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The Parachute Regiment is the Airborne Infantry element of the British Army. It is 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 infantry element of 16 Air Assault Brigademarker.

Organisation

The regiment is formed of three regular and one reserve [TA] battalions. One battalion, the 1st Battalion, is permanently attached to Director Special Forces in the Special Forces Support Groupmarker:

The 3rd Battalion includes the Guards Parachute Platoon, made up of men from the five Foot Guards regiments.

All Parachute Regiment recruit training and the Pre-Parachute Selection Course, is undertaken at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick.

Formation

The Parachute Regiment has its origins in the force set up by the British Army at the request of Winston Churchill. The UK was inspired in the creation of airborne forces (including the Parachute Regiment, Air Landing Regiments, and the Glider Pilot Regiment) by the example of the German Luftwaffe's Fallschirmjäger, which had a major role in the invasions of Norwaymarker, and the Low Countries, and a pivotal, if Pyrrhic, one in the invasion of Cretemarker.

The UK's first airborne assault took place on 10 February 1941, when, what was then known as II Special Air Service (some 40 men of 500 trained in parachuting), introduced themselves to the enemy by jumping into Italy and blowing up an aqueduct in a daring raid named Operation Colossus.

After the Battle of Crete, it was agreed that the UK would need far more paratroopers for similar operations. No 2 Commando were tasked with specialising in airborne assault and became the nucleus of the Parachute Regiment.

History

World War II

Impressed by the German Fallschirmjäger in the early years of the war, On 22 June 1940, Winston Churchill called for the formation of a similar elite Corps of troops for the British Army during World War II. The Parachute Regiment was created and by the end of the war would form 17 battalions. The Parachute Regiment would form the core for the 1st Airborne Division and 6th airborne divisions and the independent British 2nd Parachute Brigade. They also supplied battalions for the 50th and 77th Indian Parachute Brigades.

Operation Biting - France

A Würzburg radarmarker on the coast of France was attacked by British Paratroopers in Operation Bitingmarker on 27 February 1942. The electronics of the system were brought back to Britain for examination so that counter measures could be devised.

Operation Husky - Sicily

As part of the Operation Husky four airborne operations were carried out, landing during the night of the 9/10 July 1943; two were British and two American. The strong winds blew the dropping aircraft off course and scattered them widely. British glider-landed troops fared badly; only 12 out of 144 gliders landing on target, many landing in the sea. Nevertheless the scattered airborne troops maximised their opportunities, attacking patrols and creating confusion wherever possible.

It was during operations in North Africa that the maroon beret was first seen by German troops. Within months they had christened them Rote Teufel - Red Devils. However, this nickname was not a reference to the colour of their headgear but in fact due to the red mud that the soldiers were covered in after heavy rain.

Operation Slapstick - Southern Italy

During the Allied invasion of Italy the British 1st Airborne Division landed by sea near the port of Tarantomarker in the 'heel' of Italy (Operation Slapstick). Their task was to capture the port and several nearby airfields and link with the British Eighth Army before pressing north to join the US Fifth Army near Foggiamarker.

Operation Overlord - Normandy

There were many separate airborne operations during Operation Overlord on D-Day (June 6, 1944) but broadly the task of the airborne forces was to secure the flanks of the landing beaches in Normandy. The British secured the Eastern flank in Operation Tonga. There were other operations designed to take the specific hardened targets notably the guns of the Merville gun batterymarker. Buried under 12ft-thick concrete, the four 105 mm guns, just miles from the beaches of Swordmarker, Junomarker and Goldmarker, had the capability to engage warships out at sea and sink landing craft heading for the beaches. The task of putting them out of action fell to the 9th Bn Parachute Regiment which they succeeded in doing for 36 hours by killing all but a handful of the gunners.

Operation Dragoon - Southern France

On 15 August 1944, parachute units of the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade, which included the 4th, 5th and 6th Para battalions and 1st Independent Pathfinder Platoon, dropped into Southern France between Frejus and Cannesmarker as part of Operation Dragoon. Their objective was to capture the area, destroy all enemy positions and hold the ground until the US Seventh Army came ashore. Once they had captured their initial targets, they were reinforced by three thousand soldiers and critical equipment carried in over three hundred gliders in an operation code named Dove. The drop was almost unopposed and within days the British parachute group was withdrawn by sea to Italy in readiness for future operations.

Operation Market-Garden - the Netherlands

Perhaps the most famous airborne operation of history is Operation Market Garden of September 1944, in which 35,000 troops of the First Allied Airborne Army were dropped 100 miles behind the German front lines in an attempt to create a path across the Netherlands including the bridge over the Rhinemarker at Arnhemmarker. Three complete airborne divisions, the 1st Airborne Division , and the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division , and the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade from the Army were used. The units were dropped at various points along Highway 69 in order to create a "carpet" over which the XXX Corps could rapidly advance. German opposition was some three times that expected, including two under-strength but very experienced panzer divisions. Although the operation had partial success in the end the British 1st Airborne division was all but destroyed in the Battle of Arnhem and the final bridgemarker remained in German hands.

