A Stirling towing a Horsa

"GLIDING DOWN" - Staff Sergeant Cyril Line

Staff Sergeant Joseph Kitchener, piloting a glider, was equally impressed by the speed of the air-sea rescue launch that came alongside a floating glider he had spotted.  "They picked up the men so fast I don't even think they got their feet wet," he recalls.

Men in a glider piloted by Staff Sergeant Cyril Line were less fortunate - but lucky to be alive.

In an aerial train of swaying black Horsas, Line observed one combination drop slowly out of position. 

Mesmerised, he watched the Horsa cut loose and descend almost leisurely toward the sea. A ring of white foam appeared as it hit the water. He wondered "who the poor devils were."

At that moment, the starboard propellers on the Stirling pulling his glider slowed, and stopped.

As the plane's speed was reduced Line found himself "in the embarrassing position of overtaking my own tug." He immediately released the tow line and his copilot called out, "Stand by for ditching!"

From behind in the cabin, they could hear rifle butts crashing against the side of the glider's plywood fuselage as the frantic passengers tried to open up an escape route.

Rapidly losing altitude, Line looked back and was horrified to see that the desperate troopers had "cut through the top of the glider and the sides were just beginning to go."  Line screamed out, "Stop that! Strap yourselves in!" Then, with a heavy thud, the glider hit the water.

When Line surfaced, he saw the wreckage floating some thirty feet away. There was no sign whatever of the cabin, but every one of his passengers was accounted for.  Within minutes, all were picked up.

In all, eight gliders ditched safely during this first lift; once they were on the water, the air-sea rescue service, in a spectacular performance, saved nearly all crews and passengers.

Once again,however, it was Urquhart's force that was whittled down. Of the eight gliders, five were Arnhem-bound."

Goldfish Staff Sergeant Cyril Line