Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Gliders on Landing Zone 'Z' - 17 September 1944 - Educational Diorama

A couple of weeks ago, during one of my usual trips around the internet, I came across this superb diorama by modeller Stefan Landman. The scale of the Diorama is 1/72 (that's approximately model railway scale i.e. small!). The standard of this model is extremely high and Stefan built and modified almost all the gliders, vehicles and figures so that they were accurate representations of the actual personnel and equipment used on Operation Market Garden.

In his words:
"For more than three years now, I have been busy with a diorama showing gliders of the British 1st Airborne Division on LZ 'Z' near Arnhem during operation Market Garden. When finished, the diorama will be displayed at the Glider Collection museum in Wolfheze. 
The diorama includes two Horsa gliders and one Hamilcar glider. It portrays part of LZ 'Z' that was designated for the gliders from RAF Keevil, and where two Hamilcar gliders also touched down. Troops and cargo belong to 1st Parachute Brigade, 1st Airlanding Light Regiment Royal Artillery and 9th Field Company Royal Engineers. 
Last Saturday I delivered the finished diorama to the Glider Collection museum in Wolfheze. Literally glueing on the last figures just hours before taking it to the museum, I managed to finish the diorama in time to be on display for the Market Garden commemorations."

If we could display more photo's here then we would! But why not make the trip over to Holland and see the diorama at the Wolfheze museum for yourself? It'd definitely be worth the trip. In my opinion this is by far the best glider diorama I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty in my time, as a modeller myself I find Stefan's work massively inspiring and might, finally, get off my backside and try my hand at something too!

If any of you have models or have seen models of gliders that you would like to share then please do get in touch with me at:

Also, for those of you who are interested, here are links to the Wolfheze Museum website and Facebook page.

Link: Wolfheze Museum
Link: Wolfheze Museum Facebook Page

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Swimming the Rhine. A Glider Pilots Story.

This story was originally posted to the WW2Talk forum by Jonathan Ball in June 2014. I would like to share it with you, with Jonathan's permission. 

First printed in The Bolton Guardian and Journal from October 1944. It concerns Staff Sergeant Trevor Francis of the GPR.

One of the heroes of Arnhem, 23 years old Staff-Sgt. Glider Pilot Trevor Francis of 97, Higher Swan Lane, who has arrived on 10 days rest leave, says he owes his survival to a swim.

Telling an Evening News reporter the story of his escape Francis described how he stayed behind after the order to evacuate the mile square 'box' into which the enemy was pumping a constant stream of shells. "I offered to to help cover the retreat of some of the lads" was how he explained his presence in an orchard alone with a Bren Gun in the small hours of Wednesday, September 27th. There should have been a signal to him to follow, but it didn't mature. Things went "very quiet" after a time, and he began the perilous trip to the river, picking up with five others. Jerry, not sure what was happening, was lobbing mortar fire all over the area, and a hazardous, nerve wracking journey was not accomplished without loss. It was getting light when the party joined the other airborne men at the river. 

"There were only two 'ducks' left, and it was a cruel blow when one of these conked out, but some of us set about organising a ferry service for the wounded and we got three boat-loads of men across. I should think there were about 250 men on our side of the river when it became to risky for any more sailing. Dawn was coming up properly and our spot was covered by two German machine-gun posts that could rake the lot of us with a crossfire. It was a case of fend for yourself. I decided death by drowning was preferable to a bullet or capture. I had never swum more than 50 yards in my life. The river was about 250 yards across with a current running at about seven to nine knots. I took off everything bar shirt and trousers after packing my wallet and other personal belongings into the pockets; then I slipped in. There was no chance to change my mind. I hadn't walked four yards when the current gathered me up and swept me down stream. It was a terrific scare. After 100 yards swimming and drifting, trying to increase my distance from the shore I wasn't feeling so good, so I got out of my trousers. My socks had gone. It was about 5.45am when I entered the water. I don't know how long I was in, but I crawled out more dead than alive on the opposite side about a mile lower down than where I went in"

Francis grinned ruefully at the recollection adding apologetically "You see we had gone through nine days of hell, sleepless, with no food at all on the last two" All through the later part of his swim tracer and machine-gun bullets were ripping into the water, other swimmers were being hit and comrades calling out for help.

He began to walk, clothed only in his shirt, towards safety, though by now the Germans, fully alive to the withdrawal, were shelling the 'safe' shore to a depth of 1000 yards. After threequarters of a mile's trudge he met some of our advanced troops, who did what they could to help him. Then followed a few more weary miles before he fell in with an armoured patrol and was taken to their cook-house in a barn, where a hot drink and some bully and biscuits refreshed him.

A Red Cross tea-car took him and half-a-dozen more survivors to Nijmegen, and here at an airborne station he had a proper meal and was put to bed for six or seven hours. The next stage of his journey was by air ambulance to Brussels, an eventful flight as the plane landed with some nasty flak holes in it.
"I was very lucky to get one of the few places in an aircraft flying to England from here, and I believe reached England before our C.O". As a matter of fact Staff-Sgt. Francis walked into the hotel where his young wife (they married only 12 months ago) was staying close to his aerodrome at 8.45 that same evening. "I hardly knew him, he looked so pale and haggered" she said. Though she had watched the great glider force leaving she did not know it was a serious operation until the news of the landing in Holland came over the air, and after every minute of each succeeding day was an agony for her.
Of the nine days at Arnhem, Staff-Sgt. Francis says the first 36 hours were peaceful. He was among those who landed on the Sunday. As the 'going' worsened, with the enemy massing his strength with amazing rapidity, and relief denied the dwindling airborne force he never heard a complaint or a curse.
"They were magnificent, all of them" he said. "Heroism was enacted every day as part of routine, and hardship such as human nature is not meant to endure was faced without a murmur from any man." Yet the average age of that gallant company of skymen, he estimated, would be no more than 21.

A former traveller-trainee in the employ of J and N Phillips, a firm of Manchester wholesalers, Staff-Sgt Francis joined the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry just before the outbreak of war and was one of the first to volunteer for the airborne branch of the forces two and a half years ago. Though London born he and his family have lived in this district for the last 10 years.