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Patterson glider

hi-flyer

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I've been reading Ron Freethy's book 'Cumbria at War, 1939-1945', which mentions the Short factory at Whitecross Bay on Windermere. George Patterson, a 'very accomplished inventor' used part of the factory. He designed and built the Patterson glider, which apparently was used to deliver secret agents into Europe, especially Norway. There is a photo, which shows a small (one man?) glider. I have not been able to find out any more about the glider or its exploits. Can anyone supply more information?
 

hi-flyer

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Thanks Hesham. I'm a bit dubious about the book's description as I had always thought agents were either dropped by parachute or landed by Lysander. Would we really have towed a glider hundreds of miles probably at night to somehow find a safe landing place, and then leave it to be found by the Germans, thus showing them exactly where the agent had landed? Using parachutes would surely be far more viable as pilot training would not be needed.
Hope you find something!
 

Schneiderman

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There is no mention of Patterson or his glider on the Gliding Hertitage Centre website or any of the downloadable historic documents there. Nothing in 'British Gliders and Sailplanes 1922 - 1970' nor any mention of the man in 'Short Aircraft since 1900'. No references to Patterson in Flight either. Looks very suspicious.
 

Grey Havoc

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On the other hand, at lot of information about SOE (not to mention SIS) operations and equipment is still hard to come by, at best. And a glider would be suitable for situations where use of a powered aircraft would be counterproductive, where they would be too easily detected by ground forces for example.
 

Schneiderman

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While that is true, at the time, it is odd that there is no reference to the man working with gliders prior to WWII and that no material has come to light in the many years since. It would have to be an especially secret operation for no information to have been released to date.
 

Schneiderman

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Ah-ha.......This is most likely a confused reference to George Pattinson, not Patterson. It was actually George's father, Capt Thomas Cooper Pattinson, who adapted a Slingsby Falcon 1 glider so that it could take off and land from water. It still exists in the Windermere Jetty Museum. George ran a boatyard there, was a collector of steam boats and established the museum.
The suggested SOE association may well be an internet myth - which I would agree is most likely to be the case. Also the idea that Short Bros were unable to design and build a suitable hull and needed the assistance of a WWI RNAS officer is hard to believe. This link includes a letter from Fred Slingsby.
 
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Grey Havoc

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What ever the Water Falcon was built for, I think we can safely conclude that the 'recreational use' was indeed a cover story.
 

Schneiderman

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I see no reason why that should be a cover story. A retired ex-RNAS officer with access to a boat yard chose to carry out simple modifications to an aging glider. Fairly straight forward
 

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Because for one thing, it was highly illegal at the time; the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply in particular came down harshly on such 'frivolous' diversion of effort and materials.
 

Schneiderman

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It certainly was, if you intended to build something substantial using critical materials. A chunks of marine ply added to an existing glider hardly counts, and I would be doubtful that they even knew about something so trivial. However if you truly believe that the SOE really issued a contract for a modified six year old glider to a twelve year old German design to be constructed by a private individual with no aircraft industry experience to infiltrate Norway, then there may be more to it. Personally I would hope that they were more professional than that :)
 

riggerrob

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Clearly only a “proof of concept,” but I can understand the logic driving this project.
Para-dropping SOE agents into mountainous terrain (e.g. occupied Norway) is an inherently hazardous methodical insertion with an inherently high risk of broken bones or drowning.
Nowadays, agents/recce/forward air controllers are inserted by helicopter or steerable (square) parachute.
 

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Certainly there is logic in the concept, but even as a proof-of-concept this is a hard story to swallow. Its about as crude and amateurish as it could possibly have been, especially when you had Fred Slingsby, Latimer-Needham and other professional glider designers readily available. Also water-borne gliders had been tried before, so the concept didn't need to be proven.
 

Grey Havoc

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With materials and skilled manpower in heavy demand it's not surprising that a wartime proof of concept should be 'quick and dirty'. Also, while there had been some work done on amphibious gliders pre-war, they had mostly been motor gliders or else intended solely to test design features for powered aircraft such as new wings (this was especially popular before and during WWI). WWII was when the idea of using such gliders for military (including cloak & dagger) applications began to take off. (Unfortunately deployment of such on the front line would be ultimately curtailed by things such as shortages of qualified pilots and overstretched production capacity. Though over-optimistic proponents of ship to shore rotorcraft [helicopters] in the USMC and elsewhere may have also played a part.)

Other holes in your theory include the fact that the designers you mention were all quite busy with various projects at the time, glider related and otherwise. Aviation grade plywood was at a premium and strictly reserved for military related usage only. Same with the Hardwood plywood used to build naval small craft such as MTBs and RAF rescue boats. Production facilities (even small boatyards) and skilled labour were also heavily regulated. And that's not even going into the problem of securing a glider tug and crew, along with the fuel needed for the test flights.

So anyone attempting to divert scarce resources for a 'recreational glider', even one ostensibly for the ATC, would have found themselves in some seriously hot water indeed.
 

Schneiderman

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There are many of these Boy's Own Comic / Dad's Army type stories flying around and only rarely is there even a grain of truth to them. This one stretches credulity but you are free to read whatever you wish into the scant factual information regarding this glider. Please post anything tangible that you may find to support the story.
 

Grey Havoc

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Could you please explain your reasoning about how a 'recreational glider' could be built in wartime then?
 

Schneiderman

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If you read the 1943 article by Wakefield you will see that the word 'recreational' does not actually appear, that is just an embelishment by the author of the website. It may be fun to interpret the arcticle as a cover story but why not just accept it as written; the director of the ATC deciding to experiment with water-borne gliders as an extension of training, using an obsolete glider, the services of a 53 year old ex-officer with access to a boat yard and the minimal materials required?
 

Grey Havoc

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That is possible, though are we assuming that the AAC were in the process (presumably ultimately abortive) of adopting an amphibious glider design that would require such training? Supporting commandos on coastal raids being one of the intended roles? D-Day beachhead reinforcement?
 
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Schneiderman

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The ATC were responsible for the very earliest stage of pilot training and had a fleet of Slingsby Cadets and Tutors that numbered a few hundred. The addition of a few other gliders that operated from water may have seemed logical as some of the future pilots would have ended up in Sunderlands, Catalinas or (God help them) Lerwicks. It looks as if Wakefield was less than impressed with the early results and abandoned the project.
I wonder whether there were ever any tentative plans for Hotspurs, Horsas etc. with floats? Probably not as it would just have increased the risk of what was already a fairly hazzardous process as coming to a stop too far from the coastline would not have been good.
 
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