OPERATION VARSITY GPR OTHER RANKS

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by Dave McIntyre, Sep 20, 2020.

  1. Dave McIntyre

    Dave McIntyre Pegasusred

    Hi Guys,

    Just in the process of downloading some medal awards for airborne forces from TNA - free at the moment (result!) - and one entry raised a question which I hope someone may be able to help out on.

    Trooper
    Dennis James Hollis (14416871) of No.1 Wing Glider Pilot Regiment was recommended for and awarded a MM for his actions after "the glider in which Trooper Hollis had landed came under fire from a Light A/A position only 100 yards away" during Operation Varsity.

    This led me to review my records for GPR casualties for the operation, which also threw up another query regarding Pte Joseph Armstrong (4530041) No.1 Wing Glider Pilot Regiment Killed in Action 24/03/45 age 39.

    During all my research I have never seen a Glider Pilot of a rank lower than Sjt / Staff Sjt ; with many of a higher rank. However, I have also never seen mention of any GPR personnel flying in gliders as passengers so why were these two individuals there and were there others?. The Glider Pilot Regiment obviously included those of a lower rank as support staff but I was surprised to find that they were included amongst the assault troops in these cases.

    Pte Armstrong was described as "Tpr" on the CWGC graves concentration report and was laid to rest alongside Sjt. H.J. Gordon GPR and members of 591 Parachute Squadron, RA but this does not automatically imply that they died together and was he indeed a pilot or a member of the payload? It does raise the question of whether there was a need for additional GPR personnel to be landed alongside the pilots to aid in the post-landing action.

    Look forward to all and any replies.

    Dave
     
    Cee and JimHerriot like this.
  2. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Trooper Dennis James Hollis

    Unit : No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment

    Army No. : 14416871

    Awards : Military Medal


    On 24th March 1945 during the fighting immediately following the Airborne landing at Hammikeln (Germany) the glider in which Trooper Hollis had landed came under fire from a Light Anti-Aircraft position only 100 yards away. The enemy also fired machine guns and rifles. Trooper Hollis displayed great coolness and from a kneeling position, in the open, fired at the ammunition drums on the enemy guns, setting fire to and exploding the ammunition and killing the crew of one gun. After his party had withdrawn from the glider to defensive positions he volunteered to return to the glider to bring out equipment and ammunition, which he did under fire. During the whole operation his cheerfulness and courage was a fine example to all his comrades. Throughout his service in the Regiment he has constantly shown great keenness in the execution of his duties.

    Trooper Dennis James Hollis
     
  3. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hi Dave,

    on this list Armstrong's function is listed as Glider Pilot:
    Glider Regiment Casualties Database

    No other "troopers" on this list.

    To my knowledge there was no need for GPR support staff on the ground after landing.

    Best
    Alex
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
    JimHerriot likes this.
  4. Dave McIntyre

    Dave McIntyre Pegasusred

    Hi Alex - many thanks for the link and initially I would absolutely agree with you regarding the need for support staff immediately after the initial glider landings. The website link above is to a very far-reaching site honouring many branches of air force losses and unfortunately does not give any sources for its information - although it does say they are available on request. It does indeed list Trooper Joseph Armstrong as a "Glider Pilot" but it also incorrectly lists Sgt. John Henry Stevens date of death as 24/03/45 when in fact he was KIA on 26/03/45 (source : CWGC) and so I'm a little uneasy at accepting the details regarding Armstrong at face value without any traceable source.

    Also, just to really stir things up there is also Pte Andrew Clelland Robertson ARMY CATERING CORPS attached Glider Pilot Regiment, Army Air Corps killed in action 24/03/45 initially buried at Hamminkeln, Germany (source : CWGC). In roll of honour and awards for the Glider Pilot Regiment 1942-1957 (6th edition 1995) he is listed as with F Squadron.

    I can neither recall nor find any published record of other ranks of the GPR being involved in Operation Varsity but I am beginning to think that there may have been a small number involved - QED!

    Perhaps if there is a glider manifest extant listing either Armstrong, Hollis or Robertson it might solve the mystery of whether they were in a front or rear seat! Is there also a possibility that they may be mentioned in the War Diaries of the GPR, although I guess we probably won't be that lucky!.

