Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Nothing is Impossible" - The Glider Pilot Regiment

In early autumn of 2006 I had a very unique opportunity afforded to me on the occasion of my 70th Birthday by my wife Barb. A trip to Scotland to attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, followed by the Braemar Highland Games at Balmoral, as well as the newly renovated Regimental Museum of the Gordon Highlanders, in Aberdeen. In route I had planned to visit a unique aircraft restoration project outside Shrewbury, England. Courtesy of Major Ray Conningham, Glider Pilot Regiment (Rtd.), then Chairman of The Assault Glider Trust, the Trust’s staff and volunteers, and the Commanding Officer, then Group Captain Paul E. Cunningham BSc (sheer coincidence), and Staff, RAF Shawbury, I was able to get a complete briefing and tour of their entire project. This included taking the pilot’s seat in a fully restored cockpit of a WWII Airspeed AS.51 Horsa MkI Assault Glider. The motto of the Glider Pilot Regiment was “Nothing is Impossible”, and this dedicated group proved it to me again that day; which I will never forget.
Below the detailed drawing of the AS.51 Horsa MK I is a copy of an extremely interesting piece of paper. It is a page out of the Flight Log of Maj T.I.J. "Ian" Toler, DFC, Officer Commanding, B Squadron, No. 1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment. The third entry, dated 17 September 1944, shows his piloting a Horsa (tail no. RN558), with 2nd Pilot S/Sgt Aurthur Shakleton, into a landing zone at Arnhem (Chalk Serial No. 291). There is archival film footage on their take-off as part of the first lift from RAF Manston. He was carrying LCol W.D.H. "Derek" McCardie, Commanding Officer, 2nd Bn South Staffordshire Regiment, 8 men of either B or D Company, a jeep and trailer. As indicated the flight was 2.4 hours. Horsa #291 was towed by an Albermarle MkV, #1772 (P5-R), of 297 Squadron, RAF, flown by Wing Co. J R Grice, OC 297 Sqdn, and took off from Manston at 10:39 on 17 September. The glider was released over LZ "S" at 13:18, and made a successful landing. As was the standard doctrine and training of all British glider pilots, Maj Toler and S/Sgt Shakleton fought as infantry, until being evacuated with the remnants of 1st AB Division on the night of 25 September 1944.
Read more if you're interested on the Assault Glider Trust web site listed in the links. (Click on any image below to enlarge it)
"A Work in Progress" - What a Work!
It's hard to realize I'm actually in the cockpit of a Horsa
You really don't want to pull that, it's the Tow Release Control Lever
Maj Ian Toler DFC with a S/Sgt of the Glider Pilot Regiment
Staff Sargeant Arthur Shakleton
Maj Ian Toler's Flight Log page showing the details of his flight
into Arnhem, 17 September 1944
A 1:72 scale model of an Airspeed AS.51 Horsa Mk I
Assault Glider with Maj Toler's Chalk No. 291(not visible)
against an interesting background (author's collection)  

The following video provides a walk-through the interior of the reconstructed Airspeed AS.51 Horsa Assault Glider.

The following is a short slide show taken at RAF Shawbury while the Horsa glider was still there. One of the photographs shows both Maj. Ray Conningham and Group Captain Paul E. Cunningham BSc, standing behind a group of distinguished WWII members (glider pilots) of the Glider Pilot Regiment. Note a couple of the gentlemen wearing  the Order of the British Empire. See;

Battle of Arnhem – “Whose son and heir decided to drop us this far away?”

Elements of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, fresh off their LZ (landing zone) at Renkum Heath, encounter initial German resistance in Wolfezen, approximately seven kilometers west of their objective, the main road bridge of Arnhem. Their battle cry, "Bash on Reece!" The German troops they were engaging were elements of the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier and Depot Battalion (Krafft). Obviously in combat the troops would not be bunched up like this, but it's a "photo op". For those with detailed knowledge I apologize for the inaccurate armament (three Vickers .303 cal K Guns vs the actual single front mount) on the lead reconnaissance jeep. It is of interest that their commanding officer, Maj C.F.H. "Freddie" Gough, had strongly argued to increase the armament to at least a twin front mounting. The configuration of jeep shown, with three K Guns, was used very effectively by the Special Air Service Regiment in Sicily and Italy, too bad it couldn't have been used at Arnhem. (Enlarge the photograph by clicking on it.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What’s the form General? – MGen R.E. Urquhart at Arnhem

General Urquhart in brief tactical discussion with one of his senior NCO’s as to disposition of the defensive perimeter around the Hotel Hartenstein, Oosterbeek (1st AB Div Hqtrs). They are being filmed for posterity by a member of the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU). In the right foreground is a Campaign Service Medal (bar Northern Ireland) and South Atlantic Medal with Campaign rosette (Falklands 1982); the court-mounted group being named to a designated sniper of 3 Para who fought at the Battle of Mount Longdon. (Enlarge the photograph by clicking on it.)

