Formation and Early Airborne Forces

On the 22nd June 1940, Winston Churchill sent a letter to General Ismay requesting a corps of at least 5000 troops.

He had been impressed by the successes of German parachute and glider-borne troops who had secured vital objectives ahead of the armoured 'Blitzkrieg' in Western Europe.

Churchill's call galvanised present tentative plans. An experimental and training centre, the Central Landing School RAF, was set up at Ringway Airport Manchester.  Soon men of No 2 Commando arrived to begin parachute training, making their first descents on 21 July 1940.

On 21 November 1940, the unit name was changed to No 11 Special Air Service Battalion, and by the end of 1940 it had qualified 500 officers and men as parachutists. The unit title was changed again on 15 September 1941 to the 1st Parachute Battalion as the future 1st Parachute Brigade began to form.

When the 1st Airborne Division was set up under the command of Lt Gen Frederick Browning, the War Office grouped parachute battalions together on 1st August 1942 to form The Parachute Regiment, established as part of a newly created Army Air Corps.

To view Churchill's letter to Ismay in full click here.


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