WREATHS have been placed at the Tilshead Memorial Stones to honour and remember all the Airborne Forces who were based at the Tilshead training camp.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, there was no gathering at the Stones on Salisbury Plain this year, but the chairman of the Tilshead Parish Council, George Murray, placed a wreath on behalf of the elite Second World War Glider Pilot Regiment.

Wednesday, February 24 is Founders Day for the regiment.

Mr Murray, as well as being responsible for the upkeep of the Tilshead Memorial Stones and their surroundings, also acts and assists as Tilshead school liaison officer and Tilshead bus shelters officer.

Salisbury Journal:

George Murray placing a wreath at the Tilshead Memorial Stones

A representative from the Parachute Regimental Association also placed a wreath on behalf of The Parachute Regiment, who trained at the Tilshead camp.

All those who achieved the high standards required after such gruelling training at Tishead training camp went on to take part in pivotal historic airborne operations during the Second World War - Sicily, D-Day, Arnhem and the Rhine crossings in March 1945.

'A wonderful gentleman'

It has also been announced that Second World War veteran Glider Pilot, Laurie Weeden, died in November last year.

Laurie, who trained at Tilshead and was part of the D-Day landings in June 1944 on his 22nd birthday., has been described as a “wonderful gentleman”.

Laurie was called up in 1939, having been in a searchlight regiment in the Territorial Army, and in May 1942 he transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment.

Laurie Weeden. Picture: Glyn Dewis

Laurie Weeden. Picture: Glyn Dewis

After an initial period of training at the Regiment’s Depot at Tilshead, Laurie moved to Elementary Flying Training School, RAF Booker to learn to fly powered aircraft. From there it was Glider Training School at RAF Shobdon, following which Laurie was awarded his Army Flying Badge, his ‘Wings’. After a spell back at the Depot, and promotion to Sergeant, he moved to RAF Brize Norton where he learned to fly the operational Horsa glider.

Back at the Depot, his intake became 5 Squadron and was posted to Tunisia in May 1943 where its members were trained on the US WACO CG-4A by American pilots.

Laurie returned to the UK in March 1944 and was assigned to 14 Flight ‘F’ Squadron, which was based at RAF Blakehill Farm. In May, with his Second Pilot Sgt Griffiths, he joined the other selected crews for training for the Normandy Invasion. They would be amongst the first in as part of Operation Tonga.

Their Horsa glider took off at 10.55pm on the 5th carrying a medical jeep, trailer, two motorcycles and four soldiers. There was some anti-aircraft fire to contend with but the glider landed safely, albeit in the wrong place. It was the 6th June, D-Day, and Laurie’s 22nd birthday. The following day,, the pilots were ordered to march to the beach for transport back to England. They were back at Blakehill Farm on the 8th.

On 17th September, Laurie piloted a Horsa with Sgt John Graham as part of Operation Market, the landing near Arnhem. They carried a jeep, trailer and six men of the Border Regiment. John Graham was killed on the 20th.

Outgunned and outnumbered by German forces, the remaining pilots, passengers and paratroopers formed a defensive perimeter around the village of Oosterbeek and held out for a further five days. Their relief in the form of British XXX Corps did not arrive. Laurie was one of those who escaped across the Neder Rhine.

He spent the remainder of the war training, in the knowledge that he may take part in further operations in Europe or the Far East, but in the end he did not leave England again. He was demobbed in 1946 just before his 24th birthday.

He returned to his civilian role as accountant and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1949. He retired in 1987. Following a period of ill-health, Laurie died in November last year.

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