    Keep on delving.

    Regards

    Dave
     
    JimHerriot and alberk like this.
  5. Dave McIntyre

    Dave McIntyre Pegasusred

    Hi also to Tamujin for posting the full MM award citation for Trooper Dennis Hollis. Nice One!

    Regards
    Dave
     
    JimHerriot likes this.
  6. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    Tpr James Corns was awarded an MID for his actions on Op Varsity. He was 49 years of age at the time and was definiely not a Glider Pilot. His MID is shown for NW Europe and his date of entry to NW Europe on his service record is shown as the date Varsity commenced. As he had served in WW1 and between the wars I suspect it is possible that he might have ' stowed away'. A mystery I'd like to know the answer to.
    Any ideas anyone?

    Cheers

    Arnhem
     
    Dave McIntyre and JimHerriot like this.
  7. Dave McIntyre

    Dave McIntyre Pegasusred

    Thanks Arnhem - now this is getting to be a real mystery as you say. Just a thought but also adding to your stowaway theory - which is entirely feasible - I was wondering what happened if, prior to loading, there were any no-shows amongst the Para's and Glider troops owing to illness, nerves, accidents, load or equipment changes that would have left the odd space free on a glider here and there. I am assuming - perhaps wrongly? - that there would not have been any excess troops from the parachute and glider battalions in the vicinity but is it possible that service personnel from the GPR would by necessity have been around to facilitate the glider operations and the odd man willing to fill the breach where needed?

    Cheers
    Dave
     
    JimHerriot likes this.
  8. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi,

    According to one chart from the GPR Varsity Report there were 10 administrative personnel who also went in on March 24th. They are listed separately from the pilots and included 1 Officer and 9 ORs. Sorry I don't have the names for these men who presumably arrived as passengers on gliders.

    Casualty Report Op Varsity.jpg

    Regards ...
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  9. Dave McIntyre

    Dave McIntyre Pegasusred

    Nice one Cee - well spotted that man! I think you may have already posted this page before but I just hadn't noticed those ten extra, non-pilot personnel listed as well. It does show that of the ten, one was already recorded as killed in action and another posted as missing when the details were collated and this may well refer to Armstrong and Robertson but it would be nice to uncover some corroborating information to back up this hypothesis.

    I am only guessing but would "Admin" possibly be a broad cover description for any other staff required to effectively act as an equivalent Battalion H.Q. after landing as obviously the Para's and Glider-borne battalions already had these incorporated into their landing strength ?

    Always keeps me happy that there is a never ending supply of small pieces of undiscovered - or unnoticed! - information that help to illuminate the major battles of WW2. Any other pieces of this small jigsaw are more than welcome in the future as I shall continue to attempt to track down more details regarding these ten men and any others who appear as an anomaly in the records for Operation Varsity.

    Cheers

    Dave
     
    alberk, JimHerriot and BrianHall1963 like this.
  10. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Dave,

    I couldn't find any of the above names mentioned in the WDs which can be got at from this page. Use of "Adm" produces some hits mostly with No.1 Wing. For example:

    No.1 Wing, GPR
    Headquarters
    23rd March 1945
    Place: Garston
    1400 - Crews provided by Wing HQ plus 2 Adm personnel moved to take-off airfd at EARLS COLNE.


    "Adm" comes up a few more times with the Squadrons below but not too sure of their significance?

    Regards ...
     
    Dave McIntyre likes this.
  11. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Perhaps the admin personnel were to organise / assist the reclamation of gliders from the ground.

    Alex
     
  12. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Alex,

    One section of Major H.T. Bartlett's ("A" Sqn) report does mention activity of that kind:

    "5. Other Duties Performed by Glider Pilots.
    ... Glider pilots were used to salvage serviceable equipment from the gliders. Glider pilots were also, on D plus 2, sent round gliders to inspect them for damage."


    The impression I get from a HQ No.1 Wing entry is that Admin personnel were evacuated with the GPs and didn't wait around for the later arrival of the recovery and salvage team.

