Unit History: Parachute Regiment

Parachute Regiment
The Parachute Regiment is the Airborne Infantry element of the British Army. It is considered an elite unit by virtue of its stringent selection process, rigorous training programme and by the requirement of its role to operate with minimal or no support behind enemy lines and against numerically superior forces. It forms the parachute trained infantry element of 16th Air Assault Brigade.
After the Second World War regular airborne forces were reduced to the 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group while in the Territorial Army there was the 16th Airborne Division (TA), which was reduced to the 44th Independent Parachute Brigade Group (TA) in 1956. In 1954, at the request of the Director of Operations in Malaya, an Independent Parachute Squadron was raised from volunteers from the Parachute Regiment to assist 22 SAS by providing a fourth sabre squadron for operations in Malaya against the Communist terrorists. Some 80 officers and men were selected to form The Independent Parachute Squadron and served in Malaya on operations with 22 SAS until disbanded in May 1957 on return to the UK.
In the Suez Crisis, Operation Musketeer needed the element of total surprise to succeed, and all 660 men had to be on the ground at El Gamil airfield and ready for action within four and a half minutes. At 04.15 hours on November 5, 1956, 3 Para jumped in and although opposition was heavy, casualties were few.
Operated in Borneo and Aden.
In 1964, 2 Para had been sent to Singapore for jungle warfare training, after Indonesia threatened to invade the Malaysian state of Borneo. The remainder of the unit followed in March 1965, and moved direct to the Indonesian border. A month later one of the biggest battles of the war took place, when an Indonesian battalion attacked B Company of 2 Para. More than 50 Indonesians were killed, and the Paras lost two men with seven injured. This short, but intense Far East deployment, ended in July, the Battalion having been awarded eight decorations including two Military Medals
Major-General Glyn Gilbert was instrumental, throughout this period, in ensuring the Regiment's survival, and in advancing the doctrine of airborne warfare. He also created the Red Devils parachute display team, and instituted the Platoon Sergeants’ Battle Course at Brecon Beacons, which was later extended to the entire British Army.

Added on 22/07/2010

In 1940, the Second World War was going very badly for Britain. May had seen the Germans employing parachute and glider troops
with devastating effect during their Blitzkrieg on Western Europe. Despite a lack of enthusiasm by the War Office to incorporate a similar
airborne force into the British Army, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill sent a note to the head of the military wing of the War
Cabinet Secretariat suggesting that "We ought to have corps of at least five thousand parachute troops.
The Army responded swiftly to Churchill's note and two days later Major John F. Rock of the Royal Engineers, was ordered to take charge
of the organization of the British Airborne Forces. He was given neither orders nor advice on how he was to achieve this task. That he did
is now a matter of record. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Rock was dispatched to Ringway, Manchester's civilian airport which
was renamed the Central Landing School and later retitled the Central Landing Establishment, where volunteers underwent rigorous and
dangerous training to initiate them into the art of leaping into action.
The first aggressive action took place in February 1941 when a small force of 38 officers and men successfully attacked the Tragino
aqueduct in Southern Italy. In early 1942 a raiding party from number two parachute battalion attacked the Radar station at Bruneval
gaining valuable technical equipment which was brought safely back to Britain. Action in North Africa against the Afrika Korps gained
the parachutists the respect of the 1st German Parachute division who gave them the title of The Red Devils, a title that has stayed
with them to this day.  At Normandy and Arnhem and across the Rhine the men of the Glider Pilot Regiment fought beside their Infantry
comrades, while glider borne support units, Artillery, transport and medical, provided invaluable assistance. The Special Air Service
performed feats of valour behind the German lines in the Western Desert and Italy.
Post War successors have maintained the Airborne traditions, standing between Jew and Arab during the Palestine
confrontation, and successfully quelling a fierce attempt by the Greek Communists to overthrow the government. They have fought
in the jungles of Borneo and Malaya, sweated in the Persian Gulf and choked in the summer heat of Cyprus. They spent more than
a decade facing terrorist bombs and bullets in Northern Ireland, and experienced the sub-zero temperatures of the South Atlantic
as they crossed the Falklands to spearhead the victory of 1982.
In recent times, soldiers of the now renamed 16 Air Assault Brigade have fought in Iraq and in Helmand, Afghanistan where they
have acquitted themselves with distinction.
The "Airborne Spirit" is as alive today as it was seventy years ago when the first volunteers jumped from the tail end of converted
Whitley bombers.
They live up to the Regimental Motto of "Utrinque Paratus".   Which, loosely translated means "Ready for Anything".
British Airborne Forces Association (Vic) Australia comprises a group of men who are banded together by a
common interest. That of sharing experiences in the Airborne setting. Unfortunately, age is now the enemy, and
it is a foe against which we have no hope of success. Sadly we loose around four old soldiers each year, and there is
no relief party in sight. To loose men who took part in the Bruneval Raid, fought against Rommel, dropped into France
on D Day, survived the hell that was Arnhem, missed their Christmas dinner with loved ones because they were
bailing out our Allies at the Battle of the Bulge or who crossed the Rhine is a bitter blow to bear. These men were
living histories and we miss their stories and their humour. There are fortunately still with us men who took part in the
actions of World War Two and in the troubles that followed. Long may they raise a glass or two.
Submitted by:
Mike Welton

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