An interesting story arises from this episode - upon finally surrendering in the ruins of Arnhem, with no ammunition and virtually starved, a German officer reputedly said to a British officer.. 'I fought at Stalingrad on the eastern front but I have never seen troops as good as you at city fighting - where did you learn this?', to which the officer replied 'well it was our first time - but we'll try to do better next time!'

Operation Varsity - Rhineland, Germany

Operation Varsitymarker, the crossing of the Rhine rivermarker, was the largest single airborne operation conducted in the history of airborne warfare. During the Rhine Crossing, a total of six parachute battalions, including the Canadians, of the British 6th Airborne Division, supported by glider troops from the Air Landing Brigade, dropped on March 24, 1945, as a complete force, avoiding the mistakes of Arnhem.

Together with the US 17th Airborne Division, the aim of the operation was to secure and deepen the bridgehead cast of the Rhine and then advance across country to the Baltic coast, a journey of 350 miles. Their initial objectives were the high ground overlooking the crossing, point at Diersfordter Wald and the road and rail bridges over the River Isselmarker at Hamminkelnmarker.

1946 – 1966

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 in 1956.In 1954, at the request of the Director of Operations in Malayamarker, an Independent Parachute Squadron was raised from volunteers from the Parachute Regiment to assist 22 SASmarker 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 5 November 1956, 3 Para jumped in and although opposition was heavy, casualties were few.

In 1964, 2 Para had been sent to Singapore for jungle warfare training, after Indonesia threatened to invade the Malaysian state of Borneomarker in what became known as the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation. The remainder of the unit followed in March 1965, and moved direct to the Indonesian border to conduct patrols. A month later one of the biggest battles of the war took place, when an Indonesian battalion attacked B Company of 2 Para at their camp on Plaman Mapu.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 a DCM and two Military Medals.

Major-General Glyn Gilbert was instrumental, throughout this period, in ensuring the Regiments 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, which was later extended to the entire British Army.

Operation Banner - Northern Ireland

Throughout "The Troubles" in Northern Irelandmarker, the regiment's battalions undertook many tours of duty. In 1972, while assisting the Royal Ulster Constabulary in preventing a civil rights march from taking place in Derrymarker, twenty-eight civilians were shot, fourteen fatally. This event became known as Bloody Sunday. Allegations of IRA gunfire towards the Paras are strongly disputed; none of the dead or injured were found to have firearms. Gerard Donaghy, a local teenager who was shot dead, was photographed at an army post with four nail bombs in his pockets. Christopher Clarke QC, counsel to the inquiry, said, "It was difficult to believe that they all failed to notice Mr Donaghy had the nail bombs. But it was also difficult to believe that the nail bombs were planted by the police or the army." During their tours of duty between 1971 and 1991, the Parachute Regiment lost forty men killed in The Troubles. The first of these, Sergeant Michael Willetts, was awarded the George Cross for saving a dozen lives at the cost of his own during a bombing.

On 27 August 1979 sixteen members of the Parachute Regiment and two members of the Queen's Own Highlanders were killed at Warrenpointmarker in Northern Irelandmarker by two roadside bombsmarker planted by the Provisional IRA.

Operation Corporate - The Falklands

Argentine PoWs guarded by 2 Para soldiers
During the Falklands War in 1982, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were used to bring 3 Commando Brigademarker up to war-strength. The regiment played a prominent part in the conflict, two of its soldiers being awarded the Victoria Cross. The two recipients were Lieutenant-Colonel 'H'. Jones and Sergeant Ian McKay.

During this time the Parachute Regiment was part of the 5th Airborne Brigade. In the 1990s due to defence cuts after the end of the Cold War (Options for Change), the 15th (Scottish Volunteer) Battalion was reduced to a company in 1993 becoming part of the 4th Battalion.

Served in the former Yugoslavia in 1993.

1996 – 2002

The 1st Battalion, augmented by C Company of 3rd Battalion, took part in the Kosovo War in 1999 (Operation Joint Guardian) and tasks given to the Battle group during the conflict included the heliborne assault to secure the Kačanikmarker pass and its strategic assets. This was the only road between the Macedonianmarker border and Pristinamarker and its use was key to the following armoured units.

In 1999 the 10th (Volunteer) Battalion was reduced to a Company leaving only a single Reserve battalion of the Parachute Regiment. This Battalion, 4th Battalion, had its Battalion HQ in Pudseymarker with sub-units located throughout the UK: 10 (London) Company in White Citymarker and Croydonmarker; 12 (Yorkshire) Company in Pudseymarker and Hebburnmarker and 15 (Scottish) Company of Glasgowmarker and Edinburghmarker.

