D-DAY 6th JUNE 1944, OPERATION TONGA
Ray Gough - Bomb Aimer
298, 644 Squadrons
Ray died in 2003
As many chaps will remember the weather wasnt too kind to us on that night. We were detailed to tow a Horsa glider to the L.Z. alongside the river and canal close to Caen to reinforce the troops already taken by six gliders from our drome to capture the two bridges.
We crossed the French coast pretty well on track then ran into quite heavy cloud. Our glider was in the High Tow position to avoid our slipstream and due to the cloud had difficulty in keeping us in sight. To make matters worse the red Aldis lamp which our rear gunner would have used for the glider to sight on had gone u/s so the poor pilot was flying blind though still attached to the tow rope.
The outcome was the glider was pulling our tail up and we were descending at quite a rate of knots so the skipper had no alternative but to make an emergency release. We got home safely but the glider wasnt so lucky.
They crash-landed close to a farm house which was occupied by some German troops who of course, alerted by the noise, set upon our lads. In the ensuing gun battle the glider second pilot was seriously wounded in the stomach. He and the other chaps taken prisoner were taken to the farm house, then the able bodied were marched away.
The farmer had a teenage son and daughter who tended to the wounded man but in fact he died on the afternoon of D Day with the young girl holding his hand. The lad scrounged a sheet off the Germans, dug a grave and buried the pilot, later re-interred in a military ceremony of course.
How do I know all this?
A few years later a pal of mine who is an Associate Member of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association and receives their quarterly magazine, sent me a copy wherein was printed a letter from the daughter of the pilot asking for any information. I wrote to her giving our side of the story and we have exchanged several letters since. She lives in France, teaching English so has been able to contact the two people who tried to help her father.
It has meant so much to her to trace the last hours of his life.
Links & Notes
Horsa Glider Project: Assault Glider Trust http://www.assaultgliderproject.co.uk/
Operation TONGA: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Tonga
Operation TONGA http://www.6juin1944.com/assaut/aeropgb/en_page.php?page=tonga
Halifax V glider tug in 644 Sqn markings http://www.rafweb.org/SqnMark618-695.htm#644
page last updated 28 June 2010: © ACA Surrey Branch 2010