|by Bill Bawden, PRO|
15 April 2008
Gliding into Battle
The guest speaker at the recent meeting of the AirCrew Association at Fairoaks Airport was Laurie Weeden who gave a graphic account of his experiences as a World War II glider pilot. While serving in the Army, Laurie volunteered in 1941 to join the newly-formed Glider Pilot Regiment and after training, receiving his "wings" and promotion to sergeant, went to serve in Tunisia and Algeria.
He returned to Britain in 1944 to take part in the two greatest allied airborne assaults of the war. In June he flew his Horsa glider containing jeeps and their crews into a Normandy landing zone on the night before D-Day, returning to England by ship three days later.
In September that year in another Horsa towed by a Halifax tug aircraft, Laurie flew a mortar platoon in the first wave of the airborne operation attempting to capture the Lower Rhine crossing bridge at Arnhem in the Netherlands. This was the legendary "bridge too far" and after nine days fighting as a Bren gunner, he succeeded in breaking through the encircling German forces and then headed South until he reached the allied lines near Nijmegen.
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