The prototype GAL 49 Hamilcar first flew in 1942. Although
designed by General Aircraft Ltd of Feltham, Middlesex the
gliders were actually built by various woodworking firms
in Britain since it was almost entirely of wood construction.
Tank Museum photo No. 3752/A/5
The Hamilcar was designed to handle an 8-ton payload, which
in practice, worked out at one Tetrarch Light Tank, two
Universal Carriers or a self-propelled Bofors gun. The load
was strapped down in the fuselage and the crew travelled
with it; the aircrew, two men of the Glider Pilot Regiment,
sat in tandem in a cockpit above the fuselage.
Tank Museum photo No. 3752/A/1
Towing aircraft could be the Stirling, Lancaster or Halifax
bombers but on D-Day the Handley-Page Halifax III was used.
Towing speed for the Hamilcar was 240 kmh and the maximum
diving speed 300 km/h. The glider could be lowered onto
its belly to load or unload and had skids beneath the fuselage
for landing without the undercarriage.
On D-Day the Hamilcars were towed by Halifaxes of 298 and
644 Squadrons, Royal Air Force lifting off from the Dorset
airfield of Tarrant Rushton. Designated Operation Mallard
it involved 30 Halifax-Hamilcar combinations taking off
at 2100 hour, bound for Normandy.