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-on, be sure to raise a toast to these impressive individuals.