Wednesday, 17 December 2014

S.Sgt Denzil Cooper and S.Sgt Les Cole GPR

This photo was recently posted on Facebook. It shows Staff Sgt's Denzil Cooper and Les Cole. 

Of interest here are their cap badges; Denzil is clearly wearing the plastic 'economy' badge whereas Les is wearing what looks like an embroidered badge with a cloth backing of some sort, but could this be a regular metal AAC badge with a cloth backing?

If anyone has any further thoughts please get in touch.

12th Battalion (Airlanding) Devonshire Regiment - 12th Devons!

Up until just recently, its always proved difficult to find any decent reference photos of 12th Devons circa Operation Varsity. Mainly due to the fact that there just aren't that many books out there dedicated to the Operation or this particular regiment, but now thanks to members of there I've been able to see more in the past few weeks than I have in the past few years!

Below are some of the photos which have recently been added to the WW2Talk forum, some by enthusiasts and some by family members, some of them are screen grabs from the British Pathe website, some from the IWM website and some are from private collections. Either way there are some very interesting kit and uniform details on display here. Its great to see this usually under represented airlanding unit given some screen time at last.

Follow the original thread here: Link: 12th Devons

Papier Maché Hat Displays

Not so long ago, in an antique shop in Bath I found a millinery head block. It was superb, a head shaped wooden block covered in cloth, it was old and would've been just the thing to display my beret and helmet collection (if I could find enough of them of course).... but the price!!!? How much?!!

I quickly scrapped the idea of using these original head blocks and sat down to think of a more affordable alternative, then I thought; 'papier maché'! So, a few days later and armed with balloons, wallpaper paste, sheets of newspaper and a bucket I set to making my first papier maché for many years... and I quite enjoyed it. I made two 'heads' as I soon realised that the structures wouldn't be strong enough for helmets but would work well for berets. I finished off each one with photocopied wartime newspapers and gave them a quick wash with a yellow/brown oil paint and varnish.

Now I just need to come up with something to display the helmets.... hmmm....

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

GPRA AGM and Reunion - Bournemouth 2014

On Friday 10th of October I made the journey down to Bournemouth once more to represent Chalk at the GPRA AGM and Reunion.

The journey was uneventful but the weekend was not, Chalk received a special mention at the AGM with a round of applause from the members which, I can report, brought a tear to my eye! Everybody is so friendly and approachable that its really more like a family reunion and even the thunder storm on Saturday morning did little to dampen anyone's spirit.

Saturday evening's meal was superb as always and the speeches very entertaining as was the conversation on our table, new friends were made and more information added to the reference book.After breakfast on the Sunday I drove back up to Leeds but the journey seemed shorter as my mind was full of the weekends activities! 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who attended and for being so pleasant, helpful and for acknowledging Chalks efforts throughout the year. Until next time all.

The Cumberland Hotel, Bournemouth. Always comfortable and accommodating to the GPRA
(if a little too warm at times). © Matt Yates 2014.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Interesting Horsa Cargo Photo

This was originally posted on the GPR Facebook page but I wanted to share the information here too.

The first photo is taking looking forward towards the cockpit and shows a motorcycle combination loaded into the cargo hold with two airlanding troops looking on, a Royal Engineers unit indicated by the '49' on the sidecar. The photo also shows the cockpit doors in closed position.

The second photo shows a load diagram for the Horsa showing a Jeep, trailer and motorcycle combination. Thanks to Luuk Buist for this image.

Operation Varsity Photographs

These photos were passed on to me by a collector friend of mine, Alistair Taylor. They show British infantry dug in on the site of one of the glider landing zones clearly sometime after the airborne assault itself judging by the condition of the Waco/Hadrian gliders!

A British Bren team takes up position by the nose of a wrecked Waco/Hadrian glider. March 1945.
British infantry dig in with the wreckage of a Waco/Hadrian glider visible in the distance. March 1945.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Double Hills 2014, Duxford IWM and AAC Arnhem Dinner 2014

This year may have been relatively quiet for Chalk but the month of September certainly made up for that! 

We represented the Glider Pilot Regiment at the Double Hills Arnhem memorial in Paulton, Somerset on Sunday 7th September. On Wednesday 10th September we again represented the Regiments involvement at Arnhem by attending a private screening of the film 'Theirs is the Glory' held in the museums original WW2 cinema and finally on Thursday 11th September we attended the commemorative Arnhem Dinner at the Sergeants Mess at Middle Wallop AAC where we set up a GPR themed display and sat down with serving AAC members and veteran Glider Pilots alike. I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that I was treated extremely well by all concerned and made to feel like one of the family, a great honour indeed.

A commemorative copy of the 'Theirs is the Glory' program and a limited edition engraved beer glass, 
souvenirs of the night at Duxford IWM's cinema.
The Chalk GPR Arnhem display set up in the Sgts Mess Bar, Middle Wallop AAC. September 2014.
The evenings menu, commemorative medal and my place name card. All going in the GPR 'box'.
Reverse of the 70th Anniversary commemorative medal presented to the dinner's attendees by the AAC Sgts Mess.
Front of the 70th Anniversary commemorative medal presented to the dinner's attendees by the AAC Sgts Mess.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Gliders on Landing Zone 'Z' - 17 September 1944 - Educational Diorama

A couple of weeks ago, during one of my usual trips around the internet, I came across this superb diorama by modeller Stefan Landman. The scale of the Diorama is 1/72 (that's approximately model railway scale i.e. small!). The standard of this model is extremely high and Stefan built and modified almost all the gliders, vehicles and figures so that they were accurate representations of the actual personnel and equipment used on Operation Market Garden.