British Cap Badges, the First Restrikes - Fox & Company?

In 2005 I purchased a glengarry badge (pre-1881) to the 92nd Regiment of Foot (Highlanders) at a Scottish Import Shop in Seattle. I had previously found another example (not as well struck/detailed), as well as a glengarry badge to the 75th Regiment of Foot (Highlanders). As you may know these two regiments were amalgamated in 1881 to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders. All three badges were in brass, which should have been my first clue. All of the relatively modern cap badges to the Scottish regiments are made in what is referred to as white metal, or abbreviated W.M.

Even though I had been collecting British militaria for several decades, at that point, I had not acquired the definitive two volume work titled, “HEAD-DRESS BADGES of the British Army”, by Arthur L. Kipling and Hugh L. King. It is commonly held by collectors to be the best set of references available on the subject, and is frequently referred to as K&K or KK. Unfortunately it is also very expensive, thus both my delay and mistake. However, neither volume go into the detail of forensic evidence required for confidence in today’s badge market.

In both volumes there is a section devoted to Restrikes, the BANE of the British Cap Badge collector. The section starts with a discussion of a little known company called Fox & Company that originated in Southsea, Hampshire, England, in the early 1900’s. Even to this day not that much is known about the company. Somehow they had acquired the majority of the original sets of dies for the then obsolete glengarry cap badges which had been worn by the British Army during the period 1874 -1881.

Even then opportunists had sensed the potential market, albeit minute by comparison with today. As a result Fox produced a series of restrikes, all in brass, apparently none in white metal. Kipling & King stipulates that both variants of the 92nd (KK 564 and KK565 ) are all in white metal. In the case of the 75th (KK540) they stipulate the badge is all in brass, however examples have been found in white metal. To add to the confusion W.Y.Carman in his book, “Glengarry Badges of the British Line Regiments to 1881”, dated 1973 (see below), speaks of a "brass-copper" badge of the 92nd (KK565). I have been advised by knowledgeable advanced collectors that Fox did not reproduce those to either the 75th or 92nd. Unfortunately this fact can’t be finally established without a listing of their wares, which has yet to surface. One clue however are the copper lugs W-E orientation on the circumference of the garter. The originals apparently were lugged, and had a N-S orientation. An additional detail about original badges is that the lugs were either brass or brass plated, not copper. As frequently the case with today's restrikes, the company even took the time and effort to "weather" the badges before putting them on the market. It suffices that their age, now over 100 years, provide their product a certain degree of respectability.

If anyone has any additional knowledge regarding either Fox & Company or restrikes of the 75th or 92nd Glengarry badges I would certainly appreciate hearing from you.

Glengarry Badge (1874 - 1881) of the
92nd Regiment of Foot in brass (suspected
Fox & Company restrike)
Glengarry Badge (1874 - 1881)  of the
92nd Regiment of Foot in brass (back side)

Suspected restrike of Glengarry Badge of the 92nd Regiment of Foot
in brass (compare detail with the badge above)

Genuine Glengarry Badge (1874 -1881) of the 92nd
Regiment of Foot in Silver (Officers)

Genuine Glengarry Badge (1874 - 1881) of the 92nd
Regiment of Foot in white metal (Other Ranks)

Suspected restrike of Glengarry Badge (1874 - 1881)
of the 75th Regiment of Foot

Monday, March 28, 2011

The British Pattern 1868 Cavalry Lance at Arnhem?

