1956 - 1969
The airborne assault on Suez in 1956 is the first parachute operation undertaken since 1945 and the last since. Parachute battalions are involved in counter-insurgency operations against EOKA in Cyprus, and provide support during crises in Jordan, the Persian-Gulf, Radfan, Borneo, Aden and Hong Kong, protecting British interests in the planned strategic withdrawal from the former empire east of Suez.
Cyprus (EOKA Campaign)
A continual round of village cordon and search operations, road blocks, curfews, law enforcement and riot control followed. Operations were directed against terrorist enclaves in the Kyrenian and Troodos Mountains and the Paphos Forest. Colonel Grivas’s EOKA HQ was captured, providing a major intelligence coup, but he escaped.
Suez (Operation Musketeer)
French paratroopers with part of the 1st (Guards) Independent Parachute Company were to capture two vital bridges leading south from Port Said and isolate the town.
An appeal for assistance from King Hussein saw the Brigade, less the 1st Battalion, flown into Amman to secure the airfield and bolster the King’s authority. They remained until October 29th returning to Cyprus and then England. Rapid action to a trouble spot had averted probable hostilities in this volatile area. During this period the 1st Battalion who had remained in Cyprus were again employed on anti-terrorist operations against a revival of the EOKA offensive. They remained, credited with a number of successful operations, until March 1959 when they too returned to the UK.
Within five days of the Emir’s request 8,000 British troops had deployed to Kuwait including the carrier HMS Bulwark and a naval task force with the Aircraft Carrier HMS Victorious positioned in the Gulf. Iraq was deterred. The real enemy proved to be the heat, which alternated between 120 to 149 degrees each day, requiring soldiers to drink 20 pints of fluid every 24 hours.
A concerted operation involving 3 PARA, 45 Commando and Federal troops to capture the Dhanaba Basin, a Radfan tribal stronghold, began at the end of April 1964. 3 PARA lost two killed and several wounded clearing the fort and village buildings at El Naquil in concert with 45 Commando.
By March 1965 the battalion was established in fortified jungle bases, dependent on helicopter re-supply, within 2,000 yards of the Indonesian border. Ten-day jungle patrol programmes were implemented. C Company was converted into the first of the parachute battalion ‘Patrol’ companies by 22 SAS, to operate four-man jungle patrols on SAS lines.
The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walsh, established aggressive surveillance from fortified observation posts (OPs) covering the main thoroughfares in the highly volatile Sheik Othman and Al Mansura districts of Aden. ‘Fort Walsh’ named after the CO typified the well defended strong-points established to contain serious outbreaks of armed violence during the running battles of the 1st June within the city and the later mutiny by the South Arabian Army and Police Force.
With a population mainly of Negroes and Indians with some Chinese, the Indians supported the Socialist People’s National congress while the Africans backed the communist inspired People’s National congress. Despite underlying tension the situation remained calm during the battalion four-month tour.
Service on operations in Malaysia and surrounding waters was recognised by the institution of a separate campaign clasp 'Malay Peninsula' for the General Service Medal.
The qualifying period was 30 days service between 17 August 1964 and 11 August 1966.
Profile under development.
Anguilla (Operation Sheepskin)
Civil strife led to armed insurrection and as the Island was a British Colony 2 PARA was despatched with 120 members of London’s Metropolitan Police to restore order.
It was decided not to conduct an airborne assault but instead land with Gemini assault craft from two Royal Navy frigates to soften the political profile of the intervention. Flashes around the beach landing area proved to be from a large contingent of the World’s Press waiting to record the landing, rather than hostile fire Royal Navy gunners were assuming they may have to silence.
1 PARA under command of Lt Col Michael Walsh completed an operational tour in Aden in 1967 to cover the British withdrawal and hand-over of the Colony. ‘Fort Walsh’ was one of the strong points established to protect the mission. On May 25th the paratroopers took over the districts of Al Mansura and Sheik Othman, known trouble spots for civil disorder in the Colony. The intention was to keep open the north-south route from the border to Aden and prevent the use of Sheik Othman as a terrorist base for insurgents allegedly funded by Egypt and the Yemen.Read More
Last Drop in Action
The last occasion when British airborne forces dropped in action and the first time after the Second World War on a battalion scale was at Suez on the 5th November 1956. This was the 3 PARA parachute assault on El Gamil airfield.Read More