Where the Operation began…

RAF Tarrant Rushton is inscribed in history books as the starting point for one of the Second World War’s most incredible operations.
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RAF Tarrant Rushton with heavy bombers at standing points
Located to the east of a small village in Dorset, RAF Tarrant Rushton became home to the glider operations of the Second World War, and consequently, home to the men of the Glider Pilot Regiment involved in Operation Deadstick.
After building the airfield in 1942, glider operations and training commenced from October 1943.
From here, all of the gliders bound for the Ranville and Benouville bridges took off shortly before 11pm. In his Horsa glider named ‘Lady Irene’, Staff Sergeant Jim Wallwork became responsible for the lives of the men in his aircraft, who had spent years training for this very moment.
After landing, many men were knocked unconscious, however, they had become the first allied soldiers to get onto French soil on D-Day.

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A Hamilcar glider coming in to land
Later, RAF Tarrant Rushton would be used to fly other gliders, namely Hamilcars, to drop much needed supplies and equipment to the men in the advance into France, as part of Operation Tonga.
After Op Tonga was completed, training began for Operation Market Garden, where Tarrant Rushton would again be used as the initial flying base for the gliders. However, Market Garden was a failure, and many men who had previously been stationed there, failed to return.
After being used for a small number of Special Operation Executive missions involving the gliders, the site became abandoned and no longer used.
This abandonment was short lived however, as an airfield was needed to assist with what became known as the Berlin Airlift. Consequently, Tarrant Rushton was transformed from a glider-based airfield to a heavy bomber airfield. However the Lancasters and Lancastrians that took off from Tarrant Rushton had a very different mission compared to what their crews were used to.
After flying over four and a half thousand sorties, the military element of Tarrant Rushton was removed and became a civilian based airport.
After fewer and fewer flights were flown from the airfield, Tarrant Rushton was officially closed in 1980.
A memorial to the men who served on the airfield is located next to one of the hangars.
Today, a lot of the land has been returned to farmland, with a few surviving Nissen huts and Hangars the only reminder of one of the most important airfields of the Second World War.

 

 

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