On Wednesday 19 June a replica military -real size- Horsa glider made its final journey in the footsteps of the hundreds of laden aircraft towed across the Channel a quarter of a century ago.
The full-size replica Horsa assault glider, built by enthusiast volunteers at RAF Shawbury between 2001 and 2014, made its way by sea across the English Channel to be on display in Holland in September as part of a major event marking the 75th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden. Over 600 Horsa gliders were towed into battle at Arnhem over three days in September 1944.
A contingent from the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF) will transport the disassembled glider from RAF Cosford to a display site at the former airfield at Soesterberg, some 70 Km NW of Arnhem.
It will be re-assembled, under cover, for public display in September in front of the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek from the start of the Airborne March till after the 75th commemorations in September. Afterwards the Horsa will be dismantled for a second road move to its final destination for re-assembly and permanent public display at the Oorlogsmuseum at Overloon, 60 Km south of Arnhem.
“For over 10 years we have sought a suitable permanent display facility in the UK for our Horsa with the fully assembled aircraft available for unrestricted public viewing” said an Assault Glider Trust spokesman. “However, all approaches so far have either been conditional on being able to raise sufficient funds to build such a facility or were not followed up. The temporary storage facility at Cosford, while being a very welcome bolt hole since our departure from RAF Shawbury in 2014, has not allowed general public access for viewing and we have been increasingly concerned about the steady deterioration of the Horsa.”
“In the autumn of last year, however, Richard Westmaas from the Dutch Wings of Freedom group approached us to discuss the feasibility of moving the Horsa to the Arnhem area as a focal point in their 75th Anniversary event. With funds and transportation secured by the Dutch we felt that this was a serious offer, and once Richard and the RNAF team had visited in May to confirm the viability of the move we decided to accept.”
“The trustees, the volunteers who built the glider, surviving veterans and all those in the UK who have so generously supported the project since 2001 are naturally disappointed that a permanent UK home has not materialised despite the interest shown by several British organisations. However, without their financial and material means to translate intent into reality within a reasonable timeframe we decided to accept the Dutch offer as, crucially, it included the generous undertaking by the Oorlogsmuseum Director to display the complete aircraft permanently at one of the most impressive military museums on the Continent.”
“The momentous events at Arnhem 75 years ago arouse strong passions in the local population and it is therefore entirely appropriate that our Horsa glider should be included on permanent exhibition in the area as a major, but perhaps understated, part of that story.”