DropZone Brewery is extremely proud to have the backing of a former Assistant Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Jonathan Shaw CB CBE

For a beer brand that has been launched for vets, by vets, recognition from our peers is very important to us and when it comes to Jonathan and his service for Queen and Country, few have applied themselves with more passion and class.

Shaw joined the Parachute Regiment in 1981. During his 32 year career, he served as Director Special Forces and commanded a division in Iraq in 2007. He was Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment until his retirement in 2012.

Talking about DropZone and what beer means to the vet community, he said: ‘There’s something about Service life that creates a thirst. Hot and sweaty deserts, arid air bases, locked below decks on a DD/FF – too much time on your hands and no beer. It’s a cold beer that marks the transition to relaxation and normality.

‘It’s the deprivations and hardships of Service life that create the lasting bonds that few if any other walk of life can match. And it’s over a beer that these bonds are cemented once the hardship is over – this is why beer has this exalted status for veterans.

‘DropZone will help vets remember the beers of the past and the stories attached to them while encouraging us all to look to the future.

‘Every beer tells a story, and DropZone will create a few of its own.’

Here at DropZone, we’re also proud to commit 20% of all profits to the military community to enrich the lives of current and former service people. To find out more, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

The Special Air Service has been held in high regard ever since its inception in 1941, but that could easily have not been the case after its very first mission – called Operation Squatter – attacking enemy airfields in Libya during the Second World War ended in disaster. 

The unit was the brainchild of Lieutenant David Stirling, who was fighting against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the Scots Guards. Lt Sterling convinced his superiors that small teams of specially trained soldiers could perform clandestine drops behind enemy lines in order to destroy aircraft and supplies belonging to the Axis alliance of Germany, Italy and Japan. 

The plan for Operation Squatter was for Lt Stirling to take more than 50 men and land in the North African desert about 50 miles away from the coast. Armed with explosives, they would then proceed to coastal airfields and blow up as many planes as they could find. 

While it was a simple enough plan, an adverse weather forecast had been discounted and they encountered one of the worst storms the region had seen for 30 years. None of the men parachuted during the operation reached their objectives, with severe gales causing them to be dispersed. One of the Bombay transport planes was also shot down, with all 15 soldiers and crew members being killed. 

As a result, less than a third of the men reached the agreed rendezvous point, with some of theliterally being scraped to death along the desert floor because they couldn’t unclip their parachutes. The mission’s official report stated the remaining SAS soldiers were ‘widely dispersed and demolition material soaked. 

Zero enemy aircraft were destroyed as a result. Of the 65 men who took part in Operation Squatter, only 22 were able to make it back after trekking for more than 36 hours through the desert to their rendezvous point. 

Despite a disastrous start to the SAS, Lt Sterling knew that failure would likely mean the end of the unit, so he went on to send his remaining troops back overland using Jeeps in December the same year. This raid was much more successful on this occasion, with the men destroying more than 60 planes. 

Despite being disbanded at the end of the war, the SAS was reformed as a territorial unit in 1947 before being formally added to the Army list in 1952.  

Whilst the first stories of the Special Air Service are quite harrowing, they are also an important reminder of the amazing people that make up these teams. With extreme mental strength and courage in abundance, they are able to take on some of the toughest missions known to man, while having the ability to remain completely undistracted from the task in hand, regardless of what is thrown in their way. 

They are a credit to the country and we cheers to them here at DropZone. 

As a brand created for airborne soldiers, by airborne soldiers, we wanted to trace our roots and look back to how the Parachute Regiment was formed… 

The Parachute Regiment was conceived in the Second World War, during which Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for the creation of a British equivalent to Germany’s paratroopers having been impressed by their performance in the first two years of the war. 

No 2 Commando were retrained as parachutists by the end of 1941. The first volunteers were subjected to a training regime designed to invoke a spirit of self-discipline and self-reliance, with emphasis on physical fitness, fieldcraft and skill at arms. 

12-day parachute training courses were carried out at RAF Ringway, with recruits initially having to jump from a converted barrage balloon before completing five parachute jumps from an aircraft. This training was risky business, with three men losing their lives in the first 2,000 jumps. Soldiers who were able to complete their jumps, though, were presented with their maroon beret and parachute wings and then posted to a parachute battalion. Those that were unsuccessful were returned to their previous unit.  

