The 1st Airborne Division landed unopposed at Taranto for Operation Slapstick, during the invasion of Italy on 9 September 1943.
The Italians had capitulated while the force was still at sea. The sinking of HMS Abdiel by a mine in the harbour, however, resulted in the loss of 130 soldiers from 6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion including their Commanding Officer. Despite this setback, the port was seized and the advance continued to Foggia, where the division was relieved by units from the 8th Army. The 1st Airborne Division less one brigade returned to the UK in November to prepare for D-Day.
The 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade remained and its 4th, 5th and 6th Parachute Battalions came under the command of the 2nd New Zealand Division and fought as infantry. They took part in the assault across the River Sangro, spending four bitter winter months in the mountains near Orsogna facing the German ‘Winter Line’. Between March until May 1944 they fought on the Cassino front.
In June 1944 a force of 60 airborne troops from the 6th (Royal Welch) Para Bn under Captain LA Fitzroy-Smith was dropped near Torricella during Operation Hasty, to forestall German demolitions on their retreat between Sara and Avenzzano. Dividing into three groups they harassed the road for a week with some success, but at a cost of 50% casualties.
The brigade was withdrawn for the invasion of Southern France, Operation Dragoon in August, mounting from Italy; as they did again for Operation Manna, the occupation of Athens in Greece between October and February the next year.
The 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade returned to Italy and remained there until the end of hostilities in May 1945.
Battle Honours Conferred: