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Join Here. Join To Bet. Invasion of Italy. The first Allied mission using large numbers of the aircraft, the operation was carried out from Tunisia by glider infantry of the British 1st Airlanding Brigade , commanded by Brigadier Philip Hicks , with a force of Waco Hadrians and eight Airspeed Horsas.
The objective was to establish a large invasion force on the ground near the town of Syracuse, secure the Ponte Grande Bridge and ultimately take control of the city itself with its strategically vital docks, as a prelude to the full-scale invasion of Sicily.
En route to Sicily, sixty-five gliders released too early by the American and British towing aircraft crashed into the sea, drowning approximately men.
Of the remainder, only eighty-seven men arrived at the Pont Grande Bridge, although they successfully captured the bridge and held it beyond the time they were to be relieved.
Finally, with their ammunition expended and only fifteen soldiers remaining unwounded, the Allied troops surrendered to Italian forces. The Italians, having gained control of the bridge, sought to destroy the structure, but were frustrated by troopers of the 1st Airlanding Brigade who had removed the previously attached explosive charges.
Other troops from the brigade, who had landed elsewhere in Sicily, aided further by destroying communications links and capturing gun batteries.
By December , with Allied forces advancing through Tunisia after landing there the month before in Operation Torch , the North African Campaign was coming to a close; with victory there imminent, discussions began among the Allies regarding the nature of their next objective.
Eisenhower ,  argued that the island of Sardinia was the best subsequent target of the Allied forces.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt settled at the Casablanca Conference on the island of Sicily ,  whose invasion and occupation could potentially provide the Allies with Mediterranean shipping routes and airfields nearer to mainland Italy and Germany.
Initially the British Eighth Army , under the command of General Sir Bernard Montgomery , were to land on the south-eastern corner of the island and advance north to the port of Syracuse.
Two days later the U. Patton , would land on the western corner of the island and move towards the port of Palermo.
In March it was decided that the U. Hopkinson , would be dropped by parachute and glider just prior to the amphibious landings ; they would land a few miles behind the beaches and neutralize their defenders, thereby aiding the landing of the Allied ground forces.
Taylor , further asserted that dropping behind the island's beaches and overcoming its defences was not a suitable mission for the airborne troops, as they were only lightly armed and vulnerable to the ' friendly fire ' of the planned Allied naval bombardment.
As there were insufficient transport aircraft for all three brigades to conduct their operations simultaneously, it was decided that the first operation would be Ladbroke , whose objective was the capture of the Ponte Grande Bridge.
The original plan for the airborne operations had called for all three to employ parachutists, but in May Montgomery altered the plan; after determining that airborne troops would be at a considerable distance from Allied ground forces, he believed that the force sent to capture Syracuse would be served best by gliders in order to provide them with the maximum possible amount of firepower.
Montgomery's orders raised several issues, the first with the transport aircraft of the Troop Carrier Wings assigned to the airborne operations.
When they had arrived in North Africa, it had been decided that the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing would operate with 1st Airborne Division and its counterpart, the 51st , with 82nd Airborne Division.
However, the decision to turn the Syracuse assault into a glider-based one was problematic; the 51st had practically no glider experience, whilst the 52nd had much more but was already training for a parachute-based mission.
To switch both was impractical and would have led to a number of problems, which left 1st Airborne Division, and thus 1st Airlanding Brigade, with an inexperienced Troop Carrier Wing.
Further problems were encountered with the gliders to be used in the operation, and the glider pilots themselves. Until a few months prior to the operation, there was a notable shortage of serviceable gliders in North Africa.
In late March a small number of Wacos arrived at Accra on the Gold Coast , but pilots sent to ferry them to North Africa found that they were in poor condition.
Due to neglect and the deleterious effects of tropical weather, the pilots were able to assemble only a small number of Wacos and fly them back on 22 April.
Few were rated as being 'operationally ready' and none had combat experience. Colonel George Chatterton, the commander of the Glider Pilot Regiment, had protested their participation as he believed they were entirely unfit for any operation.
The Staffords were tasked with securing the bridge and the area to the south, while the Borders were to capture Syracuse.
The Ponte Grande Bridge was immediately outside the area defended by the Italian Coastal Division , which would oppose the British seaborne landing.
There were also naval and air force battalions available,  while the 54 Infantry Division Napoli was in a position to send reinforcements if required.
On 9 July, a contingent of 2, British troops, along with seven jeeps , six anti-tank guns and ten mortars, boarded their gliders in Tunisia and took off at , bound for Sicily.
In the confusion surrounding these manoeuvres, some gliders were released too early and sixty-five of them crashed into the sea, drowning around men.
Only one Horsa with a platoon of infantry from the Staffords landed near the bridge. Its commander, Lieutenant Withers, divided his men into two groups, one of which swam across the river and took up position on the opposite bank.
Thereafter the bridge was captured following a simultaneous assault from both sides. The Italian defenders from the th Coastal Infantry Regiment abandoned their pillboxes on the north bank.
The British platoon then dismantled some demolition charges that had been fitted to the bridge and dug-in to wait for reinforcement or relief.
Three of the other Horsas carrying the coup-de-main party landed within 2 miles 3. Elsewhere, about men landed at Cape Murro di Porco and captured a radio station.
Based on a warning of imminent glider landings transmitted by the station's previous occupants, the local Italian commander ordered a counter-attack but his troops failed to receive his message.
The scattered nature of the landings now worked in the Allies' favour as they were able to cut all telephone wires in the immediate area.
Jones, landed beside an Italian coastal artillery battery; at daylight the staff officers and radio operators attacked and destroyed the battery's five guns and their ammunition dump.
Another group of paratroopers attacked an Italian patrol led by Major Paoli, commander of the th Artillery Group; Paoli was killed and his unit fell in disarray, and was thus unable to intervene in the later fight against British tanks near the bridge.
The first counterattack on the bridge was by two companies of Italian sailors, who were repulsed by the British.
As the Italians responded to the Allied landings, they gathered more troops and brought up artillery and mortars to bombard the Allied-controlled Pont Grande Bridge.
The Italians were positioned to attack the bridge from three sides. By there were only fifteen British troops defending the bridge that had not been killed or wounded four officers and eleven soldiers.
At , with their ammunition consumed, the British stopped fighting. Some men on the south side of the bridge escaped into the countryside, but the rest became prisoners of war.
After an enquiry into the problems with the airborne missions in Sicily, the British Army and Royal Air Force submitted recommendations in the aftermath of Operation Ladbroke.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.