1942 - 1943
Parachute Brigades begin operating with battalion-size parachute assaults and operations in North Africa in 1942 that are expanded to division size efforts in Sicily and Italy in 1943.
North Africa (Operation Torch)
On 12 November the 3rd Parachute Battalion (3 Para Bn) jumped onto and seized the vital airfield at Bone between Algiers and Tunis, arriving barely before German paratroopers deployed for the same mission. Four days later 1 Para Bn dropped and occupied a key road junction at Beja 90 miles from Tunis. Both operations achieved the desired link up with the advancing 1st Army.
Sicily (Operation Husky)
Speed was essential to prevent the consolidation of Italian and German defences facing a rapid pincer movement launched from the west and south east immediately after the amphibious landings. Key bridges and ports were to be captured by airborne assault.
The Italians had capitulated while the force was still at sea. The sinking of HMS Abdiel by a mine in the harbour, however, resulted in the loss of 130 soldiers from 6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion including their Commanding Officer. Despite this setback, the port was seized and the advance continued to Foggia, where the division was relieved by units from the 8th Army. The 1st Airborne Division less one brigade returned to the UK in November to prepare for D-Day.
Operation Simcol (Italy)
A large number of Allied service personnel managed to escape, against Army orders, into the neighbouring hills and countryside before the Germans had time to move in and reassert control over the camps.
An operation to rescue and evacuate personnel in the Marche and Abruzzi regions was requested in mid September by 15 Army Group, following concerns that the Germans would take steps to round the escaped prisoners up and transport them to Germany.
Operation Speedwell (Italy)
Preparations for the operation began in August 1943 with proposals to drop large numbers of men from 2 SAS Regt into Italy to disrupt German forces and sever supply lines. However, other competing priorities and a shortage of transport aircraft resulted in Op Speedwell consisting of thirteen men divided into two groups, tasked with attacking targets north of Florence and La Spezia.
Captain Philip Pinckney
Lt Anthony Greville-Bell, Sgt George Daniels and Corporal P Tomasso
Sgt P Robinson L/Sgt Horace Stokes and Parachutist Curtis
Norway (Operation Freshman)
Quite early in the war the Germans were known to be working towards the production of an atomic bomb; it was thought they had made considerable progress in the production of Heavy Water, an essential component. Attacks were planned in 1942 to delay production at a German research establishment at the Norsk Hydro plant at Vermork in Norway. This was situated in an isolated deep valley 60 miles west of Oslo and 80 miles from the coast.
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.Read More
During the night of 13 July 1943 the 1st Parachute Brigade under command of Brigadier C W Lathbury and consisting of 1, 2 and 3 Parachute Battalions, preceded by the Pathfinders from 21st Independent Company, dropped in Sicily. The objective was to capture the Primosole Bridge spanning the River Simeto. This vital defile covered the approaches to the Catonia Plain, over which the sea-borne invasion forces must pass to advance north.Read More