Operation MARKET 2, 18th September 1944
At the time of ‘market’, I was a F/O based at Brize Norton, a member of 297 squadron.
On September 6th, I flew Albemarle V1857 D- towing a fully loaded Horsa to Manston prior to an expected operation from Manston. We cooled our heels there, and on September 8th, I airtested V1857D-.
On September 11th, I flew V1857D- back to Brize Norton.
On September 15th, I flew D- back once again to Manston, returned passenger to Brize Norton and then flew V1771D to Manston.
I did not operate on September 17th.
3 hours and 55 minutes after take off I landed at Manston, as many as four of us touching down at one time (1210 – 1605) in box formation.
The night before the operation both aircrew officers and any army officers were billetted in Nissen huts on rows of two tier bunks. Manston was at bursting point with men, supplies and aircraft, in addition to the fighter squadron based there. Soon after falling asleep that night those who were asleep were woken by some ‘happy’ characters who had obviously had a few. Calls of’,‘Put out the bloody lights’, and other less polite additions, resulted in the late comers taking unsteady aim and eventually shooting out all the lights. Needless to say the bunks had emptied on to the floor at the first shot!
On September 18th I flew V1857 D- towing a heavy Horsa on ‘Market 2’ to Arnhem. The Horsa contained a jeep, trailer, crew and ‘ammo’, and was flown by SSgt Woodcock and SSgt Wilson. I have made exhaustive efforts to contact these two gentlemen in recent years but to no avail. I believe they became P.O.W.
The tow itself was a smooth one, and inspite of being in that lengthy stream, my feelings were of being extremely vulnerable in daylight at such a low altitude (2500 feet) flying so slowly at 120 knots and being incapable of manoevre. Like a goldfish in a bowl wondering where the cat was! This is what my previous 136 tows had prepared me for. As a tow, it was just routine, until tension manifested itself approaching the DZ. The run to the DZ was good with aircraft seemingly right left and centre. A brief farewell and good luck, and the Horsa cast off. Rated power, nose down and the Albemarle leapt to 280k, with the tow rope flailing behind. A flailing rope in front of me, missed the perspex canopy inches above my head. As soon as it was clear below to drop our rope, I did so, and did a steep turn left on course for an uneventful trip home, once the adrenaline stopped pumping.
Over the DZ, Gliders were turning in all directions to lose their height in a clear flight path, by constantly avoiding action. Albemarles and fighters were mixed in a melee above them. I did not envy the task of the G.P.s.
The 297 operation report complacently records that no enemy fighters were seen. Perhaps it should have said that no enemy fighters were recognized.
Over the whole of Operation ‘Market’, 4050 aircraft were involved and confronted by an unknown number of Luftwaffe aircraft. At one time, twenty 109’s were straffing the dropping zone, and altogether 29 ME 109’s were shot down. The 4050 aircraft were:- 1336 twin engined DAKOTAS, 50 twin engine ALBEMARLES, 340 four engined STIRLINGS. Most of these aircraft towed the 1205 Hadrian and Horsa Gliders. In addition 252 four engined LIBERATORS dropped 600 tons of supplies, and 867 fighters, TYPHOONS, TEMPESTS, SPITFIRES etc joined the party.
6674 troops were dropped by parachute and glider. 681 jeeps and trailers, 60 field guns with ‘ammo’ and 2 bulldozers were dropped by glider.
The British and Poles lost 7548 men, in some of the heaviest fighting in recorded history, out of a total of 10005 men landed.
The RAF lost 294 aircrew.
At the time I recalled an anonymous poem written during the 1800’s.
The day will come when thou shalt lift thine eyes,
To watch a long drawn battle of the skies.
While aged peasants too amazed for words,
Stare at the flying fleets of wondrous birds,
England so long the mistress of the seas,
Where winds and waves confess her sovereignty,
Her ancient triumphs yet on high shall bear,
And reign the mistress of the conquered air
W.R. WALLACE (Wally Wallace)
Ex F/Lt 138119, 297 Squadron RAF.
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