The Red Devils

The 1st Parachute Brigade had received its distinctive maroon berets shortly before departure for the North African campaign. At its end they were congratulated by General Alexander for being given the nickname rote teufeln or ‘Red Devils’ by the Germans.

The label arose less from their unusual red berets, seldom worn in battle, more from their appearance after fighting in the red stained North African mud, with which they were regularly coated in the winter battles. Coupled with the trailing tail-piece of the parachute smock, this Lucifer-like appearance led the Germans to call them ‘red devils’ in combat.

General Browning the founder of British Airborne Forces congratulated Brigadier Flavell commanding the 1st Parachute Brigade, commenting ‘such distinctions given by the enemy are seldom won in battle except by the finest fighting troops’.

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