D Troop, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron
It was announced in September 1941 that the Brigade was to become the 1st Airlanding Brigade Group as part of the 1st Airborne Division; and the Brigade was so designated on 10 October 1941. The conversion to Airborne status was voluntary. In the 1st Battalion The Border Regiment, anyone not wishing to join was allowed to transfer out but only one soldier took the option.
In November 1941, the unit was renamed 1st Air Landing Reconnaissance Squadron with Major T.B.H. Otway in command. The Squadron remained with the 1st Airlanding Brigade Group until April 1942. According to Fairley, Ottoway was "soon" succeeded by Major C.F.H. "Freddie" Gough.
The Squadron sailed for North Africa in April 1943. They were not to participate in the Sicily landings while the 1st Parachute and 1st Airlanding Brigades had separate missions on that invasion although some members of the Squadron tried to stow away and join the fight.
The Squadron finally has their chance at the enemy on 9th September 1943. 1st Airborne Division was landed by ship in Taranto, Italy. The squadron had some 6 pounders as part of the unit, which were lost when their transport was sunk in Taranto harbor. The squadron was placed under command of the 4th Brigade. The squadron, minus B Troop, was to reconnoiter from Taranto in the direction of Giola del Colle via Massafra and Mottola. They played an important role in capturing Massafra and Mottola with A Troop in the lead. On 16th September 1943 4th Parachute Brigade captured Giola del Colle and the Recce moved into large farm just outside town.
The Recce then lead the way into Bari unopposed. They then moved on to Foggia, via Barletta which the Squadron remembers mostly for the mosquitos. Foggia was captured by the Recce while the Germans were still trying to service some Ju 88 bombers on the airfield. The unit was then sent for a couple of weeks rest at Bari and before going back to Philippville, via Taranto.
In December 1943, the Squadron was recalled to England and based at Ruskington. B Troop was not reconstituted after severe losses near Locorotondo, Italy, back in September. In the beginning of 1944, the troop was Parachute trained to add to the flexibility of deployment. The jeeps and heavy equipment still needed to be transported by Glider. The Unit was renamed 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. (Fairley., p. 13-4)
The 6th Airborne Division was chosen for the Normandy Invasion. 1st Airborne Division was alerted for 16 operations, between June 11 and the middle of September, which were subsequently canceled -- including one where the pathfinders of the 21st Independent Parachute Company were already airborne. The squadron remained split throughout the period with the glider party at Tarrant Rushton in Dorset and the parachute party at Ruskington. In fact, the Seaborne element of the Division was ordered to the Continent on 12 August 1944. The 84 officers, 2180 Other Ranks (ORs) and 1100 vehicles, embarked on 14 August, were at sea on 15 August and were ready for operations by 17 August. All units were represented in the Seaborne Echelon.
Planning began for Operation Market Garden on 10 September 1944 soon after Lieutenant General Browning’s, Commander 1st Airborne Corps, meeting with Field Marshall Montgomery, Commander 21st Army Group. The 1st Airborne was assigned the Arnhem Bridge, which was approximately 64 miles behind enemy lines. Due to concerns of the RAF over flak near Arnhem Bridge and at Deelen Airfield combined with concerns about the terrain near the bridge, the drop zone were quite far from the bridge. Due to a shortage of transport aircraft, the Division would have to go in three lifts. Both the 1st Airlanding and 1st Parachute Brigade, as well as the Reconnaissance Squadron, would be included in the first lift. The Recce squadron had the very important role as a coup de main force using their mobility to snatch the bridge before being relieved by units of the 1st Parachute Brigade following on foot.
The glider party would take off from Tarrant Rushton in 22 gliders towed by Halifaxs of 38 Group. and was to land on Landing Zone (LZ) ‘Z’ at 1320 on 17 September 1944. Following would be the Parachute elements taking off from Barkston Heath in 8 C-47s of the US 61st Troop Carrier Group, 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, on to Drop Zone (DZ) ‘X’ at 1350. Both sites had been marked by the pathfinders of the 21st Independent Parachute Company, which had arrived at 1240. Major Gough would jump with the Parachute party. While the second in command, Captain David Allsop, would be in charge of the Glider party. The Squadron, minus A Troop in Divisional Reserve was placed under 1st Parachute Brigade. Additionally, elements of 9th Field Company Royal Engineers (RE) were attached to the Squadron to help deal with any demolitions the Jerries may have had at the Bridge. The Recce accounted for 22 of the 358 gliders in the first lift. Upon completion of its task with 1st Para Brigade, the Recce would revert to Division (and the RE to Commander Royal Engineers (CRE)) and were assigned recce tasks in the area, in order:
Maj. Gough had upgraded the armament of the Squadron by adding a single Vickers G.O. ('K') machine gun on the Squadron jeeps. While firing the same cartridge as the BREN or the Vickers Medium Machine Gun (.303), the 'K' gun had a much higher rate of fire (950 rounds per minute) and was air cooled so it was much easier to use dismounted. Maj. Gough had hoped to equip each jeep with, at least, a twin mount; but he was turned down due to concerns over transporting sufficient ammunition.
The route chosen for the Recce was known as LEOPARD and was the northern most route along the Amsterdamsweg. The 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment (1 PARA) was to follow the same route. Maj. Gough would have preferred to use one troop scouting ahead along each of the 3 routes to the bridge. LION was the southernmost route along Benedendorpsweg was given to the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA). The final route, TIGER, was along the Utrechtsweg and was given to 3 PARA.