAF GP's in Battledress (or HDD as the RAF refer to BD's), or in Denison smocks, plus any images of the pilot's on the ground or in flight during Operation Varsity (the airborne element of the Rhine crossing in March 1945).

I have a copy of the book 'Wot? No Engines?' by Alan Cooper which is superb with quite a few decent photo's but in order to get the uniforms looking absolutely right, I really need more! If any readers of this blog have anything they think might be of interest; photo's of family members serving as RAF GP's or any photos in a private collection... please do let me know.

Once the uniforms are badged up I'll be sure to share some photographs. Thank you.

The Eagle Magazine

For some time now I've been meaning to show my small collection of 'The Eagle' the magazine of the Glider Pilot Regimental Association. At the moment I only have nine of the original A5 format magazines, running from 1950 through to 1982. However, as I'm a Friend of The Eagle I also have a number the current A4 format magazines (not shown here). 

I'm very proud of my limited collection, they're mainly picked up from Ebay but I'm always looking for donations if anyone has any they'd like to pass on? (nudge, nudge, wink, wink...). They're great to read through, especially the 1950's editions, with plenty of recollections and even advertisements for long passed products and services.

Anyone can become a 'Friend of The Eagle' (follow the link below and click on 'Association'), once you initial application has been accepted then you'll need to make a small annual donation and you'll receive The Eagle 2 - 3 times a year. Former GPR pilots can become Full Members of the GPRA (Glider Pilot Regimental Association) and blood relatives of former GPR members can become Associate Members.

Link: GPRA

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Operation Gliderswine 2012

Operation Gliderswine was a night march and daytime living history display organised and carried out by a group of Dutch GPR enthusiasts to mark the 68th anniversary of the Glider Pilot Regiment's involvement in Operation Market Garden.

Group member Peter Vrolijk has very kindly supplied us with a background to his new group along with a report on Operation Gliderswine. Roels Manders also took part in the march and was able to take plenty of photos using his 1955 FED3 camera and his modern Canon Eos 350D colour camera, which I'm sure you'll agree look superb.

Group background:

Although the organisation of a GPR living history group was tried a few years ago, this group was only formed in the spring of 2012 after an appeal on our forum. Our reasons for wanting to depict the GPR are because they are one of the most unique Regiments from WW2 with numbers in excess of around 1200 men - almost brigade size - but now nearly forgotten.

All members are part of the VHM (Vereniging Historische Militaria). The VHM has several groups displaying Dutch, German, British, Canadian and US military forces along with a Group displaying as Dutch civilians during WW2 (some groups also depict pre-war and post-war military units). For more information please take a look at our webpage.

The foundation of this GPR group is largly made up of those who also depict WW2 Commando units including Dutch, British and French Commando (No.10 & No.4 Commando).

Link: VHM Living History NL

Operation Gliderswine. September 21st - 22nd 2012

To commemorate the 68th anniversary of Operation Market Garden we decided to organise a night march from Oude Reemst to a point NW of the DZ at Ginkel Heath.

The group taking part in the commemorative night march (christened Operation Gliderswine due to the population of wild boar in the area) consisted of eight men. The CO. is Lt. Brian (Marcel van Sprongen) who also commands the Commando Group. Unfortunately he could not make it this time, but lucky enough for everyone involved he did all the organising and work prior to the event.

One of the group members Erik de Bruin organised the tactical night movement. This is to his credit. A lot of coordination with local authorities had to be made but permission was granted to move through the night across the woods with weapons and equipment.

At the last moment we heard that we were not permitted to dig in when we reached Ginkle Heath , so alternative arrangements had to be made regarding the display of ourselves and our kit once we had reached our final rendezvous point. Ultimately, as we could not dig trenches and only a small display ‘above ground’ was permitted, we made it look like of a group of tired GP’s after a few days battle were on the move towards Oosterbeek and had rested during one of the many hold-ups along the way.

Operational Report:

"We started at about 20.00 hours from Oude Reemst. Weather was good, dry, almost no wind. temparature a bit cold. First stage of 2 miles was a bit difficult as everyone had to get used to the dark, bergens were heavy so everyone started to sweat after a about mile. About 550 yards from our first goal some cars came by so we had to get into cover which went well. First stop of 45 minutes in the woods, 500 yards from the track.

Second stage of 4 miles went very smooth. No one was tired when we arrived at about midnight at the point were we wanted to spend the night. We had walked very fast, maybe too fast for a tactical move... again we had so dive into cover twice, but still no one saw us... Tried to sleep, but had only our gas-cape or groundsheet . No tents or sleeping bags. Started to drizzle a bit, not much, but still, very uncomfortable.

Stayed till 06.30 in this position with two men on guard, but no one could sleep as it was very uncomfortable and cold. We moved further at first light and arrived at our destination of Ginkel Heath at about 08.00 hours.

It was a very interesting experience. You can't see a thing at night, and our boots made a hell of a noise... I think that germans would have heard us from miles away.

The day at Ginkel Heath was very busy as there was a large crowd. The papers say that about 75,000 people were in attendance."