The Parachute Regiment’s first operation took place in February 1942 with Operation Biting. The objective of the mission was to capture a Würzburg radar in Bruneval on the northern coast of France. Major John Frost led ‘C’ Company of the 2nd Parachute Battalion in the raid, the success of which prompted the War Office to expand the airborne force, creating the Airborne Forces Depot and Battle School, based in Derbyshire, by April of the same year. 

As a result, the regiment expanded to consist of 17 battalions. These formed part of the 1st Airborne Division, the 6th Airborne Division and the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade Group in Europe, while a further three battalions served in India and Burma with the British Indian Army. 

Following the war, 6th Airborne Division and 1st Parachute Brigade carried out counter-insurgency and internal security operations in Palestine following Britain’s withdrawal from the region. Several parachute units were disbanded in the following two years, leaving only three battalions come June 1948, serving as part of the 2nd Parachute Brigade. 

That’s just a short insight into life in the Parachute Regiment in the 1940’s and what it took to be part of such a highly skilled group, which showed so much courage day in day out to serve and protect. We really do owe so much to them and those who followed so when you first crack open a can of red-onbe sure to raise a toast to these impressive individuals. 

Here’s the story of an iconic moment in British Parachute Regiment History: Operation Biting 

The first-ever raid took place across the 27th and 28th February 1942, on a German coastal radar installation in northern France during the Second World War. 

Aerial reconnaissance carried out by RAF the previous year had discovered multiples of these installations, but the British did not know the nature of the equipment they possessed or what they were for. As such, scientists wanted components from an installation near Bruneval, a coastal village near Le Havre, to be seized for examination. 

The Germans had erected extensive coastal defences to protect the installation from attack by sea. Intelligence gathered by the French resistance determined that a frontal commando assault on the beach below the cliff, where the ‘Würzburg’ early warning radar was situated, would result in heavy casualties and give the defending Germans sufficient time to destroy the technology. 

It was therefore decided that an airborne assault followed by a seaborne evacuation would be the best course of action, allowing them to take the garrison by surprise, ensure that the technology remained intact and minimalise the number of potential casualties. 

‘C’ Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade was chosen for the raid, which was known as Operation Biting. Under the command of Major John Frost, 120 men predominantly from Scottish regiments such as the Black Watch, Cameron Highlanders, King’s Own Scottish Borderers and the Seaforths, were accompanied by RAF radar operator, Flight Sergeant CWH Cox, to identify the components of interest. A former cinema projectionist, Flight Sergeant Cox had never actually been on a ship or aircraft before, making the feat all the more remarkable. 

Operation Biting was treated with utmost secrecy from the outset, given there would likely be disastrous consequences if the Germans were to become aware of the British interest in the Bruneval site. As a result, even the Parachute Unit was unaware throughout much of their training, believing the War Cabinet wanted them to showcase their capability to raid a headquarters building behind enemy lines. 

The plan for the operation involved the paratroopers dropping in three units, the first of which was to capture the beach below under the leadership of Lieutenant John Ross and Lieutenant Euen Charteris. The second, which was split into three sections under Frost’s command, was tasked with capturing a nearby villa which housed the Würzburg installation, while the other unitled by Lieutenant John Timothy, was to act as a rear-guard. 

Despite coming under heavy fire from anti-aircraft artillery, the Whitley bombers were able to travel unscathed and drop the paratroopers from a height of 600ft. Lieutenant Charteris’ unit was dropped 2.5km away from their planned position but they were able to quickly cross the icy landscape and reach their intended drop zone. 

Operation Biting was a major success, with the Paras successfully retrieving the radar components and returning home having suffered only two fatalities. This successful raid against German-occupied territory did much to boost the morale of the nation and the story of the mission was prominently featured in the media for a number of weeks. 

The main achievement, though, was the knowledge the British scientists were able to extract from the components. They discovered that the radar’s modular design allowed for much simpler maintenance in comparison to British equivalents. They also realised that their conventional means of jamming radar were ineffective against the Würzburg, meaning they would need to deploy a recently-developed countermeasure, code-named Window. 

The implementation of Window was a great success, demonstrated in a raid against Hamburg by RAF Bomber Command in which German radars were blinded, leaving the operators confused and unable to react. Operation Biting was therefore a pivotal moment in the war, enabling the use of radar technologies which could have led to a very different outcome in the Battle of Britain had they not been developed. 

During our day to day lives, it’s often easy to forget the sacrifices made for our livelihoods and this is a great reminder of the risks so many people took to serve Queen and Country. I mean, few things say hero more than Flight Sergeant Cox, a man who had never even been on a ship or aircraft before, playing a pivotal part in the first-ever raid on the Germans.