Operation Varsity Hamilcar Pilot Martin Wicks

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by Colinp, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    I have been trying to establish with some certainty the circumstances of Staff Sergeant Wicks drop in a Hamilcar possibly chalk 280 which suffered flak damage and a forced landing ending up upside down. His Hamilcar load appears to be reported with some conflict, my hope is that reportedly ending up upside down it may just assist in establishing more information. I have searched the excellent material on the forum but did not extract anything which fitted.
    S/Sgt Wicks was captured and I am assuming served a short period as a pow.
    His second pilot Ly Guest was likewise captured but appears to have escaped captivity.
    If the Hamilcar upturned I am of the opinion that within the load there may have been casualties but of course the load will dictate the men carried.
    I have tried to be specific with known detail and not ramble on with my thoughts, I know the forum hold experts and hope that the part played by this Hamilcar crew and occupants can be properly acknowledged.
    Many thanks for any help.
     
  2. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    His second pilot was Lt K G Guest (254851) who as you say was initially reported as Missing believed to be a Prisoner of War and then, on 3rd May 1945 reported “No longer missing”. It was chalk 280 and t
    he cargo was a universal carrier , 15 panniers and 8 troops.
     
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  3. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    Thank you for confirming the Chalk number and load. Is there any way of gathering any evidence of the crash landing to establish any casualties and you mention the report 'No longer missing' would the circumstances of escape for Lt Guest be evidenced anywhere. Likewise do any reports exist in relation to S/Sgt Wicks being captured. I would like to gather whatever factual evidence is likely to exist in relation to the events appertaining to Hamilcar 280. Thank you kindly for this guidance.
     
  4. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    The information relating to Wicks and Guest comes from the Casualty Lists which are available on the internet (Find My Past).
     
  5. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Colin,

    As you probably know Hamilcar CN 280 left from RAF Woodbridge on March 24th as part of Serial B16. It belonged to a group of 3 Hamilcars assigned to the 3rd Parachute Brigade (CN 279 to CN 281) with intended destination LZ A.

    They took off in herring bone fashion with 644 Squadron as tugs for odd chalk numbers and 298 Squadron pulling the even numbers. There are a few official photos of the airfield with gliders and tugs lined up.

    I couldn't find anything on the crash of CN 280. There is a mention of Glider Pilot casualties compiled by Lt. J. McElroy, the Intelligence Officer of 'C' Squadron GPR, that appears in the 1945 ORB for RAF Station Tarrant Rushton.

    ‘C’ Squadron Glider Pilot Regiment Report for April, 1945:
    Compiled by Lieutenant J.McELROY.

    Casualties for Operation Varsity:

    Missing: Lieutenant R. GREAFE, Lieutenant D.C. KENNARD, Pilot Officer G.B. HANSON, Pilot Officer K. JOHNSON, 11 Army NCOs, 9 RAF NCOs.
    Killed: 1 NCO.
    Wounded: Pilot Officer LOVE, 4 Army NCOs, 5 RAF NCOs.
    POWs: Lieutenant K.GUEST, 1 Army NCO and 1 RAF NCO.


    Under POWs S/Sgt Wicks is probably "1 Army NCO" immediately after Lt. Guest. I couldn't find an updated follow up.

    Regards ...

    Edit: Removed mention of F/O Watkins as pilot. See post #9 below for correct aircraft and crew.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
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  6. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    Thank you for that you have added some more unknown detail for me, it is looking like information in respect of become pow's is difficult to trace and may well not exist. I found the odd and even number chalk numbering information most interesting, it appears also that the crews within the holds of Hamilcars where applicable is also devoid of detail which is a great shame. Horsapassenger advises Hamilcar 280 carried 8 troops I was hoping to track those men but this likewise looks impossible. Thanks again...
     
  7. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Colin,

    Some general info that may be of interest but doesn't get to the core issue of what occurred with CN 280 and the men on board. Part of the problem with tracking down men on the 3 Hamilcars is some may have belonged to the 3 Para Battalions or other units of the 3rd Brigade with also perhaps a few from Brigade HQ?

    Official photos of aircraft at RAF Woodbridge, March 24, 1945.

    CH 14882 - ROYAL AIR FORCE: FIGHTER COMMAND, NO. 38 (AIRBORNE FORCES) GROUP RAF.
    CH 14887 - ROYAL AIR FORCE: FIGHTER COMMAND, NO. 38 (AIRBORNE FORCES) GROUP RAF.
    CH 14889 - ROYAL AIR FORCE: FIGHTER COMMAND, NO. 38 (AIRBORNE FORCES) GROUP RAF.

    A few scenes of the Woodbridge Hamilcar gliders can be seen in the early part of a film found on the Australian War Museum site:

    [Operation Varsity] (RAF R.136)

    Photo CH 14882 shows the line up before take off. I figure 644 Squadron aircraft are lined up to right with 298 Squadron on left. it appears from the Halifax coming in from the middle left 298 Squadron are still in the process of getting all their aircraft in position. If that estimation is correct CN 280, which is hardly visible, is the 21st glider down in the left column of Hamilcars.

    CH 14882-Large.jpg

    Glevering Hall was the transit camp for the men on the 3 Para Brigade Hamilcars.