It’s our intention to work on a more permanent GPR group and first steps have already been taken to do so. We have no website as yet, but I am working on a small one myself and will let you know when it's online.

Words courtesy of Peter Vrolijk 2012. Images courtesy of Roels Manders 2012.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Chalk Swap Gliders for Heavy Artillery

One weekend in September, Chalk members Andy and myself took part in a 21 gun salute to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

We joined forces with the Garrison to become crew members on a 25 pounder field gun for the day! Throughout the year we both attended training days to learn how to operate and handle one of these 2 ton beasts. Initially the salute was to take place in the centre of Leeds but due to a logistical error (no advertising or somesuch nonsense), it was in danger of being cancelled completely until the decision was made to continue at a local pub, 'The New Inn' in Eccup near Leeds.

There were three 25 pounder guns, with limbers and towing vehicles for each gun plus a Jeep, an Austin Tilly Mk1 and a Matchless Motorcycle. Each gun had a full crew of five men plus driver and seven shots were fired by each gun in front of special guest the Lord Lieutenant of Leeds.

As usual with such a large undertaking as this (the first time three 25pdr guns have fired a 21 gun salute for many years) there were bound to be some mistakes, but I'm glad to say the whole affair went without a hitch! All the gun teams worked brilliantly together and the final effect was... DEAFENING!!

Please check out our photos, as I was part of the gun crew I was unable to take any pictures of the actual firing, but I'm told there are some in existence somewhere and when I get hold of them I'll be sure to share them with you. Cheers all. Matt

Friday, 28 September 2012

New 4th Parachute Brigade HQ Website

This informative new site has just been started and deals with the 4th Parachute Brigade Head Quarters during their time in Arnhem.

The site contains war diaries, nominal roll, regular news updates and even a virtual battlefield tour. Why not check it out and visit it often? Matt

Link: 4th Parachute Brigade HQ

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cumbria's Military Museum's Waco Glider Project

After finding the front section of a Waco CG-4 / Hadrian glider near Kirby Lonsdale in 1993, Cumbria's Military Museum have made considerable progress restoring a large part of the glider for inclusion in the Museum's new location of the Alma Block at Carlisle Castle.

Take a look at the project's Facebook page where you can see plenty of photographs of the restoration plus regular updates.

Link: Waco Glider Project

Found in May 1993 near Kirkby Lonsdale the front section of a WACO CG-4 Hadrian glider.
Artist's impression of the WACO CG-4 Glider in postion in the new museum

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Operation Plunder Reenactment - 2010 Photo!

I was just looking through some old folders of photos we've done in the past and came across this one of me doing PBI for an Operation Varsity/Plunder photoshoot that we did when we were part of VERA (Victory in Europe Reenactment Association) along with Thunder From Heaven. 

I always kind of liked this photo, I know its not a Glider Pilot but it has a certain something. Hopefully we'll be doing a shoot to remember Varsity/Plunder next March - watch this space.

Edit: I took the liberty of adding a couple more pics. Matt

Monday, 17 September 2012

Remember Arnhem - Victory Show 2012

Here are our photo's of the this year's Victory Show, I do have a couple more that I'll post when I get a minute.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Victory Show This Weekend!

Ok, so we're all ready for Victory Show this weekend. Been looking forward to this one since, well since last year! If you're going along then come and find us to say hello, we might even have our famous kettle on.


Monday, 20 August 2012

The Glider Pilot Regiment - On Facebook!

At last, I've finally managed to find time to point you in the direction of The Glider Pilot Regiment's Facebook page! My apologies for taking so long.

The page was started and run by a good friend of Chalk's, Steve Wright who not only runs the FB page but is the author of 'The Last Drop: Operation Varsity, March 24-25, 1945' and 'One Night in June', along with running the website of the Glider Pilot Regimental Association here.

Steve is the first person I go to when I need any advice regarding the regiment and its great to see the Facebook page increasing in popularity and 'Likes', hint, hint...

So if you're interested in the Regiment and would like to give the page your support then please pay a visit immediately, I'm certain you won't be disappointed.

Link: The GPR Facebook Page

Stan Hodge Update

You'll remember that Chalk were fortunate to meet Stan Hodge at this year's War & Peace Show? Stan is a former member of the Dorsetshire Regiment who took part in the evacuation of Arnhem in September 1944.

Well, we weren't the only people that Stan met at this year's show, he also bumped into an old friend, a friend he hadn't seen since they fought together in Normandy!

Click on the link to the Daily Mail article covering this amazing reunion.

Link: Daily Mail Story

Link: Original Chalk Story

Bert Hadrill on the left and Stan Hodge, reunited at the War & Peace 2012. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail 2012.

Chalk - War & Peace Photo

I managed to stumble across this photo whilst 'Googling' the other day. It shows Chalk member Andy about to prepare a quick meal by the look of it?

If any of you out there have photographs of us at this year's W&P please do pass them on. Matt

Photo by Billynoms via Flickr. 2012.

Friday, 3 August 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Nine Days by Ron Gibson

Last week, I was finally able to find a copy of 'Nine Days' by Ronald Gibson (formerly S.Sgt Ron Gibson, GPR). I'd been searching for this book for so long that I'd almost given up hope of ever finding it!

