Operation Musketeer: Corporal Tony Lowe’s Story
On the 4th of November 1956 I was with 16th Independent Para Brigade HQ assembled in Cyprus 1956 and billeted just outside Nicosia on the Kyrenia road.
As the war in Europe ended in 1945 the 1st Airborne Division was disbanded and many units amalgamated into the 6th Airborne Division, which was ordered to the Middle and Far East for further operations. With the final withdrawal in 1948 from Palestine the Division was disbanded. One brigade, the 2nd, was retained in BAOR in Germany. It was re-designated the 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group. The numerals 1 and 6 perpetuated the previous 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions.
Its parachute battalions became 1 PARA (formed from the 4th/6th Parachute battalions), 2 PARA (from the 5th Scottish) and 3 PARA (from the 7th Battalion). The Brigade returned to England in October 1949 where the parachute battalions were to maintain a permanent ‘home’ in Aldershot until 2001.
In 1951 the 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group was sent to Cyprus, but soon became involved in maintaining the security of the Suez Canal Zone between 1951-4. In 1956 it conducted anti-EOKA counter-terrorist operations in Cyprus and returned to Egypt to conduct the battalion parachute assault at El Gamil airfield and sea landings by the rest of the Brigade during the Suez Crisis.
Further intervention operations followed as the Brigade was employed as a quick reaction ‘fire-brigade’ force forming part of the UK strategic reserve. This occurred mainly in the Middle East: Jordan in 1958 and in the Persian Gulf between 1961-7.
In 1960 the Brigade’s title changed to simply 16th Parachute Brigade. Dropping the ‘Independent’ label meant acceptance by the British army that the Brigade formed part of its normal established order of battle.
As the UK withdrew east of Suez battalion size covering operations occurred in the Radfan, Borneo, Aden and British Guiana prior to focussing on the Northern Ireland troubles developing nearer home after 1969. In February 1972 the 16th Brigade Officer’s Mess was blown up in Aldershot by the PIRA, killing the RC Padre and a number of civilian staff.
The final major role for the Brigade was in Europe, the UK Joint Airborne Task Force (UKJATFOR), a NATO reinforcement contingency. The Brigade was disbanded on 31st March 1977 and the airborne element in the army’s order of battle reduced to one parachute battalion group.
Order of Battle:
See the Paradata Order of Battle Chart for unit details.
Brig RH Bellamy, DSO 1948
Brig WFH Kempster 1948-50
Brig KT Darling, DSO, OBE 1950-2
Brig DS Gordon, CBE, DSO 1952-5
Brig MAH Butler, CBE, DSO, MC 1955-7
Brig TCH Pearson, CBE, DSO 1957-60
Brig N Crookenden, DSO, OBE 1960-1
Brig M Forester, CBE, DSO, MC 1961-3
Brig RC Gibbs, DSO, MC 1963-6
Brig AH Farrar-Hockley, DSO, MBE, MC 1966-8
Brig CE Eberhardie, MBE, MC 1968-70
Brig JA Ward-Booth, OBE 1970-3
Brig The O’Morchoe, MBE 1973-5
Brig GHW Howlett, OBE, MC 1975-7
Brig MS Gray, OBE 1977
See also: HQ 16 Parachute BrigadeRead More
A brief honeymoon as peace keepers between two warring communities locked in civil unrest descended into a virtual civil war between Republican IRA and Protestant para-military groups during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ that were to last 37 years.
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
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.
This had followed tension in Persia after British alarm at the nationalisation of its oil industry and fears for the safety of British nationals. The Brigade deployed to Cyprus in June aboard the Aircraft Carriers HMS Triumph and Warrior, the situation proving to be a false alarm.
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