The History of the Glider Pilot Regiment
The Glider Pilot Regiment was an elite regiment of the British Army which was formed in World War II. Members of The Regiment were primarily drawn from volunteers from other parts of the Army. Only those who achieved the highest standards were selected for flying training, initially training on powered aircraft before learning to fly gliders.
Once fully qualified, they would fly huge unpowered aircraft, capable of carrying troops, jeeps, artillery pieces and even tanks. They would achieve extraordinary feats of flying, landing on unprepared landing zones behind enemy lines, and taking up arms to fight beside the troops which they carried into battle. They adopted whatever role was required of them, operating as pilots, infantry and even sometimes medics.
The Regiment's first CO was Lt Col John Rock, a former Royal Engineers officer and major influence in Airborne warfare. Following his death from injuries sustained in a flying accident, he was succeeded by his second in command Lt Col George Chatterton, former Queen's Royal Regiment and Grenadier Guards. Under his leadership and ethos the pilots became known as “Total Soldiers”.
The Glider Pilot Regiment participated in some of the most famous turning points in the War including the invasion of Sicily, D-Day and Operation Market Garden. In post war years The Regiment continued to play its part operating in Palestine, participating in the Berlin Airlift and serving on Operation Firedog in Malaya.
Above: The Hamilcar Glider. This unpowered aircraft was capable of carrying a light tank into battle. With a length of 68 ft (21m) and a wingspan of 110 ft (34m) it was larger than most powered aircraft of the time.