However, success wasn't a result of my investigative skills but actually due to the fact that the book has been reprinted by Ron's family.

Initially printed in 1956 'Nine Days' covers the full nine days of Operation Market Garden in 1944, from Sunday 17th to Monday 25th of September when survivors were evacuated across the river Rhine. Refreshingly Ron doesn't dwell on the 'bigger picture' of the battle, knowingly leaving this to future writers and film makers. This leaves us as much in the dark as he and many of his comrades throughout the battle, creating rather an insular world of uncertainty.

For living historians such as myself this book is a treasure trove of detail, from the writers location during the battle to what equipment and clothing he was using - priceless stuff!

It is the personal recollections such as this one, rather than the heavily researched strategic overviews that tell the real 'belt and braces' aspect of the battle. 'Nine Days' sits comfortably alongside other works such as 'Arnhem Lift' by Louis Hagen and 'Nothing is Impossible' by Victor Miller to paint true first hand accounts of one of the more confusing battles of the Second World War.

Overall this book is a well written and informative addition to any existing World War Two collection or as an introduction to Operation Market Garden. Either way, it's a must have book! Highly recommended.

For more information on S.Sgt Ron Gibson please follow the link below.

Link: S.Sgt Ronald Gibson 

My thanks to Candy Gibson for kindly allowing me to write this review. 'Nine Days' is available from Amazon and Fast Print Publishing.


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

War and Peace Show - Part 4 (final)

At last year's War and Peace Show (2011) we met a man and his two young son's who took a real interest in what we were doing, we happily had our photo taken with the two lads and were over the moon this year when they turned up again with two copies of the photo for Andy and myself! Like a fool I completely forgot to make a note of their name, doh! However, I'm pretty sure I passed on one of our cards so if you're out there reading this please email me, and many thanks for the photograph. Matt

Monday, 30 July 2012

The War and Peace Show - Part 3

On the Saturday of this year's show we were visited in our slit trench by a veteran of the Arnhem battle, but as he informed us; he wasn't an Airborne!

Stan Hodge served with 4th Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment 43rd Wessex Division and was one of the men who took the boats across to bring back as many survivors as possible on the 25/26th September 1944 known as Operation Berlin.

Stan informed us that they were given canvas 'storm' boats with outboard motors and made as many trips across the Rhine river as they could before daylight stopped the operation (the op took place between 22.00hrs and 05.00hrs with a total of approximately 2,500 men of the 1st Airborne Division being evacuated), he also told us that 4th Battalion lost 200 of their own number captured in an earlier attempt to cross the river and strengthen the Airborne soldiers in the Oosterbeek perimeter.

He bravely made his way through the mud with the aid of a Dutch Border Regiment Reenactor and also very kindly agreed to have his photograph taken with us. I asked him what he thought of our slit trench, had we got it right? and he answered "Yeah, not bad, about 95% correct"... Well, 95% correct is way better than 95% wrong I guess? It was an absolute honour to meet Stan, he was a ray of sunshine in a somewhat soggy slit trench!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The War and Peace Show - Part Two

As usual after a living history event I've tried to 'age' some of the photo's, some people don't like it but I do, obviously or I wouldn't do it!

As this year's show was pretty quiet I've only got the one pic of Chalk (others were taken by visiting photographers and once they're all in I'll post them here), however I did manage to get one or two pics or the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry which have come out looking good.

More W&P to follow.

The War & Peace Show - Part One

Oh the mud, the mud and the rain...

Actually, as we got down to Kent on the Wednesday I think we'd missed the worse of the weather, granted it was still raining and the site roads were an ocean of sticky brown porridge but we tightened our boot laces and got on with it, just as the hundreds of other reenactors and stall holders did. We found a clear spot in the woods and erected our pup tents. As we travelled down with a friend of ours who owns a BMW motorcycle and sidecar combination (I believe its a Chinese motorcycle which has been transformed into a pretty good facsimile of a WW2 BMW?) we were lucky enough to move most of our essential equipment such as tents etc with the assistance of this marvellous machine from the main car park to our base in the woods, after two days or so of battling through the quagmire our little warhorse looked rather authentic - for the Eastern front!

Thursday dawned with sunshine and the ground started to dry out, apparently the nearby River Medway draws most of the water from the site and as a result it tends to drain very quickly. Just as we were about to start enjoying ourselves the heavens opened again and down came the rain, smiles turned upside down and a 'Zero Vehicle Movement Order' was established to prevent any further deterioration to the already treacherous roads and tracks.

Undeterred, Chalk prepared their slit trench, even 'borrowing' a little straw for the bottom from our nearby German counterparts when they weren't looking! Then we hit the traders stalls (again) in search of bargains and old friends.

More to follow.

The chosen site for our tents, we were to share this area with slugs, snails, rodents, frogs and of course mosquitoes!

Home, Sweet Home. Not so much a place to live as a place to sleep. Even sitting up is impossible.

An old slit trench in need of some 'modernisation'.

Chalks' secret weapon; Andy with a spade and a mattock!

Our transport. A proper little warhorse!