The Glider Pilot Regiment Memorial


This stone is given by the people of Tilshead to commemorate the formation of the Glider Pilot Regiment which had its first home at this camp in February 1942.  The Regiment remained here until moving to Fargo Camp, Larkhill in September 1943.  It disbanded on 1st September 1957 and a new Army Air Corps was formed on the same day.

Regimental Motto: “Nothing is impossible.”

Frank Druce Memorial Memories

In 2003 another memorial stone was established commemorating the soldiers of the Glider Pilot Regiment (GPR) who were also stationed in Tilshead. The stone was sourced from the same Somerset Quarry as the 8 PARA memorial and a similar plaque also sourced. The Glider Pilot Regiment memorial project received great support from Headquarters Army Air Corps and the Glider Pilot Regiment Association, in particular the then President, Brigadier Maurice Sutcliffe OBE who sadly died in 2019.  He served with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the Balkans in the Second World War and was a pioneer of army aviation.

Having been wounded while serving in North Africa with the Royal Irish Fusiliers (RIF) in 1942 he recovered but was medically downgraded, and took the opportunity while attached to the RAF to serve as an extra crewman on daylight raids over Nazi-occupied France.  Early in 1944 he was posted to the Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in southern Italy. A chance meeting with Brigadier (later Major General Sir) Fitzroy Maclean led to him being recruited to join the SOE’s mission to the Yugoslav partisans.  Their main tasks were to gain intelligence of enemy troop movements and, with the help of the partisans, to tie up large numbers of German units which would otherwise be prosecuting the war elsewhere. Sutcliffe signalled requests for supplies of arms, explosives and medical supplies to his HQ in Bari, southern Italy. He selected airstrips and used a short-range homing device to enable aircraft to locate these, guiding them in by flashing a recognition signal and using an agreed pattern of fires.

In 1954 his close relationship with the RAF and the Royal Naval Helicopter Squadron led to him reporting to the Glider Pilot Regiment at Middle Wallop in Hampshire for military pilot training. He qualified on fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and in 1957 commanded No 6 Flight of the recently formed Army Air Corps (AAC), which was then the Army’s only helicopter flight.

After attending the RAF Staff College he was selected for an exchange posting to the US Army Aviation Centre at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and became one of the pilots for the trials and development of the Iroquois helicopter.

Sutcliffe took every opportunity to persuade senior British Army officers of the advantages of helicopter-borne firepower in support of ground operations, but ran into strong opposition from officers who feared that a large, expensive helicopter force might divert funds from established arms, and this resulted in delays to the development of attack helicopters.

After promotion to lieutenant-colonel, he commanded the AAC’s No 1 Wing in Germany. One evening, he was called by a senior officer who was on an exercise at Anholt, a small Danish island in the Kattegat, midway between Jutland and Sweden.

A soldier was badly injured and needed urgent hospital treatment. Sutcliffe had a Beaver aircraft stripped down and flew there through the night. He took a good navigator and a doctor but they had no navigational aids beyond a map and a compass. There was no airstrip so he chose a field, having first given instructions that a jeep be driven over it to test for bumps, and fires lit to guide them in. The injured man was loaded on and taken to Copenhagen.

In 1966 Sutcliffe was appointed OBE and a year later promoted to Brigadier AAC. After a spell with the AAC branch of the War Office, where he pressed for the development of Lynx and Gazelle helicopters, in 1970 he became Commander of Aviation at Army Strategic Command. He retrieved Army helicopters from under the command of armoured, artillery and infantry units and brought them under his control.

In 1977 he retired from the Army and for 10 years worked for British Aerospace as its representative at the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Brigadier Maurice Sutcliffe, born October 10 1922, died April 8 2019. 

Photos of the Glider Pilot Regiment Memorial Unveiling – Brigadier Maurice Sutcliffe takes the salute

Camp No 1 was the home of the Glider Pilot Regiment (GPR) and where they did a tough selection course opposite the old airfield at the top of the hill. Camp No 1 is roughly in the area of the Water Tower and the old Tilshead Lodge (which acted as a Headquarters building).

Map of Camp 1

The GPR was an antecedent of the AAC and until recently they used to hold a parade at the memorial to mark the anniversary of the GPR formation.

The Parachute Regiment and the GPR did a lot of their training in the area. Imber village was great for ‘Fighting in Built up Area’ exercises and Netheravon provided the space for the Air Landing training.

The airborne soldiers were very popular in the village for their kindness to the villagers and particularly the children, who benefited from their sweets and chocolates and Christmas parties.  They gradually moved out of the village for the big ops in Sicily and Normandy but kept their connection through the various Associations until they closed (GPR Association in 2016).

Frank Druce BEM

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