411 (Royal Bombay) Parachute Squadron, RIE

411 (Royal Bombay) Parachute Squadron, RIE

1941 to 1947

411 (Royal Bombay) Parachute Squadron, Royal Indian Engineers (RIE) served as part of 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, then later the enlarged 44th (Indian) Airborne Division. 411 Parachute Squadron was the original Sapper unit of 50 Independent Para Bde, and has occasionally been referred to as 50th (Indian) Parachute Squadron, RIE.

It was initially raised on 20 November 1941 as 411 Parachute Section RIE (equivalent of a Troop) composed of Punjabi Musslemans (PMs) drawn from both the Bengal and Bombay Sapper Groups by OC Capt M J Rolt  - himself a Bengal Sapper. The unit took on the name from the 411 Field Squadron, Royal Bombay Sappers & Miners, RIE. The Section was increased to a full Parachute Squadron under command of now-Major Rolt in 1943, with the additional soldiers being Mahrattas (Hindus) transferred from the Bombay Sappers and Miners.

As part of 50th Brigade troops undertaking jungle training near Imphal in February 1944, 411 Para Sqn were stationed at Litan, 45 miles from Sangshak. After the surprise advance of the 31st Japanese Division in March 1944 there were insufficient transports available for a significant portion of 50th Parachute Brigade and 411 Parachute Squadron was amongst those left at Litan, to which the beleagured Brigade eventually withdrew towards during the Battle of Sangshak.

In May 1945, a Troop of 411 Parachute Squadron formed part of the hastily-formed 'composite' Parachute Battalion sent to Elephant Point to combat a Japanese artillery battery overlooking the sea approaches to Rangoon. Emplaning at Akyab airfield with elements from the two Gurkha Battalions and Field Ambulance, the troops landed successfully and effectively neutralised the Japanese Battery. In the event however, monsoon conditions altered plans by Gen Slim to advance on Rangoon, with the 17th Indian Infantry Division stranded by the inclement conditions at Pegu, 30 miles North of their objective.

Post-independence in 1947, the Squadron was retained as part of 50 (Independent) Para Bde in the Indian Army, and was redesignated as 411 (Independent) Parachute Field Company, Indian Engineers based at Kirkee, near Poona, India. Initially this was in a non-parachuting role however, as the Parachute School had been located at Chaklala (near Rawalpindi) which had been allocated to the newly independent state of Pakistan. During that time, 411 Para Field Coy IE fought in Kashmir in support of 50 (I) Para Bde.  It took two years to set up a new Parachute School (at Agra) and train the instructors; whereupon, the Para Bde became operational as an active Para Bde, with 411 (I) Parachute Field Company as its Engineer unit.

Its first parachuting OC was Major S N Sharma, who, many years later became the only Bombay Group Sapper to become the E in C of the Indian Army (as a Lt Gen) – The Indian Army is about 1 million strong and the Sappers, still called by their old titles of Bengal, Madras and Bombay Engineer Groups number, in total, around 100,000.  In the fifty years since it was raised, 411 has produced four Lt Generals, five Major Generals and six Brigadiers.

Officers Commanding

1943-1944          Maj M J Rolt RE
1944-1945          Maj W Scott-Moncrieff
1946                 Maj W W Branford RE
1946                 Maj J R Shave MC RE
1947                 Maj C R C Howard RE
1947                 Maj S A Mahmood RIE
1947  (Acting) Capt H P Munro RE

Covering the period when the Sqn returned from Karachi to India, Nov 1947

Nov 1947                 2nd Lt O Laloo IE

Compiled with kind assistance from Lt Col Pat Munro

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