1st Parachute Battalion

1st Parachute Battalion

The Battalion formed on 15th September 1941 from the 11th Special Air Service Battalion that had evolved from No 2 Commando. They were based at Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield having carried out parachute training at No 1 Parachute Training School at Ringway near Manchester. Jumps were made at Tatton Park from Whitley aircraft, for which soldiers were paid two shillings per day.

In November 1942 they sailed to North Africa as part of the newly formed 1st Parachute Brigade under Brigadier Richard Gale; commanded by Lt Col S J L Hill. Their first mission was to capture and hold Beja, an important road junction on the Souk el Khemis Plain. The jump made from American Dakota aircraft ahead of the 1st Army onto open ground at Souk el Arba was successful. For the rest of the campaign the battalion operated as line infantry. It was during this period the Parachute Regiment earned its nick-name, ‘The Red Devils’ from their German opponents.

The Battalion next saw intense action during the 1st Parachute Brigade parachute assault on the Primosole Bridge in Sicily on 13 July 1943. Commanded by Lt Col A S Pearson they were part of a scattered drop on the Catania Plain, with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions and had to fight a desperate battle for possession of the bridge until relieved by 8th Army. This was followed by the sea-borne attack on Taranto Harbour in Italy with the 1st Airborne Division on 11 September 1943. The Battalion probed as far north as Foggia before being withdrawn back to the UK in preparation for D-Day and was based at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire.

On Sunday 17 September 1944 the battalion jumped onto the Renkum Heath west of Arnhem with the 1st Airborne Division during Operation MARKET-GARDEN. During the advance to capture the high ground north of Arnhem Lt Col D Dobie, commanding the Battalion was wounded and taken prisoner. Having sustained severe casualties in the area of Den Brink and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital trying to reach the 2nd Battalion cut-off at the Arnhem Bridge, 1 PARA was forced to retire to the Division perimeter that became besieged at Oosterbeek. Reduced to 100 officers and men they defended with Lonsdale Force, until withdrawing across the Rhine to Driel and then to Nijmegen with the survivors of the 1st Division.

It took considerable time before the remnants of the battalion was brought back to strength in the UK. At the end of hostilities in Europe the Battalion was sent to Denmark to assist in the liberation. The 1st Airborne Division was disbanded.

Despite reorganizations in the 6th Airborne Division to which the 1st Parachute Brigade became part, 1 PARA remained untouched, operating in Haifa during the Palestine Mandate troubles until British troops withdrew in 1948. It was then temporarily disbanded on return to the UK with the Division. Those with service to complete were absorbed into the 4th, 5th and 7th Parachute Battalions of the 2nd Parachute Brigade.

The present day 1 PARA was reconstituted from the 4th and 6th Parachute Battalions and re-designated 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment at Furness Barracks at Lubeck in Germany, returning to the UK in 1949.

Read More

Photos_20

Official accounts_2

War Diaries_5

Personal accounts_4

Operation instructions_1

Equipment lists_1

  • 1st Parachute Battalion Contents of Kit Bags.

    1st Parachute Battalion Contents of Kit Bags.

    1 Item

Group photos_28

Documents_4

Medal Citations_3

  • Citation for the award of the Military Medal to Sgt John Richards, Arnhem, 1945.

    Citation for the award of the Military Medal to Sgt John Richards, Arnhem, 1945.

    2 Items
  • Citation for the award of the Military Cross to Lt Philip Mellors, North Africa, 1943.

    Citation for the award of the Military Cross to Lt Philip Mellors, North Africa, 1943.

    1 Item
  • Citation for the award of the Siver Star for T/Capt Rutherfoord, November 1943.

    Citation for the award of the Siver Star for T/Capt Rutherfoord, November 1943.

    1 Item

Post-combat reports_2

Obituaries_1

Letters and Cards_3

  • Dutch postcard identifying locations where Pte Cyril Turner was assisted at Arnhem, undated.

    Dutch postcard identifying locations where Pte Cyril Turner was assisted at Arnhem, undated.

    2 Items
  • Postcard from Stalag XIB POW Camp sent by Pte Cyril Turner to his wife Ivy, 31 December 1944

    Postcard from Stalag XIB POW Camp sent by Pte Cyril Turner to his wife Ivy, 31 December 1944

    2 Items
  • Letter from Lt Col Campbell about personnel yet to return from Op Simcol, 1943.

    Letter from Lt Col Campbell about personnel yet to return from Op Simcol, 1943.

    2 Items

Maps_2

Nominal Rolls_1

Poem_1

  • 'Djebel Mansour' by Pte George Baker originally written on 5 February 1943.

    'Djebel Mansour' by Pte George Baker originally written on 5 February 1943.

    1 Item

Solo photos_1

Insignia_1

Latest Comments

There are currently no comments for this content.

Add your comment

Donate

Make a donation to Airborne Assault ParaData to help preserve the history of The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces