General Aircraft Hamilcar Glider (E1992.209)
The final recovery operation of the fuselage section took place on 29th October 1990 from Christian Malford, Wiltshire. The remains having been purchased from the farm owner.
A Flying Tank Transporter
The idea of carrying tanks by air dates back to the early thirties but it was not achieved until 1944. On the evening of 6th June (D-Day) a few tanks were flown from Tarrant Rushton, an airfield near Wimborne, and landed on the French coast near the mouth of the Orne River. The tanks were Tetrarchs of 6th Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment, the aircraft were Hamilcar Gliders of the Glider Pilot Regiment that had been towed across the English Channel by Halifax bombers of the Royal Air Force.
The Hamilcar was designed by the General Aircraft Company and the prototype flew for the first time in March 1942. It was quite a large aircraft by the standards of the day, with a wingspan of 110 feet and a weight of around 7 tons. Built almost entirely of wood it required a crew of two, who sat in tandem, in a cockpit directly above the fuselage. The Hamilcar could carry cargo up to about 8 tons that was loaded through a large, hinged door at the nose.
For the D-Day operation each Hamilcar carried either a pair of Universal Carriers or one Tetrarch Light Tank. The glider dropped its undercarriage on take-off and landed in its target zone on skids. As soon as it stopped the tank would be started up and, as it moved forwards, activated a rope that opened the nose door. Hamilcars were used again on the Rhine Crossing in March 1945, in this case carrying American Locust light tanks.