One of the pleasures of my research has been hearing from veterans or their families. Often they are looking for more detailed information about friends or relatives who fought in Sicily in July 1943.
After more than 10 years of research in archives around the world, I can frequently give them answers they have not been able to get elsewhere. Sometimes the information doesn’t seem to exist, but I am happy to see if I have it.
If you would like more information about a friend or family member who fought in Operation Ladbroke and the battle for Syracuse in 1943, leave a reply (comment) at the bottom of an appropriate article or page, and I will try to help. I will not publish your comment if you ask me not to.
Meanwhile, here are some key books about Operation Ladbroke in case you want to start your own research:
Alexander Junier & Bart Smulders, “By Land, Sea and Air”, the story of the 2 South Staffords in WW2. Out of print.
Stuart Eastwood, “When Dragons Flew”, the story of 1 Border Regt in WW2. Available from the regimental museum here.
Mike Peters, “Glider Pilots in Sicily”, also includes Operation Fustian. Available from the publishers here.
Claude Smith, “History of the Glider Pilot Regiment”. Available from the publishers here.
Alec Waldron, “Operation Ladbroke: From Dream to Disaster”. Available from the publishers here.
George Chatterton, “The Wings of Pegasus”, the story of the Glider Pilot Regiment by its former CO. Out of print.
I am currently researching a book about my grandfather, Eric Rigby-Jones, who was awarded the MC and Bar with the Liverpool Pals in WW1 and then ran an important business, Irish Ropes, in neutral Ireland in WW2. I would like to include in it a section on his younger brother, Guy Rigby-Jones, who was a surgeon with the 181st Air Landing Field Ambulance and who took part in Operation Ladbroke. His was the only one of the ambulance’s 6 gliders that made it to Sicily and he was awarded the MC for his part in the action. In 1944 he stayed behind with the wounded troops at Arnhem and was taken prisoner.I think I have read most of the books on the airborne medical services and visited the Ponte Grande bridge last year but, if you are aware of any other less obvious sources of information on him, I would be very grateful to hear of them. All I have at present are two letters that Guy wrote to Eric from Africa before and after the operation but they do not give much relevant information. I am also planning to see if Guy’s 3 children have anything else.Thanks very much for any help that you can give me – I am very much looking forward to seeing your book when it is published.
I am interested in more details about Guy Rigby-Jones, your Grandfathers younger brother. In 1948 as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Connaught Hospital in Walthamstow, he persuaded the existing medical team to try to save my right leg from amputation by using the then comparatively new antibiotic, penicillin followed by surgery. This was highly successful and now 69 years later I still feel very indebted to him.
I thought you might be interested.
Best wishes. John Sutherland Markwell
Thanks very much for leaving a reply, John. I’ve alerted John Rigby-Jones to your wonderful story
Thanks for passing this on, Ian. My first book about my grandfather, Best Love to All, about his experiences in the First World War, was published a few weeks ago by Helion. I sent a copy to Guy’s oldest son, Tim Rigby-Jones, who was also a doctor (as was Guy’s wife, Peggy) and who celebrated his 75th birthday last week. I am planning to go up to see him in Cheshire later this year to see what else he might have about his father. I will pass John Sutherland Markwell’s message on to him – I know he will appreciate it. In 1944 Guy was one of the six surgeons with the 1st Airborne at Arnhem. Like all the medical staff he stayed behind after the evacuation to look after the wounded and was made a prisoner of war. However he continued to work as a surgeon in first a POW and then a German hospital (rather than in a POW camp) until he was released in May 1945.
Good to hear from you John. By coincidence, I am planning to post a “Glider Story” piece about Waco 26, which carried the surgical team to Sicily. Meanwhile, see my story of Waco 126, which landed close to 26.
The post is now up – see it here.
I’ve recently tracked down little information about my dad’s cousin Horace Smith who was a private with 181 A/L Field Ambulance who lost his life in a glider released too soon on the approach to Sicily.
Tragically his younger brother Albert, serving with 140 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery had also been killed two months before in North Africa.
I’ve been enjoying the limited research I’ve been able to do into the two brothers but have found very little about Horace who would have been one of the 17 (?) from the Field Ambulance to be lost.
I’ve tried all avenues I can think of to find out more about Horace, apart from obtaining his military record, something I hope to do before too long.
I’ve written up some details of my search for the brothers on my website.
Thanks for getting in touch Tim. I shall post something soon. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already seen them, have a look at these two pieces about gliders in the sea: here and here.
I’ll have a look at those articles about the gliders and will look back regularly for anything new you add.
I’ve now posted a piece about the story of Waco glider 70, which carried Horace Smith to Sicily and to his death.
Thank you Ian, that article gives me more information about Horace than I could have hoped of finding.
following on from your invitation for families, what can you tell me about my grandfather, Harry Dalton? I believe he got to the Ponte Grande bridge, was captured and was about to be executed before a sea based barrage made the Germans (or Italians) run off, so he survived, only to go to Arnhem and be caught again. He survived that too.
