On the night of 9/10 July 1943 a force of 135 Waco gliders, towed by British and US Dakota, Halifax and Albemarle tug aircraft, took off from North Africa to take part in Operation Ladbroke – the first Allied attempt at a mass glider landing in World War II.
The plan was to place a large invasion force on the ground near the town of Syracuse, secure the Ponte Grande Bridge and then take control of the city itself, including its strategically vital docks, as a prelude to the full-scale invasion of Sicily.
Maj-Gen G.F. Hopkinson, GOC 1st Airborne Division and chief architect of the plan, was totally convinced that it would succeed, but his optimism proved unfounded. In practice, the operation went disastrously wrong. Half the gliders ditched into the sea, many lives were lost and only one of the mission’s objectives was accomplished.
The multiplicity of factors which contributed to this military fiasco are discussed here in detail … and author Alec Waldron is uniquely well placed to comment, having not only taken part in the operation as a glider pilot but also having witnessed its planning in his capacity as acting Intelligence Officer, 1st Battalion Glider Pilot Regiment, his inside knowledge of the planning committee’s activities and first-hand experience of the operation making the contents of this book of great historical interest.