Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A George Medal during the invasion of Sicily

This article is about Private Richard ('Dick') Haley, Service No 3598957 of Frizington, Cumberland, who was awarded the George Medal during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. At that time Private Haley was serving with the 1st Battalion The Border Regiment (1st Airborne Division) who were part of a glider-borne force detailed to land in Sicily with the objective of taking the Ponte Grande Bridge near Salerno.

As events turned out, most of the gliders transporting the 1st Border airborne troops and material failed to reach Sicily, due largely to the tow rope being released far too early by largely inexperienced American pilots from C-47s towing the gliders. Many of the gliders went into the sea, with significant loss of life. Thanks to the selfless gallantry of Private Dick Haley, whose glider was one of those that landed in the sea, a number of his fellow glider crew were able to be rescued.

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Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(1) Summary of the action for which the George Medal was awarded

During the Allied invasion of Sicily (9 / 10 July 1943) Private Richard (‘Dick’) Haley, aged 21, of Frizington, Cumberland was a passenger in Glider No 75 piloted by Sergeant Leadbetter and Flight Officer Dees, U.S.A.F. The other personnel onboard the glider included Captain Thomas (‘Tom’) Armstrong, O.C. of B Company, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment and Company H.Q. personnel.

On the night of 9 July 1943, approaching the coast of Sicily, the pilot towing the glider cast off the tow rope too early and the glider crashed into the sea. The occupants got out of the glider but several men were soon in difficulty. Private Dick Haley dragged some of the men on to the glider wings during the night.

Subsequently, the occupants of the glider were picked up by a supply ship returning to North Africa and they disembarked at Algiers. For his selfless heroism in saving the lives of his fellow crew Private Dick Haley was awarded the George Medal.


(2) The George Medal citation appearing in ‘The London Gazette’, 16 November 1943

3598957, Private Richard Haley

“During the airborne invasion of Sicily, the glider in which Haley was an occupant came down in the sea. Between 8.00 pm on July 9th and 5.30 am on July 10th, the occupants of the glider were picked up by the Landing Craft.

On no fewer than nine occasions Private Haley swam from the glider to the Landing Craft. The glider was swept by heavy seas, and some of the crew, suffering from exposure, were unable to cling to the glider, Private Haley secured them to the fuselage. At least four members of the glider crew owe their lives to the gallantry and entire disregard for his safety shown by Private Haley.”

[NB - If any relatives or friends of Private Haley have any photographs or additional information about him it would be interesting to hear from them]

Acknowledgements:

The Border Regiment & KORBR Museum, Queen Mary's Tower, The Castle, Carlisle, Cumbria

Wednesday, 14 October, 2009  

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