The Red Beret (1953)

The Red Beret was a British film released in 1953 about The Parachute Regiment. It was filmed in Technicolor which was unusual for a British film of this era and released in America under the title Paratrooper.

It contained well known film stars of the day including Alan Ladd, Leo Genn, Stanley Baker (later to star as Lt. Chard in Zulu) and Harry Andrews. Some of the characters’ names in the films are thinly disguised derivatives of real airborne personalities: Major Snow (Frost) Sgt Box (Flight Sgt Cox) General Whiting (Browning).

The film, which was partly made at RAF Abingdon Parachute Training School (see related photos), follows the fortunes of a parachute unit from training school through to the battlefields. 

It was reportedly adapted from Hilary St. George Saunders historical account 'The Red Beret: The story of The Parachute Regiment at war 1940-45' (1950), however the battle scenes are only loosely based on real events (e.g. Operation Biting and Oudna airfield attack) in the book.

Although the film provides some interesting sequences on training, it appears to be primarily an adventure romance film vehicle for its main star (Alan Ladd) with an eye to American consumption. In addition to the script's deviation from historical accuracy there are also other accuracy lapses e.g. helmets.

Military historians looking for a technically authentic portrayal of the achievements of The Parachute Regiment in World War II may need to look elsewhere!

Available to buy in DVD format.

Compiled by Harvey Grenville.

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