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ON THIS DAY

ON THIS DAY

17 September 1944: Airborne invasion of Holland begins. Allied forces have landed behind enemy lines in Holland at the beginning of a massive operation designed to bring an end to the war in Europe. RAF Lancasters and about 1,000 US Flying Fortress bombers had prepared the way by attacking airfields, German gun positions and barracks. At noon today, thousands of fully equipped troops parachuted down from more than 1,000 aircraft into the Rhine delta and behind enemy lines. RAF Mitchells and Boston Medium bombers, Mosquitoes, Typhoons, Spitfires and American Mustangs and Lightnings bombed barracks and gun emplacements allowing gliders to landed in relative safety. Several German fighters were shot down.This is one of the largest airborne invasions ever undertaken and the first major operation carried out by the First Airborne Allied Army, which is a consolidation of British, US and Polish airborne troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Lewis Brereton, formerly commander of the US Ninth Air Force. His deputy, Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning, set up the British airborne force. Troops at British airbases about to embark on their mission were told in no uncertain terms that its success was vitally important. “Success may mean all the difference between a rapid decision in the West and a protracted winter campaign,” said one commanding officer, who cannot be named. “The Army is relying implicitly on us to drop them in sufficient numbers at the right place and at the right time. Details about the operation will not be known for at least 12 hours but one pilot has already reported the landings were successful. Wing Commander HJW Meaking, DSC, the pilot of a Mosquito, filmed the landings. He said: “It looked as if the whole thing went like clockwork.” Eyewitnesses in neighbouring Belgium reported seeing hundreds of aircraft fill the sky, some towing gliders. The weather was said to be ideal for landing troop carriers with low cloud providing cover for Dakotas. One Thunderbolt pilot said: “The C47 transports came by in perfect formation of threes, line abreast. There was little opposition from the flak towers we had attacked. “Gliders landed in a field much like cars parked in a garage – one alongside each other, with similar rows right behind.” The German news agency announced the invasion and said its forces were already retaliating. “Strong allied airborne forces protected by a vast air umbrella were landed at noon today west of the German-Dutch frontier on the northern bank of the Rhine. “The landing of paratroopers was followed by the descent of countless gliders. German forces have already wiped out considerable contingents of this airborne battle force.” The British Second Army under General Miles Dempsey, spearheading its way into German-held territory, has advanced two miles across the Dutch border from their bridgehead in Beeringen and been informed that the landings were accurate and successful. (Source: BBC)

15 September 1940: Victory for RAF in Battle of Britain. RAF Fighter Command is claiming victory over the Luftwaffe after a day of heavy bombing raids ended in big losses for the enemy. According to the RAF, 176 enemy aircraft were destroyed by fighter planes. At least another nine aircraft were hit by anti-aircraft guns. British casualties were much lighter – only 25 aircraft lost with 13 pilots killed or missing. The Air Ministry says the German losses are the highest since 18 August, five days after the Battle of Britain began in earnest. Today there were two major attacks on London during daylight and a number of smaller raids on the south coast in the Portland and Southampton areas. The first big attack came in the morning at 1100 hours. A wave of about 100 German aircraft was spotted heading over the Kent coast towards London followed by a second wave of about 150 planes. Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons were sent to meet them and many German planes are reported to have turned away

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