I joined the British Army in 1942 – I was conscripted – and I was put in an artillery company. To try to cut a long story short, I was put on a 40mm Bofors gun.
So I was getting really bored and I started volunteering for things. Nothing happened; all my applications were turned down. Then I saw something that applications were invited for this newly-formed glider pilot regiment, and I didn't know much about what glider pilots were supposed to do, but I volunteered, and to my own amazement, I was accepted, after spending a day of testing in London and so forth.
There were three basic types of glider used by the British Forces: the Waco, the Horsa and the Hamilcar. The Hamilcar was a fairly big affair which could take a small tank, and the Horsa was the sort of maid of all work of the British Forces. It could take a platoon of fully armed infantry, or a small field gun, or jeeps, or stuff like that. The Waco was a slightly smaller glider. It was American, built with tubular steel with linen stretched across.
I was put in a Waco flight, which was only about twenty pilots. In the second week of August 1944, the Waco pilots were called to the briefing room, and we were told that ten gliders were going to Brittany to land some jeeps, which were armed with machine guns, for the use of the maquis (the French Resistance). So we took off that evening, and something went wrong with our gliders. We went back to base and landed, we jumped into another glider and we took off again. We crossed the English Channel, entirely unescorted, just alone, one glider and one tow plane, and we reached the landing zone, and we were told that there would be a fire lit by the maquis to guide us to the right field. We saw the fire and we pulled out the rope and started to descend. There was a tree about halfway across the field. We lost height, and as we came in we had to decide… it's difficult to explain to you verbally. If you have an obstruction in a tennis court, you have to go either over the net or before the net, and he, I think, was trying to get over the tree, and we didn't make it. To cut a long story short, we side slipped and smashed into the tree quite hard, and we were both knocked out cold. When I woke up, I was lying on my back on a stretcher of some kind. I could hear whispered voices around. For the next two or three, or four weeks – I'm afraid my time sequences are very vague, because I was really not very conscious at the time – we were hidden by the maquis (The Resistance) from the Germans.