    00000061.jpg

    Edit - Removed Serial B16 list due to errors in the allotment of aircraft and pilots to Hamilcars

    Regards ....
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
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  8. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    I had little understanding of the complexity in respect of the various Army configurations of staff carried, quite a complicated matter. I thank you again for your help.
    RAF personnel returning from pow camps often completed debriefing reports, it might be that the first pilot Wicks did one as he is most certainly recorded as a pow.
    All avenues might be worth exploring including the Glider Pilot service records but once again I do not know how detailed these may be.
    Again thank you.
     
  9. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    According to my records Chalk 280 was towed by W/O Parsons of 298 Squadron. According to the Squadron ORB he returned safely from this mission
     

    Attached Files:

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  10. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    This raid report is most interesting, I can see that Wicks and Guest are certainly allocated to Warrant Officer Parsons and crew in the Halifax III. I note that the release was satisfactory and that it was two miles west of LZA which I assume was normal approach for a Hamilcar. The document also confirms 8 troops carried. Much more information than the RAF Squadron ORB provides, as they gave me next to nothing.
    The knowledge on the forum is most impressive once again thank you for these valuable contributions. I see that Chalk 280 most certainly departed Tarrant Rushton but an Air Movement table form A that I located showed a Woodbridge departure so great confusion can exist.....
     
  11. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    The 298 Sqn ORB shows that they all took off from Woodbridge but were based at Tarrant Rushton
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
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  12. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Well that is not the first time the chalk list from the Varsity CD has been proven wrong. It's still useful but unfortunately can't be relied on to establish the correct tug pilot.

    Here's the plot map of Varsity glider locations. The chalk numbers aren't given but still might be of interest.

    Plot of Glider Landings-Op Varsity.jpg

    Regards ...
     
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  13. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    The map is excellent looking at it the Hamilcar distribution outside of the drop zones it is apparent several were quite adrift, one of which must be Chalk 280 and provides well an understanding of how the Pilots were both captured. What a shame the glider identities are not recorded, I suspect Chalk 280 overturning will one day provide a snip of information which might progress things. Thank you for posting the map it is appreciated.
     
  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Colin,

    From what I can gather from reviewing various charts, statements and photos is that the 3rd Para Brigade Hamilcars were assigned one each to the Para Battalions (8th, 9th and Cdn Paras). I found photos of the Canadians loading their Hamilcar with a Bren Carrier and later mention of the same carrier in their WD. The book "The Last Drop" claims that the only Hamilcar of the three to arrive on LZ A belonged to the 8th Para Battalion. It also carried a Bren Carrier and supplies. All of which, if true, would mean CN 280 belonged to the 9th Para Battalion.

    Having said all that I found contrary information which throws that possible scenario into doubt. If CN 280 landed off the LZ at a remote location there may have been no witnesses to the crash and one reason why it doesn't appear in later reports and anecdotes.

    I should probably remove the Serial B16 list from the above post. If the ordering is all wrong it will only cause confusion to others picking it up?

    Regards ...
     
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  15. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Hi.
    I have a contact in Hamminkeln, if anyone knows if a Hamilcar was on it’s back then it’s him! Are you just trying to establish the crash site or is the fate of the crew your main aim?

    Alex.
     
  16. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    Alex. I know for certain the Hamilcar ended up upturned on its back and that both pilots were captured, one subsequently escaped whilst S/Sgt Wicks remained in the hands of the defending forces. I would very much like to ascertain a location if possible for the landing site, it was a huge thing to have ended up upside down. Thank you for your help.
     
  17. Colinp

    Colinp Junior Member

    Alex. I hate to burden but any joy with the contact and knowledge of the upturned Hamilcar flown by S/Sgt Wicks. Thank you very much.
     
  18. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Hi.
    I’ve only just seen the previous message! I’m going over to Hamminkeln at the end of this month. I’ll get back to you ASAP.

    Alex
     
  19. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Colin,

    I came across the following passage in Tim Saunder's book "Operation Varsity". Note it claims there were seven Hamilcars belonging to the 3rd Brigade. As far as I know there were only three destined for LZ A.

    "Only two of the Brigade’s seven heavy Hamilcar gliders landed in the correct area, the furthest away coming down a mile north of 8 Para’s cordon. Leaving the platoon of C Company to hold DZ A for the supply drops, at 1500 hours, the remainder of the battalion went into brigade/divisional reserve in the area due east of the Schneppenberg feature. However, despite the best efforts of 8 Para and the Canadians whose objective they were, a group of Fallschirmjäger, with both machine guns and mortars, were still ensconced in Höfges to the north-west of the DZ."

    From other sources the two that landed on LZ A or nearby belonged to the 8th Parachute Battalion and the Canadian Parachute Battalion. The 9th Para Hamilcar must be the one that came down a mile north of the LZ. Unfortunately the author doesn't give a source for that info.

    Regards ...
     
  20. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Your Hamilcar is mentioned here ( pegasusarchive website)
    The CO’s glider ( of the 6th AB Armoured Recce Regiment) landed close by the one that was upturned.
    The investigation continues!

    Alex
     

    Attached Files:

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