Their achievements may have been overshadowed by Spitfires or Lancaster bombers but gliders played a crucial role in the Second World War, as youngsters from a Birmingham school will hear from a veteran today.
The Birmingham Post's Emma Pinch reports...
See a glider in the sky and what do you think of?
Sunny Sundays, balmy air, families having a picnic in the countryside.
For Denzil Cooper it was all a bit different.
The glider he flew was as big as a 747, packed with troops and artillery and designed to slide softly behind enemy lines. The Horsa gliders, made mainly from wood and plastic, were towed by twin-engine aircraft and released to descend steeply and quickly to their target.
In 1944 they were employed to capture Arnhem bridge. It was one of the most spectacular Allied operations of the war, with waves of troops sweeping in on parachutes and gliders.
Five minutes or so from their designated landing mark, the tow rope was detached and they drifted 2,000 feet downwards.
From the hard physical graft of battling the turbulence and warm air currents, the pilot was mentally switching from airman to soldier, knowing he would be engaged in combat on the ground.
As Denzil said: ?The flying was a means to an end.?
After landing, Denzil?s job was to stay at the landing point, 25 miles from Arnhem bridge, until the next wave arrived, carrying more armoured jeeps, guns and troops. When they didn?t turn up, commanding officers ordered the platoon to act as bodyguards to the Parachute Regiment on its way to Arnhem.
The soldiers fought their way though the outskirts of the town, under constant fire from two SS Panzer divisions and a company of SS troops.
?They had been clever,? said Denzil. ?God knows how much ammo I fired. It was a question of trying to find a way through the opposition. We got to a particular point and there was so much machine gun fire it just stopped us stone dead. We were between a cliff and the river itself.?
Suddenly told they were no longer needed, they were ordered to turn back to the Hartenstein Hotel, which had been commandeered as the Allied headquarters, and protect it from the Germans.
As the mortar bombing escalated, Denzil and a pal were forced to retreat into a ?slit trench? they had dug next to the hotel tennis court.
?We?d picked up a parachute that the paras had left behind because my pal?s wife-to-be wanted a wedding dress made of one. Parachute silk was a valuable commodity in those days,? recalled Denzil (pictured).
?One thing I cannot stand is having sand down the bottom of my neck so we lined the trench with parachute silk and built a firing position.
?We covered ourselves with a big pine table we had found in one of the pavilions, where they changed for tennis, and we covered it with branches off the trees. It was completely open ground between us and the Germans.?
The Germans would fire between 10-12am and 2-4pm like clockwork. In the lull, the two men would scramble out and hunt snipers in Arnhem and risk death ferrying ammunition to other soldiers.
At 8pm on a dark and rainy September 25, he was told to lead troops out across occupied territory to where they were needed. It wasn?t just enemy fire but British guns, aimed at Germans approaching the bridge, that they faced.
Eventually, under heavy fire that saw many killed, Denzil took a piece of shrapnel to his thigh and was stretchered to hospital. On September 28 he was flown home.
Now 83, he has never flown a glider since the war, but said he was looking forward to teaching a new generation about the aircraft?s golden age.
Today, Denzil will meet youngsters from Saltley School, his former school in Birmingham, at RAF Shawbury in North Shropshire, where Horsas were built and tested.
Denzil may have few decorations to testify to the challenges he faced but his memories and pride are testimony to his and his colleagues? achievements.
?We could fly, drive tanks, use any guns and all the German ones as well as British. Hitler called us the total soldier. We were learning a new kind of warfare and that appealed to me.?