GPR Veterans Centenary Celebrated

GPR Veterans Birthday Honoured at Memorial

Last month AAC personnel and Veterans celebrated the 100th Birthday of Mr Peter Davies DFM.

Mr Peter Davies DFM, with 653 Sqn personnel in the background during the memorial service.

On Tuesday 23rd August, personnel from 653 Sqn, 3 Regt AAC and Veterans celebrated the 100th birthday of GPR veteran, Mr Peter Davies DFM. 

The ceremony was held at the GPR memorial, located at Manchester Airport, as a show of gratitude for Mr Davies efforts in funding and erecting the memorial in 1997. The memorial is located on International Approach, off the Outwood Lane roundabout between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. 

During WW2 Manchester Airport was requisitioned for wartime use and named RAF Ringway. The airfield was would have been frequented by numerous GPR personnel for training as it was home to the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment and the Glider Exercise Sqn. The airfield was also home to 663 Sqn RAF, made up of Polish Officer volunteers who operated Auster aircraft in the AOP role. 663 Sqn is now part of 3 Regt AAC, flying the Apache helicopter from Wattisham airfield.

Mr Peter Davies DFM served in the GPR during World War 2, assisting with the planning for Operations OVERLORD (D-Day Landings) and MARKET GARDEN (Arnhem) and acting as 2nd pilot in a Hamilcar Glider during Operation VARSITY. The operation holds the record for being the largest airborne drop in a single day, with 16000 troops and numerous aircraft, including 420 Airspeed Horsa and General Aircraft Hamilcar Gliders as part of the 6th British Airborne Division. Further details about Mr Davies' actions can be viewed in his biography and citation below.

Images and information for this article are credited to Mr Kevin Hainey, who kindly allowed us to use the details for this piece. Thank you for organising and capturing this event and enabling it to be shared with the wider AAC community.

Biography - Peter Davies GPR

Peter Davies GPR

Peter was born on 23rd August 1922 in Coventry and joined the TA in the 7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment in October 1938 when he was 16. After the war broke out he was deemed to young to go to France with the BEF so missed Dunkirk.

He was transferred to a LAA Regiment of the Royal Artillery in 1940 and served in the UK till 1943 when he volunteered for the GPR. He was a Bombardier when he volunteered.

He went through the usual GPR selection — had a medical in London, passed and was sent to EFTS and soloed in a Tiger Moth after about 10 hours training. Started January 1944 and soloed on 21st Feb 1944.

He allowed me to photograph his flying log and these have been sent electronically if you wish to look into his training and qualification as a GP.

Then in April 1944 he was sent to RAF Chilbolton near Middle Wallop, where he said he was part of a 'Liaison Team' of 3 Parachute Regiment men and 2 GPR all commanded he said by Captain Luttener of Bruneval fame.

See 1MG_0235 gives Peter being with 50th TCW in June 1944

Looking on the internet this unit was based here

442 TCG/303-304-305 Tcs,  codes:J7/V4/4J) arrived 11/9/44,dep 10/44

So breaking this down the 442 Troop Carrier Group with 303, 304 and 305 Troop Carrier

Squadrons flying C47 and they arrived here 1 Ith September 1944 and left in October 1944.

Peter helped the 82nd US Airborne Division with their planning for Overlord and Market Garden. Due to the losses at Arnhem he was recalled to the GPR and became a second pilot in a Hamilcar.

A few words about the 50th Troop Carrier Wing

In October 1943, became a command organisation for 9th Troop Carrier Command part of the 9th Air Force based in England. Subordinate units began training for the invasion of continental Europe. This training involved airdropping paratroops and towing gliders and so a liaison team of Brits would not have seemed out of place.

In June 1944, units ofthe 50th TCW dropped paratroopers of the 101 st US Airborne Division in Normandy and also at OMG dropped men, towed gliders and carried out resupply flights.

After OMG Peter was recalled to the GPR and took part in Operation Varsity as a second pilot to S/Sergeant Bowman. See image 240. Peter was back in England on 30th March 1945.

The load was a 17 pounder anti-tank gun, towing vehicle and crew. On the way to the LZ they were hit by flak and the Hamilcar was damaged and the glider became difficult to fly. They 'crash landed' away from the intended LZ and as Peter put it; 'No way could the gun have been unloaded, the glider was just about stuck on its nose,(l'd been thrown through the canopy), it's tail was way up in the air advertising our position to some very unfriendly natives who immediately started to mortar us. We certainly did not land on our designated landing ground as, we had no flying controls other than the tail trimmer, we just kept going in the wrong direction. I haven't got a clue what happened to the gun detachment, they certainly were not with Bert and I when we eventually joined up with some Irish guys. '

He and Bert met up with some RUR men and eventually made it to the Hamminkeln area.

Bert was recommended for a DFM which was duly awarded but his citation said the load was a light tank — so it seems the citation is wrong.

Peter retumed to England on 30th March 1945 and Peter remained with C Squadron and then N Squadron for the next few months flying Hamilcars, Horsas. Hotspurs and Hadrians until September 1945.

An incident occurred involving an officer who probably thought that Peter had been insubordinate towards him and engineered Peter to be RTU'd. In Peter's case this was the Royal Artillery and he was promoted to W02 Battery Sergeant Major Assistant Instructor

Gunnery at the School of Artillery, Manorbier. Posted to HQ 1 st Anti Aircraft Brigade in Kent as Brigade Gunnery Instructor. Then posted to War Office trials unit in Anglesey and the Royal Radar establishment Malvern.

This was his last posting in the 'Regular' Army and after leaving rejoined the RA as a Territorial and soon was given a commission and served in both an AA Regiment and Field Regiment.

DFM Citation - Peter Davies

Citation for actions during Operation VARSITY