D-Day and Battle of Normandy Encyclopedia

General Aircraft Hamilcar – GAL.49 Hamilcar glider

GAL.49 Hamilcar glider (General Aircraft Hamilcar)

History, technical sheet and photo

Image : Planeur General Aircraft Hamilcar

Hamilcar glider history

In order to compete with the development of German airborne troops, the British are increasingly studying to acquire such a striking force: they take into account the major need to equip parachutists and airborne units with considerable fire support during their Arrival in hostile territory. Gliders thus appear to be an essential means of transporting heavy weapons or even light tanks in order to directly support the forces transported.

At the beginning of 1941, the British developed several types of gliders, including the X.25/40 prototype capable of carrying a light tank on board. General Aircraft was selected to produce the prototype, the final model of which was developed in February 1941 and is called GAL. 49 Hamilcar, named after the general of Carthage. He made his first test flight on March 27, 1942, towed by a Halifax bomber, impressive in size and a first of its kind for British aviation, which has never developed a glider of this size. Only the power of a four-engine bomber can tow this aircraft.

In June 1944, only 50 Hamilcar gliders were produced: their production was indeed very slow. These vehicles are able to carry either a Tetrarch tank, two Universal Carriers or a M22 Locust tank.

Thirty-four Hamilcar participated in the Battle of Normandy as part of Operation Tonga for the benefit of the British forces of the 6th Airborne Division. They carried Tetrarch tanks and anti-tank parts QF 17 Pounder. Several gliders are damaged on landing and their cargo is lost, but the reinforcement brought by the Hamilcar is more than appreciated by the Anglo-Canadian soldiers on D-Day.

The Hamilcar gliders were also used during Operation Market Garden in September 1944 in Holland as well as during Operation Varsity over Germany in March 1945, where they were last used in combat. In 1947, only twelve gliders were still operational: they were finally retired from service in the 1950s.

Hamilcar glider specification

Creator/User: Britain
Denomination: GAL.49 Hamilcar Mk I
Number built (1942-1946): 344

Length: 21 m
Wingspan: 34 m
Height: 6,10 m
Unloaded weight: 8,300 kg
Maximum speed: 160 km/h

Transport capacity: 8,000 kg (one Tetrarch tank or two Universal Carriers or one M22 Locust tank or one QF 17 Pounder)

Crew: 2 (pilot and co-pilot)

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