    "27th March 1945
    Place: Hamminkeln
    ....
    1800 - Glider Pilot Sqns reached 12 CORPS Transit Camp at TWISTEDON. Total number of Glider Pilots and Adm personnel reported here, Offrs and ORs, was 587."


    Regards ...
     
  13. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Hi Cee,
    Was just a thought as I can’t think what else non flying GPR personnel would be doing?
     
  14. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    At Arnhem Glider Pilots were formed into fighting units not sure if same on Varsity. .If so that would be around 2500 men .
    Not sure if they formed part of group they were transporting or formed separate groups ,these would need HQ,s maybe the OR,s had a specialist role in HQ ie :- signalers ,medics cooks .?
    Pure speculation something to kick around.
     
    BrianHall1963 likes this.
  15. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    Some years ago I wrote an article on James Corns and his military career. I was in contact with his step daughter who sent me the copy of the photograph of him when he was a Chelsea Pensioner at the Brandenburg Gate. I know it doesn't add much to the original question posed regarding members of the GPR who were present on Op Varsity who were non glider pilots. If they were all like him they would have been a bunch of very interesting men.

    Cheers

    Arnhem

    Frustratingly the forum won't seem to let me upload the write up and photo. No idea why I will try and work on it later.
     
  16. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    corns photo resize 2.jpg corns photo resize 2.jpg Some years ago I wrote an article on James Corns and his military career. I was in contact with his step daughter who sent me the copy of the photograph of him when he was a Chelsea Pensioner at the Brandenburg Gate. I know it doesn't add much to the original question posed regarding members of the GPR who were present on Op Varsity who were non glider pilots. If they were all like him they would have been a bunch of very interesting men.

    Cheers

    Arnhem

    Frustratingly the forum won't seem to let me upload the write up and photo. No idea why I will try and work on it later.
     
  17. arnhem2280

    arnhem2280 Member

    James Corns was born in Wlverhampton on 13th July 1894. He enlisted into the RMLI in 1915 and served with Chatham Division. He served with Victory battalion as a machine gunner and received three wounds to the wrist in April 1917. Later in August 1918 he was again wounded. He was discharged from the RMLI in 1919 having been awarded the Victory and War medals. Later in 1919 James rejoned the West Yorshire Regiment with the service number 7681894 and was posted to the 1st Battalion. Later he transferred to the Milirary Foot Police . During this period of service he was awarded the LSGC and the GSM with bar Palestine. He again left the army but rbecame a member of the TA.

    In May 1939 he enlisted into the 4th Battalion (TA) KSLI but was posted back to the WEst Yorkshire Regiment and from there to the 6th Battalion Royal Suffolk Regiment.

    On 3rd March 1942 James received his final posting which was to the Glider Pilot Regiment who he served with in North Africa, Italy and NW Europe..

    He returned to the UK in January 1944 and was posted to 'E' Squadron. His record of service states that he was in NW Europe between 24th March and 30th March 1945. He was mentioned in the LG dated 8/11/45 and awarded an MID For Gallant and Distinguished Service in NW Europe.

    At the conclusion of WW2 james remained with the GPR serving with them in Palestine as a member of 'A' Squadron.

    In the Eagle magazine S/Sgt John Free makes the following comment about him ' Twelve at home and twenty away is the watchword of Tpr Jimmy Corns without any mention of the SQMS Department would be incomplete. His total service to date adds up to 32 years, twenty of which have been spent overseas. Apert from 'Mothering' everyone which is done with a capability and goodwill on all sides, the pot of tea which he makes at intervals during the morning is to be recommended to all ranks.

    By the conclusion of his service in August 1947 James had been awarded a C in C's certificate for good service in addition to his MID. Medal wise he had also been awarded a Territoral Efficiency medal, 39/45,Africa, Italy and France and Germany Stars as well as a War Medal and Defence Medal.

    After the war at the age of 70 he married and showed as his proffesion on his marriage certificate Sgt Major West Yorkshire Regiment with an address of the Royal Chelsea Hospital.

    He passed away on the 15th September 1988 in Sutton, Surrey at the age of 93. A unique member of the GPR by any standards.

    Arnhem
     

Share This Page