On 17th July 1942 the 2nd Parachute Brigade was formed under Brigadier Eric Down. The 4th Parachute Battalion was transferred from the 1st Parachute Brigade to provide the initial nucleus, followed by the addition of the 5th and 6th Parachute Battalions. This formed part of the process to bring the 1st Airborne Division up to a full establishment of three brigades.
Deployed to North Africa in 1943, the 2nd Parachute Brigade was tasked with capturing an important road bridge south west of the port of Augusta, along with the town and harbour, during the invasion of Sicily. In the event the operation was cancelled as 13 Corps were able to secure the objectives themselves.
The Brigade later took part in the amphibious landings at Taranto, Italy, in September 1943. When the 1st Airborne Division returned to the UK in November 1943 to prepare for D-Day the 2nd Brigade remained and was retitled the 2nd (Independent) Parachute Brigade in December. Their subsequent operations in Italy, until Operation HASTY in June 1944, fell into 3 distinct phases.
The first phase, up to Christmas 1943, included offensive operations against the Germans in and around Orsogna under the command of 2nd New Zealand Division. During the first quarter of 1944 it continued in a mainly offensive infantry role on the Sangro front. For the next two months the Brigade maintained a defensive infantry role on part of the Cassino front and then moved to relieve 6 New Zealand Brigade in the line just north east of Cassino, until its units were withdrawn from the line in May.
The 6th Parachute Battalion formed the nucleus of a small task force 60-strong under command of Captain LA Fitzroy-Smith, which parachuted behind German lines during Operation HASTY in June 1944 near Torricella, to harass lines of communication.
The 2nd (Independent) Brigade parachuted into Southern France in August 1944 as part of Operation DRAGOON and occupied Athens in the autumn and winter of 1944-5, before returning to Italy.
The 2nd Parachute Brigade came under the command of 6th Airborne Division in Palestine from 3 September 1945 where it served until 24 January 1947. The 2nd Parachute Brigade Group sailed from Haifa for the United Kingdom where it remained until February 1948, when it was posted to Germany to form part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
It was redesignated as 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group later that year.
Order of Battle 1 August 1942:
- 4th Bn Parachute Regiment
- 5th Bn Parachute Regiment
- 6th Bn Parachute Regiment
Other Assigned Units 1942-1945
- 300th Airlanding AT Battery RA: 8 Dec 1943
- 64th Airlanding Battery RA: 23 Jun 1944 - 25 Jun 1945
- 2nd Parachute Sqn RE: 17 Nov 1943
- 2nd Indep Parachute Bde Gp Signals: 17 Nov 1943
- 1st Indep Glider Sqn AAC: 20 Nov 1943
- 23rd Indep Platoon Parachute Regiment: 17 Nov 1943
- 751st Parachute Bde Coy RASC: 18 Nov 1943
- 127th Parachute Field Ambulance: 17 Nov 1943
- 2nd Indep Para Bde Gp Workshop REME: 20 Nov 1943
- Brig E.E. Down 30 Jul 1942
- Brig C.H.V. Pritchard11 Sep 1943
- Col T.C.H. Pearson (acting) 1 Mar 1944
- Brig C.H.V. Pritchard 6 Mar 1944
- Col T.C.H. Pearson (acting) 22 Aug 1944
- Brig C.H.V. Pritchard 29 Aug 1944
- Col T.C.H. Pearson (acting) 13 Nov 1944
- Brig C.H.V. Pritchard 9 Dec 1944
- Col H.B. Coxen (acting) 9 Feb 1945
- Brig C.H.V. Pritchard 28 Feb 1945
- Col H.B. Coxen (acting) 1 Jun 1945
- Brig C.H.V. Pritchard 26 Jun 1945
See also: HQ 2nd Parachute Brigade