The Parachute Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps came into existence on 3 February 1965, raised from cadres of Cyclops Squadron 2nd Royal Tank Regiment and The Special Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS). The Parachute Squadron was the first RAC unit to serve in Airborne Forces since the disbandment of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron and the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment after the Second World War.
In 1964 the SRS had been given the sad news that they had been written out of the 1(BR) Corps plan for operations in BAOR. They would be disbanded in 1965 and their role taken on by 23 SAS. At the same time Cyclops had been equipped with the Hornet (Humber 1 ton armoured), armed with the Malkara anti-tank missile, with the role of providing 16 Parachute Brigade with an effective long range anti-tank capability. However Cyclops at this time had some difficulty in meeting their establishment for NCOs and soldiers.
Major Ken Bidie, then OC of SRS, was duly summoned by the DRAC, Major General J A d’Avigdor-Goldsmit, who offered the shortly to be disbanded SRS the chance of joining Cyclops to form an independent parachute squadron, taking on the long range anti-tank missile role for the Parachute Brigade. Both Cyclops (Major Ian Baker) and SRS would provide significant cadres, with subsequent manpower coming from volunteers from all the regiments of the Household Cavalry and the RAC. The Hornets and all other vehicles and equipment would come across from Cyclops.
Thus it was that the Parachute Squadron RAC was formed in February 1965, under the dynamic leadership of Major Ken Bidie (QRIH) and SSM Paddy McLaughlin (QOH). The Squadron was based in Candahar Barracks, Tidworth, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, some 30 miles from the rest of the Parachute Brigade in Aldershot. The Squadron only moved once again, in 1973, to the airfield at Old Sarum just north of Salisbury.
The Squadron was established as a totally independent unit. In addition to the normal compliment of officers there was also an Air Adjutant and Quartermaster. REME support was provided by a full Workshop under command, led by a Captain, and supported by a Stores Section RAOC. A full compliment of cooks from the ACC was attached, as well as an RAPC pay clerk.
The Hornet with its Malkara missiles remained in service with the Squadron until 1968, when they were replaced by Ferret Mk 5, mounting the new Swingfire guided missile system. In 1967 the Squadron took over the Ferret scout cars from the Guards Independent Company, in addition to the Ferret Mk 5s, so giving the Squadron an armoured reconnaissance capability if required. In 1973 the tracked armoured reconnaissance vehicles, CVR(T), mounting a 76mm gun, were delivered to the Squadron, bringing it in line with the standard establishment of an armoured reconnaissance squadron. All of the Squadron fighting vehicles, including Hornet, could be delivered by parachute, and ‘rigging’ the platforms for parachuting the vehicles became a major Squadron skill.
The Squadron undertook operational tours in three conflicts. In 1966 Major Bidie took the Squadron to the Radfan, to the north of Aden, dismounted as a patrol company. In 1974 Major Peter Bentley found the Squadron stationed in Cyprus as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force, where it was subsequently heavily involved in the operations to contain the Turkish invasion of the island. From 1969 until 1975, the squadron undertook seven operational tours in Northern Ireland.
The Squadron trained throughout the world, with exercises, attachments and exchanges carried out in the following countries: Arabian Gulf, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia and Turkey.
As a result of the 1974 Defence Review, it was decided that that the airborne capability of the Army would be reduced and that the Parachute Squadron RAC would be disbanded. And so it was, after almost exactly 11 years of service in Airborne Forces, that the Squadron held its final disbandment parade on 12 February 1976. The inspecting officer was Field Marshal Sir Michael Carver, then Chief of the Defence Staff and of course an old friend of the Squadron as the Colonel-in-Chief of the RAC and one of the most renowned former RTR officers.
The Squadron runs a very active old comrades association, which holds an annual reunion, normally at the RAC Centre at Bovington in Dorset. The Association includes those from Cyclops, SRS and all attached personnel. As part of this short history of the Squadron is as comprehensive a nominal role as can be found of all those who have served with the Squadron during its existence. As a former member of the Squadron, please add your personal record and attach any appropriate images to build up the Squadron record.
Go Anywhere, Do Anything, Willingly
Text kindly supplied by Col Charles Radford