13/14 July 1943
This operation was the glider-borne section of a 1st Parachute Brigade assault on the Primasole Bridge. Nineteen gliders were to carry members of the 1st Airlanding Anti-tank Battery Royal Artillery.
All the gliders took off successfully, but were disrupted in their final approach by anti-aircraft fire. The first source was Allied warships which took the tug aircraft for enemy fighters. The second source was actual enemy batteries on land. Eleven of the gliders were shot down by the enemy fire.
The Bridge was taken and held by a combined force of paratroops and glider pilots. They were supplemented with three 6-pdr guns. The pilots worked these with the Royal Artillery gunners. The position was held until the 15th when infantry and armour of 13 Corps came through.
Operation Market Garden
17-19 September 1944
The dates refer to those of the landings. The operation did not finish until the 25th, and glider pilots were involved in fighting from the outset.
Major General Roy Urquhart, O/C 1st Airborne Division, wrote to Chatterton:
‘…they (the glider pilots) played all kinds of parts but everything they were asked to do they did wholeheartedly. I’m afraid your losses were rather heavy.’
Over 1300 pilots landed in Holland and of these 229 were killed and 469 wounded or taken prisoner.
The story of Lt Michael Dauncey is eminently suitable as an example of the exploits of the Glider Pilots at Arnhem. Dauncey flew as Second Pilot to S/Sgt Alan Murdoch. Their ‘load’ was a contingent of the 1st Air Landing Light Regiment, RA. The flight was, on the whole, uneventful and the landing straight out of the text-book. Mike Dauncey’s role was in support of the Light Regiment.
On Saturday, 23 September, Lt Dauncey and two paratroopers raced over to the German line, some thirty yards away, and brought back eight prisoners, a machine gun and a collection of Luger pistols. Sadly, his luck was not to hold out much longer. The following day, in an attempt to view enemy positions more clearly, he was hit in the eye by a piece of shrapnel. It was not until the evening that he was able to be led down to the Regimental Aid Post. He could not be helped so slept the night away and left the next morning on a tank-hunting mission. He narrowly escaped being driven down by a tank and then found himself in a fire-fight with a German armed with a Bren Gun. Dauncey replied with his Luger and received a bullet in the thigh. His leg was dressed by a couple of Airborne soldiers and the three took shelter in a slit-trench. Looking round to see what had landed on his blind side, Lt Dauncey was hit in the face by the explosion from the object, a German grenade. His jaw was broken in two places and, although he could think clearly, he was very weak. He returned to the RAP and was, eventually, treated.
Evacuated to the Eye Hospital in Utrecht, Dauncey received excellent treatment. From here he was moved to the St Antonious German Prison Hospital. As in the case of Jock Bramah, whom we met earlier, Mike Dauncey effected a movie-style escape. With a Major from the Black Watch he climbed down knotted sheets, scaled a barbed wire fence and headed into the darkened streets. Aided by brave civilians the two men stayed with a doctor and his family until February. They were then helped to reach the Allied lines. Mike Dauncey returned to the UK where he continued to pursue his army career until retirement in 1976.