Ashleigh, Frank

Posted on: June 23rd, 2023 by Chris No Comments

Sergeant (Retd) Frank Ashleigh GPR (23 Dec 24 – 18 Jun 23). It is with sadness that Hawkey has been informed of the passing of Frank Ashleigh who many will remember as a staunch support of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association. Frank volunteered for service in Dec 42 and was enlisted into the newly formed Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and employed as a Regimental Policeman, despite his useful qualification as a welder. When the call was put out for volunteers to train as glider pilots he applied and was selected. There followed a period of intense training and preparation for operations. On 18 Sep 44 the 20 year old Sergeant Frank Ashleigh flew into the landing grounds above Arnhem and delivered the Horsa glider’s load of a jeep and two trailers. He and his comrades made their way to the GPR rally point at Wolfheze and from there to Oosterbeek to form part of a defence perimeter. During a fighting patrol he and his comrades were cut off and took up a defensive position in a local church where they held out for three days but were subsequently captured. He eventually ended up in Stalag Luft 7 POW camp in the east before being force marched west and liberation by the advancing Russian forces. Frank was subsequently repatriated and demobbed. He returned to his home in London, where he went into business and was the director of several companies. He also involved himself in community activity which was recognised by a Citizenship Award and a Certificate of Thanks from the Mayor of London. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. A private family service was held for Frank on 21 Jun 23.

Smith, Ron

Posted on: January 11th, 2021 by Chris No Comments

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Staff Sergeant Ron Smith, a veteran of the Glider Pilot Regiment, in November 2020. Ron was a member of A Squadron Glider Pilot Regiment. He is believed to have played a part in trials conducted at Netheravon to recover grounded gliders by tug aircraft deploying a tow hook.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Weeden, Laurie

Posted on: January 11th, 2021 by Chris No Comments

Staff Sergeant Laurie Weeden (6 Jun 22 – 14 Nov 20) was a veteran of both the Normandy Landings and the battle for Arnhem in 1944. He and his second pilot Sgt Griffiths flew from Blakehill Farm with F Squadron GPR . This was part of Op Tonga, a night landing on LZ K in Normandy aimed at destroying bridges over the R Dives. Laurie’s glider carried a jeep and trailer, two motorcycles and four passengers, including a Brigade Ordnance Warrant Officer. After the tricky business of unloading, the jeep combination was pressed into use to carry the explosives that resulted in the partial destruction of one of the target bridges. Glider Pilots were exfiltrated back to UK as quickly as possible to prepare for any further airborne operations that might be required. Subsequently the Regiment was stood by for a number planned operations, which were to develop as Operation Market Garden, for which Laurie and his comrades were to play a major part.
After the Second World War Laurie followed a successful career as a Chartered Accountant. He was also a keen yachtsman. A staunch and valuable member of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association, he continued to represent the Airborne Forces as the leader of pilgrimages to Normandy and Arnhem, and as a representative at commemorative and memorial occasions. In RHQ AAC we will remember him as our charming companion at the annual Field of Remembrance service at Westminster.
Our thoughts are with his wife Ann, his family and his many friends in UK, France and Holland.

Disbury, Noran

Posted on: March 11th, 2020 by Chris No Comments

It is with sadness that we report the death of Glider Pilot Regiment veteran Sergeant Noran Disbury on 4 Mar 20. Noran enlisted for service in the Royal Armoured Corps but transferred to the Glider Pilot regiment in April 1944. He was trained and ready for service in time for Operation Market Garden in Sep 44 and found himself offered up as a replacement pilot as preparations for the operation were in the final stages. As a member E Sqn 2 Wing GPR he went out with a Horsa on the third lift from Tarrant Rushton with members of the Polish Brigade and their 6 pdr anti tank gun and jeep combination. Plus an Alsatian dog. On the approach to the target the two rope was cut by shrapnel and the glider dropped out of the aircraft stream for a very heavy landing. All survived, including the dog but the aircraft had landed on a German gun position and they were quickly rounded up and taken prisoner. Noran’s experience post capture is worth repeating.
Noran was take to Stalag 12A, which was a large holding camp near Limburg in Germany. Shortly after he was transferred with others captured at Arnhem to a Prisoner of War camp in Southern Germany.. This involved a long rail journey in a cattle truck, during which the train was attacked by RAF Typhoons. Life in the overcrowded camp was uncomfortable with very basic rations of boiled vegetables and black bread. The camp was eventually liberated by the advance of the Red Army but there was no chance of an orderly evacuation to the West. He and three other British PoWs made their way on foot towards the River Elbe. At one point on their trek they bought an old Mercedes car from some Russian soldiers at the cost of a radio and 10 cigarettes. They eventually made contact with a US Army unit, who provided them with a jeep. The next stop was Hanau where they flew by Dakota into Bruges and then on from Bruges in a Lancaster to UK. The irony of that journey was that the pilot of the Lancaster had been the pilot of the Halifax that had towed Norma’s Horsa into Holland in Sep 44. When re-introduced the RAF Pilot said, “you took your time getting back”.

Holden, Leslie William

Posted on: January 14th, 2020 by Chris No Comments

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Glider Pilot Regiment Veteran, Sergeant Leslie William Holden (26 Dec 25 – 29 Dec 19). There is little information on him but we know that he took part in the Normandy invasion on Operation Mallard as a Hamilcar co-pilot with Staff Sergeant Sanders. He is also believed to have been involved in the Operation Market Garden in Sep 44 and on Operation Molten in Oct 44. The latter was an operation to ferry gliders to Italy.
We have no information about his funeral.

