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By James E. Mrazek
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Additional resources for Airborne Combat: The Glider War/Fighting Gliders of WWII
Certainly the nation would again show the guts to withstand such an annoyance until victory came again. Nor could they imagine for their islands an invasion such as Hitler later unleashed on Crete. Finally, innovation in the form of a massive glider counterattack, in retaliation against an enemy preparing to attack from France, was not in the style of the British naval-oriented, sea-immersed mind. Much to his credit, however, Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent a brief instruction to his chief of staff in June 1940.
The size of the first glider to come off the production line was to a great extent dictated by a number of the exigencies of the time. The British had no transport aircraft in military or commercial use in large numbers that could be converted to tow gliders, such as the Germans had in the Ju 52. For the time being, glider-towing aircraft were going to have to be bombers, then in short supply, or old biplane fighters, of which the Hart was one. The largest glider it could tow, according to calculations, was about an eight-seater with a wing span of somewhere between 50 to 60 feet.
Contracts were soon negotiated with the Gothaer Waggonfabrik, a manufacturer of railroad cars in the city of Gotha. Despite the enthusiasm of a few high-level people, however, the glider’s failure to win broad acceptance in German military circles worried some of the more enterprising members of the High Command. What was needed was someone to inject leadership and imagination into the project. Oberst Hans Jeschonnek, at the time chief of operations for the Luftwaffe (later to become chief of the General Staff), asked General Student to his office.