I think the King and Queen and the Princess enjoyed their day with us. To us all it was a great occasion, one that I am sure none of us will ever forget. Their Majesties had tea at the Royal Air Force station at Netheravon, Air Vice-Marshal Hollinghurst’s headquarters. The whole occasion was so happily informal and gay. This, too, at the end of a long day of inspections and endless walking along lines of troops which, in spite of all the interest that there undoubtedly was, must have been tiring to the Queen.
I remember one incident. We were demonstrating to them a new method of unloading guns from the Horsa glider. Something had evidently gone wrong inside and the gunner concerned, unaware that all he said could easily be heard outside, made one or two colourful remarks about the gun lashings with which he was having difficulty.
Eventually the job was done, really much quicker than it had seemed to me, who was so anxiously waiting. The Queen congratulated the gunners on their work, saying with her gracious smile, she could well guess how difficult it had been.
We landed the giant Hamilcar glider with the lorry tractor and seventeen-pounder gun inside. It was a grand sight to see this huge glider roll in and pull up just where it was intended to. Then up went the nose and, with the King looking on, out trundled its mammoth load.
How can I recapture these moments? How can I con- vey to you the thrills, the excitements and the grand joy of it all? Let me, for example, try to picture to you the sight of the hundred gliders we landed on this day: all landing in the conﬁnes of one old-fashioned and not too large airﬁeld. Think of one hundred bomber aircraft overhead, each with a great glider in tow: gliders with a wingspan as great as the heavy bombers.
Then they cast off: you could see the tug aircraft rising and ﬂying away, the drone of their great engines lessening, whilst round in enormous spirals sail the gliders. The sky seems thick with them. Then you hear the swish as, engineless, they come in to land. First one then another, then half a dozen at a time, and the sky still full of them. How are they all going to get in? They touch down at between seventy and eighty miles an hour. Swish they roar across the ground. How is it that they do not crash into one another?
As they come in to land they do so in a very steep dive; far steeper than looks safe; their great black ﬂaps down; they suddenly ﬂatten out and bowl along the ground, each glider to its allotted place. Their hydraulic brakes are put on and with a screech as, in a great curve, they swing round to their appointed spot. I know of no sight that I have ever seen as thrilling as this.
Such skill these pilots have; such courage, and such daring. They have no power unit to turn on, no engine to rev up if things go wrong, no reverse gear to get into, once they have used their hydraulic brakes nothing to stop a crash. Sometimes one would hit another and you would hear the rending of timber frames. The sound is fright- ening, but little damage is done.
To-day they are doing it in daylight: the next time it will be at night, in France with hateful ﬂak spitting up and the sky alight with searchlights and ﬂares. On the ground will be the Germans, their machine guns manned and their mineﬁelds waiting. No, there can be few bands of men to whom we are more indebted, and we owe a lot to many, than the pilots of the Glider Pilot Regiment.