Glider pilot remembers

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As Britain celebrates Victory in Europe Day, one Arbroath man has recalled his time as a glider pilot towards the end of World War Two.

Robert (Bob) Russell (89) was a young man when he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in February, 1944, in Chichester.

While training as a marksman and bren-gunner he saw an advert on camp asking for volunteers to train as glider pilots. He volunteered and was sent to Fargo in Wiltshire for an extensive six weeks training which, according to Bob, was sheer hell. Only 23 pilots passed the course out of 40 who applied.

However, Bob did take part in the biggest combined glider operation of the war. The British aircraft were ‘Horsa Gliders’ which could carry a small tank, or 60 troops, the American gliders were much smaller and could carry around 30 troops. The mission was ‘Operation Varsity’ and they were to land near Wessell in Germany - 464 British gliders and 1123 American gliders took part in this operation.

After being demobbed at the end of the war, Bob married his sweetheart Ruby (both pictured above) in 1951 and returned to his profession as a butcher. He owned his own butcher shop firstly in Barngreen and latterly in Fisheracre. Bob was also a keen musician playing the pipes in the Arbroath pipe band.

According to Bob, Arbroath can count another one of its own among the ranks of the glider pilots - Mr George L. Thomson, who went on to become the town’s postmaster.