After the civil war in Sierra Leonemarker deteriorated further, the 1st Battalion landed at the country's capital, Freetownmarker, on 7 May 2000 to evacuate foreign nationals. The battalion was the lead element of a large naval task group, centred around HMS Ocean, that was heading for Sierra Leone as part of Operation Palliser. After the evacuation was completed, they were tasked with retaining control of Freetown airport to ensure that UN supplies could be brought into the country, while also patrolling in the capital city. The rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, had been captured by government forces on 17 May. Operation Palliser ended on 15 June.

After 11 soldiers of the 1st Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) and a Sierra Leone soldier were taken hostage by a rebel faction known as the West Side Boys ( West Side Boys was the name favoured by western media, although in actuality, West Side Niggaz was the correct name) on 25 August, "A" Company of the 1st Battalion was deployed to Dakarmarker, Senegalmarker on 5 September, then onto Freetown. Five RIR soldiers had been released on 30 August, but after the rebels carried out mock executions, A Company, the Special Boat Service, and the Special Air Servicemarker, supported by two Army Air Corps helicopters, launched a rescue attempt (Operation Barrasmarker) on 10 September. They successfully released the soldiers and captured many rebels, including their leader, Foday Kallay. They also recovered the two Land Rovers that the soldiers of the RIR were ambushed in while patrolling.

In August 2001 the 2nd Battalion took part in NATOmarker's intervention in the Republic of Macedoniamarker to disarm the rebel National Liberation Army (Operation Essential Harvest).

Iraq

The 1st and 3rd Battalions together with the Pathfinder Platoon took part in Operation Telic, the UK's contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq that began on 20 March. The two battalions were part of 16 Air Assault Brigademarker. In addition to this, 120 soldiers of the Territorial Army 4th Battalion were used to augment the regulars.

The regiment was actively involved in operations leading up to the capture of Iraq's second largest city, Basramarker. After 7 Armoured Brigade pushed into the city on 6 April, the 3rd Battalion cleared the 'old quarter' that was inaccessible to vehicles.Operation Telic.

The war officially ended on 1 May, but the Battalion remained in Iraq, operating in the British area in the south of the country. The Parachute Regiment was based in Maysan Provincemarker, mostly quiet though they did have sporadic encounters with Iraqi guerrillas. A patrol of six Royal Military Policemen all from 156 Provost Company RMP attached to the 1st Battalion were surrounded and killed on 24 June, 2003 by Iraqi gunmen in Majar Al Kabir. A patrol from the 1st Battalion were also in Majar Al Kabir when it was ambushed by Iraqi guerrillas, coming under heavy attack. Several members of the subsequent QRF were wounded as their Chinook helicopter came under heavy ground fire as it attempted to land.

Sergeant Gordon Robertson was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross – the second highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy after the Victoria Cross – as part of the Honours List in October. This was the first CGC to be awarded to the Parachute Regiment.

The 1st and 3rd Battalion's left Iraq along with the rest of 16 Air Assault Brigade in September.

Roulement tours to Iraq continued for all Battalions of the Regiment as part of Operation Telic; 2nd Battalion deployed in November 2003 on a 6-month tour-of-duty as part of 20 Armoured Brigade, and once again in November 2005 as part of 7 Armoured Brigade, during which Sgt James Newell was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. This was the first non-officer to receive the award in the 2nd Battalion. Meanwhile the 3rd Battalion sent two Companies to support 12 Mechanised Brigade on Operation Telic 6 in 2004. As well as individual reinforcements to all battalions Cassino Company of 4th Battalion deployed to Iraq in October 2005 for 6 months as part of the Divisional Rear Operations Battle Group (1 Royal Irish, later replaced by 1 Royal Scots in January 06).The following Parachute Regiment soldiers have been killed whilst serving in Iraq: Private Andrew Kelly (3rd Battalion); Captain Richard Holmes and Private Lee Ellis (2nd Battalion)

Afghanistan

Operation Veritas, AfghanistanmarkerThe 2nd Battalion deployed into the capital Kabulmarker January 2002 to assist NATO's ISAF. They were there to help ISAF provide security and stability following the American led mission to oust the Taliban. The tour was such a success the 2nd Battalion was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for its efforts.

In January 2006 16 Air Assault Brigademarker were tasked to provide a single Airborne Infantry Battle Group (3rd Battalion) for operations in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick. The force was deployed into Helmand Province in the south of the country in June 2006. Almost immediately the 3rd Battalion Battle Group were involved in Operation Mountain Thrust, a U.S.-led campaign to flush Taliban guerrillas out of the hills, billed as the biggest Western offensive in Afghanistan since 2002.

Battle honours



Colonels Commandant The Parachute Regiment



Notable Members

List of former Parachute Regiment soldiers

Order of Precedence

Alliances



See also



References



External links




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