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Operation Varsity

Posted: Sun Jun 21, 2020 6:03 pm
by Drew Barron
My father was a gunner in a Sterling aircraft during Operation Varsity 23/24 March 1945. It was the only time he flew in a Sterling but his log book is a bit confusing so I hope I am in the right forum. According to his log book, at the time, he was posted at No. 1 ORTU based somewhere in the UK. I cannot even find that but I have been told he may have been "seconded out" to another squadron for this one operation. He spent his first tour of duty in a Halifax "Special Duties" squadron so it's natural that he would be used for Varsity.
His log book states that the pilot was F/Lt McLean and the a/c was either AJ325 or RJ325. The writing is a bit unclear.
If there is anyone who can help me track down more information about this plane it would help me a lot.

Drew Barron

Re: Operation Varsity

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:32 pm
by Bruno
Hello Drew,

F/Lt McLean was surely from ORTU or 46 Group (which used ORTU aicraft during Operation Varsity) because I didn't find any F/Lt McLean in 38 group squadrons Operational Record Books during Operation Varsity.
Unfortunatley I don't have all the pages of the Operational Record Book of ORTU.
Perhaps could you search at the Nationa Archives:
Here is a link to the ORB: ... AIR+29/587

Can you publish a scan of the page to see the serial of the aircraft. It could help to see which Stirling it was.
I thank you in advance.


Re: Operation Varsity

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 7:13 am
by Drew Barron
Hi Bruno and thank you for your response. I have tried to check the ORB's for the ORTU but AIR 29 records have not been digitised so I will have to wait for Kew to open up again. I have also checked all the 38 Grp. ORB's for March 1945 that flew Stirlings and Halifaxes for December of 1944 but no joy there either.
26. Log Book A.C. Barron No.1 ORTU.jpg
26. Log Book A.C. Barron No.1 ORTU.jpg (66.26 KiB) Viewed 5820 times

Re: Operation Varsity

Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 10:41 am
by Sabre
Hi Drew / Bruno

Quick look in Air Britain Flying Training and Support Units since 1912 indicates that the ORTU was a refresher unit for glider pilots. In March 1945 it was at RAF Matching in Essex, some on line information on the airfield. The ORTU supplied 20 Stirling/Horsa units to Op Varsity.

Looking at Bruce Robertson’s British Military Aircraft Serials 1969 edition the aircraft serial number AJ325 is listed as a Lockheed Ventura II. However, RJ325 is in a Blackout block for 100 Horsa gliders built by Harris Lebus. The Horsa serials are RJ245 to RJ287, RJ290 to RJ316 and RJ330 to RJ 359.

Hopefully this will assist and not be a distraction.


Re: Operation Varsity

Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:58 pm
by Drew Barron
Hi Cliff, Thank you for the information. Maybe I can find out a bit more about F/Lt McLean in order to get the Stirling serial no. Strange though. My father was pretty accurate about the a/c details in his log book and this seems out of character with his normal record.
Anyway, never a distraction and thank you very much for this valuable info.
Cheers, Drew

Re: Operation Varsity

Posted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:11 am
by Bruno

Could this be RJ323?
I don't know if it can help but Flying Officer Samuel McLean, 180097, RAF VR, was one of the several RAF pilots who volunteered to pilot gliders during Operation Varsity.
Samuel McLean was one of the 61 RAF glider pilots who lost their life while piloting gliders during Operation Varsity.
38 Glider Pilot Regiment personnel also lost their lives during the operation.
Samuel McLean was in E Squadron of Glider Pilot Regiment during Operation Varsity.
I didn't find if Samuel McLean was the pilot of RJ323 and if your father was onboard when it crashed.
Links to Samuel McLean: ... n,-samuel/ ... uel-mclean

Re: Operation Varsity

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:34 pm
by Drew Barron
Hi Bruno, Thank you for your suggestion but after a bit more research, I think you have the wrong McLean. I have found out that the ORTU my father was based at took off for "varsity" as part of "G" Sqn. It is mentioned that the ORTU provided 20 a/c for glider towing. I am surprised that he wrote the glider serial number and not the Stirling as the rest of his records are pretty accurate. He also never mentioned crashing in Germany to our family although he didn't discuss the war very often. I also have his service record and there is no mention of any incident like that.
Thanks again Bruno for your input but the Stirling is still a mystery.