Ashby, Robert Frederick

Posted on: January 14th, 2020 by Chris No Comments

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Glider Pilot Regiment Veteran Staff Sergeant Robert Frederick Ashby recently. Robert enlisted for service with the Royal Army Service Corps on 15 Mar 40. He went to Glider Training School No 5 in 1943 and then on to the Heavy Glider Conversion Course No 22 to graduate on 5 Apr 43. He went on to play a part in the three principal airborne operations in North West Europe. In Normandy he was commanding Chalk 43 of B Squadron on Operation Tonga. Tonga was the airborne night landings that preceded the seaborne invasion,. His co-pilot was Sgt J Donaldson. Their load was a small Royal Engineer detachment equipped with a bulldozer. They landed their side loading Horsa without damage but were faced with a problem when the bulldozer wedged itself on the exit ramp. Robert’s solution was simple – the ramp props were tugged away and the bulldozer dropped to the ground, where it was very quickly in action clearing the landing zone. The other part of his load was a Paratrooper with a dislocated shoulder who therefor couldn’t jump and had hitched a ride into action.
His next operation was Market Garden, again with Sgt Donaldson. Though they were caught up in the action, which included being mortared and sniped at they were able to escape. His last operation was Varsity, the Rhine Crossing. He survived and retired from active service in Apr 46.
The funeral of Robert Frederick Ashby will be held on 20 Jan 20 at 1145 in the Chichester Crematorium (PO19 7UH). His family are happy for those who wish to attend but have stipulated that there is to be no overt military presence or memorabilia. Please respect their wishes.

Simpson-Tigar, James

Posted on: October 10th, 2019 by Chris No Comments

It is with sadness that we report the death of Staff Sergeant James Bertram Simpson Tigar, a veteran of the Glider Pilot Regiment at the age of 101 (22 Mar 1918 – 4 Mar 2019). Jim had enlisted for the Royal Artillery in 1939. He transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment in February 1942 and served with them through to 1946. During that service he took part in the invasion of Sicily and operations in Italy flying Waco gliders. He was transferred to F Sqn in time for the Normandy landings and then took part in the battle for Arnhem, where he was successfully returned to UK via Brussels.

Hawkeye reported that Jim had celebrated his 100th birthday on 22 Mar 18 at his home in Scotland with his family and friends around him. Member of the AAC APC team made a surprise visit to join in with the celebrations. Jim thoroughly enjoyed that day and spent port of the time chatting with his guests and going through his log book which contained a number of drawing and newspaper cutting from his time in service

Hirst, Derek

Posted on: August 14th, 2019 by Chris No Comments

Derek Hirst GPR who passed on Mon 22 Jul 19 shortly before his 96th birthday. Amongst other aspects of training and service during the second world war, Derek began his Glider Pilot training on 29 Jan 1945 at Fargo and finished on 28 Feb 1947 in Palestine at the rank of Sergeant. In recent years he was a member of the Northern Branch of the Glider Pilot Association until its closure. His funeral will be held on Thu 15 Aug 19 at 1300hrs at Grenoside Crematorium, Sheffield, S35 8RZ and afterwards to Tankersley Manor, S75 3DQ. If you wish to attend, please inform RHQ so we may advise the family.

Our thoughts are with Michael, Pauline, Lesley and Janet.

Dick, John

Posted on: February 7th, 2019 by Chris No Comments

We have been informed of the passing of Flt Lt (Retd) John Vivian Richard Dick RAF (known as Dicky Dick when in service) at the age of 94. John was one of those adventurous Second World War RAF Pilots who converted to service with the Glider Pilot Regiment when the call came for volunteers in 1944. In his case the urgent need was for glider borne support to the 14th Army operating in Burma. In November 1944 he was posted to South East Asia Command (SEAC) to join a contingent of 231 GPR and 740 RAF operating the US Waco glider (known to the UK as Hadrian). Early in his tour he converted to Dakotas in 671 Sqn carrying out re-supply missions into rough jungle landing strips in support of Orde Wingate’s Chindit force. He later returned to glider piloting. On one mission in his Hadrian he was forced to cut loose from the tug aircraft when turbulence caused heavy crates to crash through the side of the glider whilst in flight. He managed to land the badly damaged glider on hard scrub land. He and his co-pilot were rescued a few days later. John returned to UK after VJ day in 1945 and was demobilised in 1947. John had identified readily with his Army colleagues and like many of his fellow RAF volunteers had embraced the GPR/Army spirit during his service in the Far East. He maintained a connection with the Regiment and in later life also attended 671 Sqn AAC re-unions organised by 7 Regt AAC(V) in Netheravon.

Page, Des

Posted on: May 18th, 2018 by Chris No Comments

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Desmond (Des) Page (SSgt Glider Pilot Regiment) on 15 May 18. Those in our serving and retired communities with connections to the Glider Pilot Regiment will be familiar with Des as a long serving, active and staunch member of the Association. He joined the Glider Pilot Regiment in January 1944 on transfer from the Royal Tank Regiment. He started his training with No 21 Elementary Flying Training School and completed it in May 1944, when he was posted to E Sqn GPR. Des was co-pilot to SSgt Stan Graham in 25 Flt/E Sqn GPR for Operation MARKET GARDEN where they flew in a detachment of the Royal Army Service Corps. Des managed to evade capture by swimming across the Rhine. He then went on to take part in Operation VARSITY as a member of B Squadron for the Rhine Crossing as a pilot for the coup de main of the northern road bridge over the Issel by the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.
In 1946 he was selected to take part in the Victory Parade in London. He retired from service in October that year.
Our thoughts are with his family and with his comrades and friends at this time.