‘Windy’ Gale

One of the men who proved so instrumental in one of the most audacious operations of the D-Day landings was Richard ‘Windy’ Gale…

Richard Gale A.K.A ‘Windy’
Born in 1896, Richard Gale would go on to live a very varied and exciting life in his 86 years. With his early spent living and moving around Australia, his family returned to Britain in 1906, with Gale’s academic record considered poor at best.
When he left school, he wanted desperately to join the Royal Artillery but because of his poor grades and lack of physical ability he was barred entry.
Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the insurance world but his rapid dislike of it pushed him attend physical training classes as well as academic classes to boost his grades.
In 1914, at the outbreak of war, Gale was still well below the physical standards required, but gained entry to Sandhurst in 1915, eventually being posted to the Western Front with the Machine Gun Corps in 1916.
With his company he fought at The Somme and served later on the Ypres Salient. However, he missed out on the Passchendaele offensive on account of physical and mental exhaustion and returned home to recuperate.
Promoted to the rank of lieutenant, Gale returned in January 1918, where he would eventually receive a Military Cross.
Promoted to Captain soon after, he would serve on the Western Front till the cessation of hostilities in November 1918.
In the inter-war years Gale continued to serve in the British Army, working postings in India as well as Britain. Consequently he worked his way to the rank of Major in this time.
By December 1940, Gale was in command of a second line, territorial unit, which had, so far not seen service with the British Expeditionary Force. However, when the expansion of Britain’s Airborne forces was actioned, Gale was asked to take command of the 1st Parachute Brigade, as senior officers were impressed with the high morale and discipline amongst his troops.
1942 saw Gale become ‘Director of Air’ a liaison-like role between the Airborne forces of the army and the vital relationship with the Royal Air Force. A challenging role due to the fierce rivalry between the RAF and Army, Gale continued in this role until he took command of the 6th Airborne Division, less than a year before Operation Tonga was to be carried out.

Gale addresses the men of 6th Airborne before D-Day Landings

​Gale came under huge pressure as the Commanding Officer of the first British division to be deployed entirely by air, as he had to battle potential issues without anything to compare it to, as well as facing the huge pressure from those higher up the chain.
His commitment and thoroughness in planning paid off however when, on the 6th June 1944, Operation Tonga was played out. For his role in Tonga, Gale received the Distinguished Service Order and was soon promoted to Major General.
After three months of fighting and suffering over 4,000 casualties, Gale’s Division was withdrawn for recuperation.
He was soon to be posted to the First Allied Airborne Army where he served alongside his American counterparts planning the crossing of the River Rhine.
Soon after VE Day, Gale was posted to India, where the war with the Japanese was still raging, however, this was short-lived as the surrender of Japan was not too far away.
Gale left the Army in 1957, going on to work for NATO for several years, and died shortly after his 86th birthday in 1982.

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