In his words:
"For more than three years now, I have been busy with a diorama showing gliders of the British 1st Airborne Division on LZ 'Z' near Arnhem during operation Market Garden. When finished, the diorama will be displayed at the Glider Collection museum in Wolfheze. 
The diorama includes two Horsa gliders and one Hamilcar glider. It portrays part of LZ 'Z' that was designated for the gliders from RAF Keevil, and where two Hamilcar gliders also touched down. Troops and cargo belong to 1st Parachute Brigade, 1st Airlanding Light Regiment Royal Artillery and 9th Field Company Royal Engineers. 
Last Saturday I delivered the finished diorama to the Glider Collection museum in Wolfheze. Literally glueing on the last figures just hours before taking it to the museum, I managed to finish the diorama in time to be on display for the Market Garden commemorations."

If we could display more photo's here then we would! But why not make the trip over to Holland and see the diorama at the Wolfheze museum for yourself? It'd definitely be worth the trip. In my opinion this is by far the best glider diorama I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty in my time, as a modeller myself I find Stefan's work massively inspiring and might, finally, get off my backside and try my hand at something too!

If any of you have models or have seen models of gliders that you would like to share then please do get in touch with me at:

Also, for those of you who are interested, here are links to the Wolfheze Museum website and Facebook page.

Link: Wolfheze Museum
Link: Wolfheze Museum Facebook Page

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Swimming the Rhine. A Glider Pilots Story.

This story was originally posted to the WW2Talk forum by Jonathan Ball in June 2014. I would like to share it with you, with Jonathan's permission. 

First printed in The Bolton Guardian and Journal from October 1944. It concerns Staff Sergeant Trevor Francis of the GPR.

One of the heroes of Arnhem, 23 years old Staff-Sgt. Glider Pilot Trevor Francis of 97, Higher Swan Lane, who has arrived on 10 days rest leave, says he owes his survival to a swim.

Telling an Evening News reporter the story of his escape Francis described how he stayed behind after the order to evacuate the mile square 'box' into which the enemy was pumping a constant stream of shells. "I offered to to help cover the retreat of some of the lads" was how he explained his presence in an orchard alone with a Bren Gun in the small hours of Wednesday, September 27th. There should have been a signal to him to follow, but it didn't mature. Things went "very quiet" after a time, and he began the perilous trip to the river, picking up with five others. Jerry, not sure what was happening, was lobbing mortar fire all over the area, and a hazardous, nerve wracking journey was not accomplished without loss. It was getting light when the party joined the other airborne men at the river. 

"There were only two 'ducks' left, and it was a cruel blow when one of these conked out, but some of us set about organising a ferry service for the wounded and we got three boat-loads of men across. I should think there were about 250 men on our side of the river when it became to risky for any more sailing. Dawn was coming up properly and our spot was covered by two German machine-gun posts that could rake the lot of us with a crossfire. It was a case of fend for yourself. I decided death by drowning was preferable to a bullet or capture. I had never swum more than 50 yards in my life. The river was about 250 yards across with a current running at about seven to nine knots. I took off everything bar shirt and trousers after packing my wallet and other personal belongings into the pockets; then I slipped in. There was no chance to change my mind. I hadn't walked four yards when the current gathered me up and swept me down stream. It was a terrific scare. After 100 yards swimming and drifting, trying to increase my distance from the shore I wasn't feeling so good, so I got out of my trousers. My socks had gone. It was about 5.45am when I entered the water. I don't know how long I was in, but I crawled out more dead than alive on the opposite side about a mile lower down than where I went in"

Francis grinned ruefully at the recollection adding apologetically "You see we had gone through nine days of hell, sleepless, with no food at all on the last two" All through the later part of his swim tracer and machine-gun bullets were ripping into the water, other swimmers were being hit and comrades calling out for help.

He began to walk, clothed only in his shirt, towards safety, though by now the Germans, fully alive to the withdrawal, were shelling the 'safe' shore to a depth of 1000 yards. After threequarters of a mile's trudge he met some of our advanced troops, who did what they could to help him. Then followed a few more weary miles before he fell in with an armoured patrol and was taken to their cook-house in a barn, where a hot drink and some bully and biscuits refreshed him.

A Red Cross tea-car took him and half-a-dozen more survivors to Nijmegen, and here at an airborne station he had a proper meal and was put to bed for six or seven hours. The next stage of his journey was by air ambulance to Brussels, an eventful flight as the plane landed with some nasty flak holes in it.
"I was very lucky to get one of the few places in an aircraft flying to England from here, and I believe reached England before our C.O". As a matter of fact Staff-Sgt. Francis walked into the hotel where his young wife (they married only 12 months ago) was staying close to his aerodrome at 8.45 that same evening. "I hardly knew him, he looked so pale and haggered" she said. Though she had watched the great glider force leaving she did not know it was a serious operation until the news of the landing in Holland came over the air, and after every minute of each succeeding day was an agony for her.
Of the nine days at Arnhem, Staff-Sgt. Francis says the first 36 hours were peaceful. He was among those who landed on the Sunday. As the 'going' worsened, with the enemy massing his strength with amazing rapidity, and relief denied the dwindling airborne force he never heard a complaint or a curse.
"They were magnificent, all of them" he said. "Heroism was enacted every day as part of routine, and hardship such as human nature is not meant to endure was faced without a murmur from any man." Yet the average age of that gallant company of skymen, he estimated, would be no more than 21.

A former traveller-trainee in the employ of J and N Phillips, a firm of Manchester wholesalers, Staff-Sgt Francis joined the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry just before the outbreak of war and was one of the first to volunteer for the airborne branch of the forces two and a half years ago. Though London born he and his family have lived in this district for the last 10 years.