Anyone who has studied the Battle of Arnhem has probably seen the iconic photograph of MajGen R.E. "Roy" Urquhart, CB, DSO, commanding the 1st Airborne Division, standing in the yard of the Hartenstein Hotel (his divisional headquarters), Oosterbeek, Holland, during one of the few momentary lulls in the battle. He is standing beside an embedded 1868 Pattern British Cavalry lance (bamboo haft is discernible), which is flying a maroon pennon incorporating the formation badge of the Airborne Forces. Although an obvious anachronism at Arnhem, the symbolism is appropriate in that the Airborne Forces were lightly armed but elite troops, analogous to the lancer regiments of the British Army. The question arises, who would take the time and effort to carry a cavalry lance (presumably in a glider) into battle in 1944, only in the British Army!
MGen R.E. Roy Urquhart at 1 AB Div Hqtrs
Hotel Hartenstein, Osterbeek
Friday 22 September 1944
For a number of years I searched for an authentic lance and had to be content with only replicas. When you compare the real thing to these, you can instantaneously tell the difference. The weight of both the lancehead and foot are immediately evident. The sharpness of the point is also a discerning feature. It should be, the genuine set I finally was able to acquire was manufactured by Wilkinson Sword Company Ltd., each part being a single piece of forged and tempered steel.

In addition to their continued use by the renowned Musical Ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, genuine lances are still carried on ceremonial occasions and limited duties by various units of the British Army. (If you click on any of the images they can be enlarged)

British Pattern 1868 Lancehead and Foot circa 1936

Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd etched trademark
on lancehead

British Cavalry Lance Patterns 1885 and 1868 from LOCs (List of Changes)

Standard British Army Lance Pennon

The following photo (drawing) is not nearly as clear as it should be, but is believed to be an original source document, and hopefully the reader will be able to discern the dimensions (barely). It is specifically for a British 1868 Pattern Cavalry Lance. The width is 9 1/4", length is 29" and the dimension to the swallow-tail is 9 3/4". Am sure there was a certain manufacturing tolerance, if not shrinkage in active service. The LoC (List of Chages) specifies that the pennon material shall be red and white 'shalloon'. Shalloon defined as a lightweight twilled fabric of wool or worsted.

Pattern for Lance "Flag" (pennon) for British1868 Pattern
 Cavalry Lance

Additional information can be found in a new article on this blog. See;

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Introduction to Arnhem Jim's Blog

Welcome and Slàinte Mhòr! (Great Good Health!), I’m hoping that with this blog I will be able to share both my interests and limited knowledge with others who may share similar interests. As a child growing up I acquired an avid interest in toy soldiers, more specifically W. Britains toy soldiers. For some reason I had the presence of mind to keep care of them in good condition, even to the extent of saving them all in their original boxes. When I went away to college, and subsequently during a tour of active duty in the Navy, my parents had the patience and foresight to keep the collection in tact.

As an adult my interests expanded to the collection of militaria, including the 92nd Gordon Highlanders and the Parachute Regiment of the British Army. As a reserve naval intelligence officer my focus evolved around the World War II Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market-Garden) and the tragic, but heroic, action fought by the British 1st Airborne Division. My reasons for this interest can be found in this blog on the page entitled. “Operation Market-Garden”. For some it may prove more than you ever wanted to know, hopefully for others, it will bring an entirely new insight to a battle which remains not that well known here in the United States.

As a collector, for now over six decades, my nature has tended to be what others define as a “magpie”, which has resulted in a fairly broad variety of items in my collection. In order to know a little bit about a wide range of artifacts, and with my military training, I learned quite early of the importance of building and maintaining a fairly extensive reference library.

Even with the acquisition of knowledge, like most others, I have been “burned” more than once, by individuals trying to make a fast buck off someone else’s ignorance. In an attempt to help other collectors avoid some of the pitfalls and tank-traps that exist in the hobby, a few years ago I published, and continue to maintain, several guides on e-Bay. As a direct result of the apparent popularity of those guides, I have decided to initiate this blog duplicating and incorporating those guides, and hopefully providing a forum where I, as well as others, can share knowledge and experiences, such that we can all gain new wisdom.

Comments are most welcome, and may be left by scrolling to the bottom of the page looking for either the open Comments window, or the word "COMMENTS". With your cursor on the word click and it will open a page for comments.

Best Regards,
Arnhem Jim

A Scottish Regimental Toast (48th Highlanders of Canada; affiliated with the Gordon Highlanders)
Commanding Officer:
A Mhàidseir na pìoba, òlamaid deoch-slàinte!
(Pipe Major, let us drink a toast)
Pipe Major's reply:
A h-uile latha a chì 's nach fhaic, an dà fhicheadamh 's a h-ochd gu bràth! Slàinte
don Bhànrigh! Slàinte Mhòr! Slàinte!
(Every day that I see you, or that I don't see you, the 48th forever! Health to the Queen!
Great good health! Health!)