Thanks Steve. Alex Junier’s “By Land, Sea & Air” (see above) says Sgt Harry Dalton was in 11 Platoon, B Company, 2 South Staffords at Arnhem. Assuming that he was in the same unit during Operation Ladbroke, then his objective was a strongpoint codenamed Bilston (see here for the site and here for the orders). Bilston proved too strong, and it was not taken by the reduced numbers of the Staffords who reached Sicily. However they bravely went on to attack Walsall strongpoint, also unsuccessfully (story here), before heading for the Ponte Grande. Half of 11 Platoon was in glider 9 under Lt Goodman. It is unclear which glider carried the rest of the platoon, but it may have been glider 33, which carried no officer. If your grandfather was in 33, he could have been the senior passenger, and in charge of the men in the glider.
Thanks Ian. he left his military stuff to me after he died so I’ll have a look through and see if I can find anything (photos/memoirs) of Sicily. I remember when he was interviewed for the above book (which I have a copy of).
He was a real tough bloke, needless to say, but a good bloke too who would help anyone weak. He couldn’t stand bullies and didn’t take any crap from anyone. He lived until 2006 and died aged 94.
Thanks again for taking the time and effort to reply to me. It’s very much appreciated.
My father Denis Cason was a glider pilot and his first operation (of four) was Sicily. I am visiting Sicily on holiday this year and would like to try and find where he landed. I know few gliders landed on the designated areas but some rough idea would be great. His glider was number 63 and he was carrying members of the Border Regiment.
My best guess is 63 landed about 1.5km SW of LZ 2 near a strongpoint on the coast, where 35 also landed. The area was thick with defences & garrisoned farms, & Italian patrols were sent out to round up the glider troops. It is now heavily built-up & called Arenella. 63 was carrying men of C Company – for their mission, see here. The senior passenger was Maj Fineron, the CO of C Coy. He was severely wounded & died a few days later. His grave is in Syracuse cemetery. The (not always reliable) divisional report said: “glider landed in area of LZ, but crashed into wall & tree. Crew & passengers safe”. A more credible American report did not mention a wall or tree, but said 63 landed very fast on rocky ground, almost completely demolishing the floor. The GPs had been trained to land fast, an error that was later corrected. In the darkness misleading altimeters compounded the problem.
I do not know if my dad participated in Operation Ladbroke. I read an article you wrote about John Kormann. It appears he was in the 517th signal company. So was my dad. This leads me to think that my dad may have participated in Ladbroke. If you have any information about the 517 signal company, I would love to read it. I have been trying to find information about my dad’s time in Germany. He refused to discuss it and unfortunately passed away in 2004 at the age of 84. I am not even sure what his job was. It was either radio or mechanic. His name was Derwood Clardy.
Apologies for any confusion, Laura, but the 17th Airborne Division (and its 517th Signal Company) did not take part Operation Ladbroke in the invasion of Sicily. This website is primarily about Operation Ladbroke, but there are also articles about other glider operations in WW2 (see list), including of course Operation Varsity. For more information about the 517th, see the links at the bottom of the John Kormann article to his book and to the Scions of the 17th Airborne Division association.
Hi there. I’m currently researching my Wife’s Grandfather, S/Sgt John Ainsworth, Glider Pilot Regiment. He won the Military Medal during Ladbroke and was the Co-pilot of Glider No1 during Operation Deadstick. John didn’t really speak about his wartime experience and died young (He was only 48)
I’ve got limited detail on him (His medal citation) and no photographs . We believe he flew a Waco glider (No39) taking off from El Djem airfield Co-piloted by Sgt Sibley.
Could you help fill in any gaps? Many thanks for your help
Thanks Tim. I’ve already written about John Ainsworth in two of my articles. Type “ainsworth” into the search box at the top right of this page underneath the banner, then click the Search button. Frustratingly, the evidence is contradictory or, in the case of the official investigations, missing.
Hi Ian I’m researching information about family relative H.T. Walpole of the South Staffs.I believe he was a lance corporal at the time and ended up in the sea during Operation ladbroke. He was -probably wisely -known as Tom but first name was Herman. Any further info you may have about glider number /manifests etc would be really appreciated.
The account of Lt Chapman of 14 Pltn, B Coy [objectives] of Waco glider 21 says that a Pte Walpole was one of 4 of his men rescued from the sea by a destroyer which threw them a line as it sailed by. Some men, including the 1st pilot, Lt Hanson, drowned. The rest of the men were picked up by a landing craft and taken to the troopship Queen Emma. This places the ditching off Cape Passero [map], many miles from the LZs. 21 was forcibly released by the tug [story]. The 2nd pilot was Sgt Jock East. You can listen to his story online [here].
My father Claude Hill was a Horsa pilot involved in the Sicily landings. He flew with Andy M’culloch.He was involved in flying the Horsas from Portreith to Froha. Unfortunately he died in 1967 and though I have got a lot of information from books and his log book I still do not know anything about his involvment in the landings on Sicily.
