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RAF Tarrant Rushton & Jim Wallwork


Pilot Jim Wallwork and his co-pilot Johnnie Ainsworth were the first Allied troops to land in Normandy as a part of the June 1944 D-Day Landings. They had flown their Horsa glider, named Lady Irene across the English Channel from Tarrant Rushton Airfield.

Between 1943 and 1947, Tarrant Rushton was a Royal Air Force airfield and it played an important role in the war effort. It was used for glider operations and also for secretive Special Operations Executive (SOE) exercises such as weapon drops to the French Resistance.

Wallwork and Ainsworth’s glider had taken off around 11.00pm on 5th June 1944 towed by a Halifax aircraft known as a ‘tug’. Behind them were 30 fighting men with blackened faces and just a little over an hour later, they landed in France. Their glider landed heavily hitting the ground at 95mph and ploughed through barbed wire before the cockpit collapsed. They were both catapulted through the windscreen of their glider. Although stunned, this made them the first two Englishmen that day to land on French soil but in a quite unceremonious manner. The troops they landed went on to capture two key bridges preventing German tanks reaching the beaches where Allied troops were landing. Jim Wallwork was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. One of the soldiers in the Horsa glider later said:

‘The pilot had done a fantastic job in bringing the slithering, bouncing and crippled glider to a halt with its nose in the canal bank and within 75 yards of the bridge.’

Jim Wallwork also flew gliders in Sicily, the Battle of Arnhem and for the Rhine Crossing. He later moved to Canada. He died in British Colombia in 2013. The Vancouver Sun wrote of him:

‘Everywhere he went, he left a trail of people smiling. He was sometimes cheeky, mostly charming and always respectful; keeping his sense of humour and dignity to the end.’

(Images: Staff Sergeant James Harley Wallwork & RAF Tarrant Rushton during World War II)


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