Airspeed AS.51 Horsa Glider Colour Photographs

The Airspeed Horsa was a British glider used during the Second World War. Inspired by German airborne and glider operations during the opening phases of the war, British and American forces hurriedly established their own airborne formations and developed gliders to support them. The Horsa made its first flight on 12SEP41, ten months after the initial specification was issued. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
The design featured all-wooden construction. Production had minimal impact on other projects as the sub-assemblies were constructed in furniture manufacturing plants. The design carried a flight crew of two in a glazed cockpit. In an unusual change, a specification was issued to modify the design for use as a bomber.  This was known as the AS.52, and could carry up to four tons (3,600 kg) of bombs.  200 were ordered, but the bomber program was cancelled before any were produced. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
The Horsa could carry thirty troops or cargo up to a jeep and 6-pound anti-tank gun. To facilitate unloading there was a door aft of the cockpit on the port side. In addition the entire tail section could be detached using eight quick-release bolts, the control wires for the tail surfaces being cut with wire cutters.
The concept originally envisioned using the gliders to enhance the number of paratroopers carried by the towing aircraft – the paras would jump from the Horsas in flight and the glider would be towed back to base. This plan was soon shelved as the advantages of having the glider land at the objective became apparent.
The USAAF acquired 400 Horsas in a reverse Lend-Lease agreement, which were used during the Normandy landings. Compared to the 30 troopers carried by the Horsa, the American WACO glider could only carry 13.
Here a Horsa is being inspected by King George VI and Princess Elizabeth at Netheravon on 19MAY44. Note the aft fuselage has been detached for display. (Imperial War Museum)
Taken at a training unit at Brize Norton in June 1943, this glider displays black and yellow diagonal stripes on its underside. These were applied to indicate the aircraft was towing or being towed, an implied warning to other aircraft to be aware of the possibility of cables between or behind the aircraft. (Imperial War Museum)
With the end of the Second World War the glider forces were disbanded and the Horsas were either scrapped or sold as surplus. Enterprising civilians converted some into travel trailers or small cottages. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)