Can you help me in finding more information
Thanks Kevin. Your father did not in fact fly in Operation Ladbroke, but he was instrumental in its success. After all, it was one of the eight Horsas in Operation Ladbroke, all ferried from England, that landed next to the Ponte Grande and allowed the bridge to be taken. Your father was one of the heroic GPs who flew Horsas all the way from Cornwall to Morocco, en route crossing the Bay of Biscay, which was patrolled by German aircraft. This was Operation Beggar, and your father’s flight took place on 6 June 1943. He then flew it to Froha in Algeria for training, and finally delivered it to one of the Tunisian airfields on 6 July, three days before take-off for Sicily.
What an excellent site thank you for your research efforts.
I’ve made inquiries about my grandad to the Staffordshire Regiment museum but unfortunately they couldn’t find any references.
I do know the only thing he spoke about to my dad was being in the sea. It seems that it must have been Op Ladbroke.
I have found that he served in North Africa, I guess Sicily and then Operation Market Garden (he was captured POW). Stalag 12a.
I ‘m waiting for his military records from Glasgow.
Would you have any information on 4918790 LCpl Ernest Frederick Bourne 2 Battalion South Staffs Regiment.
Thanks for asking, Adrian. I’m sorry to say I don’t have a record of your grandad. If you know what company or platoon he was in, we might be able to guess which glider he was in, as sometimes only one glider in a platoon ditched in the sea. I do have a record of a Private T Bourne of the Staffords – any relation?
I am researching the Glider Pilot service of Harold Eric G Kettle who was in North Africa March 1943 and from there to Italy Aug? 1943 possibly in operation Ladbroke before returning to N. Africa. He joined the GP regiment in September 1942. At least 2nd Lt.rank moving to Captain.
Any information on Harold will be very much appreciated.
Thanks Bruce. Captain Kettle was in a detachment of 23 officers and 235 men that sailed from the UK for North Africa in June 43. On arrival at Algiers, a series of delays resulted in them reaching the Battalion only on 17 July, too late to have any part in the Sicilian operations.
After applying for my grandads records in July 20, they have arrived this week. He (Clifford Phelps) was in the 1st Btn Border Regt (034) and then with 1st Airlanding Bde. He was shipped to North Africa in 1943 and then there is note of him being injured.
There is info on him returning from north west Europe in Oct 44. I’m led to believe he was involved at Sicily but then later at Arnhem. He was apparently in hiding at a Dutch farm before escaping.
He was later wounded in Norway in April 45 which we didn’t know anything about.
His service number was 3606099
Any info or suggested research avenues would be greatly appreciated.
Matt – I’m afraid I have no record of your grandfather. You could try the research service at the Cumbria Museum of Military Life [here].
Thanks for checking – much appreciated
Hello Leonard Ronald Owen 911858 was one of my referees when I joined the Army as an Ammo Tech in 1980. Ronald’s grandson Liam contacted me recently and asked if I knew any info about his grandad. Ron has died and his medals etc went missing from the care home he was in. I have been told he was a GPR and a Mr John Howes posted that Ron was Waco Glider No 6 On Op Ladbroke, Second pilot to Lt Barclay – wounded. If you have anymore info I can pass on to Ron’s grandson Liam it would be appreciated.
We know from the service record of L R Owen posted on Facebook by Liam that the Sgt Owen in glider 6 was Ron, as it records him having been wounded in Sicily on 10 July 43. The record does not specify at what stage he was wounded, but if it was at the Ponte Grande bridge, he probably stayed with Barclay at least up to that point.
You can download Barclay’s MC citation for free [here], though it is not very informative.
Barclay fought under Boucher-Giles at the Ponte Grande. See B-G’s account in Chatterton’s “The Wings of Pegasus” page 87. See also [here], where B-G mentions Barclay.
War correspondent Roderick Macdonald was in glider 6. See his report [here]..
Hi What a fabulous site!! I’m hoping to write a book about my Grandfather, George Neve No 7370817 He was part of Operation Ladbrook serving with RAMC 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance. I’ve been given a list which shows he was in Glider No 30. Do you have any information about this particular glider please?
Grandad used to tell my Dad “we landed about a mile out to sea and had to bloody swim for it” But that is literally all I know about it.
He survived because he went onto Arnhem and was captured before returning home in 1945. But any information you have on Glider 30, or even 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance at Operation Ladbrook would be great. Thanks
Thanks Lisa. Glider 30 gets several mentions [here], and one mention [here].
Also see this article about 181 in Ladbroke.
If you can get to TNA in Kew, look up the 181 War Diary. There’s a transcript [here].
Glider 30 was second in an element of 4 comprising 29 to 32, towed by C-47s of the US 11th Troop Carrier Squadron. It’s probable that the only tug plane with a navigator was 29, whose glider made a decent landing slightly beyond its LZ [story]. It seems the rest of the formation became separated and 30 was released by the tug [story] much too far from the coast, coming down from 4 to 6 miles offshore. Four men drowned.