Gurkha (Independent) Parachute Company

Gurkha (Independent) Parachute Company

1963 to 1971

The Gurkha Independent Parachute Company was raised in Malaya on 1 January 1963 to operate in an infantry role to secure an airfield and was deployed in Sarawak to train indigenous tribesmen as Border Scouts. The importance of intelligence and a screen in remote forward areas on the border with Indonesia led to an urgent decision to re-role the company in long-range reconnaissance patrolling to augment the SAS squadrons and the Guards Independent Parachute Company. Radio Operators with high speed morse skills were needed to operate light weight radios on low power output over considerable distances from forward jungle locations for long periods on basic rations.

17th Gurkha Signal Regiment, in addition to providing a large operational deployment of two squadrons to Borneo, responded to the request in June 1964 for a British Officer, a QGO, 28 operators, 2 technicians, 1 technical storeman, 1 clerk and a GD. The company was divided into16 patrols each comprising a Comd, 2 x combat pioneers, 1x medical orderly and a radio operator. The company formed up at the Jungle Warfare School at Ulu Tiram in Johore. After a busy period of parachuting and training on the new radios the company deployed to the Third Division of Sarawak in Borneo in October 1964 for a six month tour. Captain Paddy Verdon as OC Signal Troop set up the troop and ran communications from the company base in Sibu. Lieutenant Mike Walker deployed with the infantry subalterns as forward coordinator of helicopter support from 845 Naval Air Squadron and later took 6 patrols separately to operate in the Fifth Division. At the end of a successful first tour the company was awarded parachute wings and daily parachute pay. In March 1965 Captain Paddy Verdon handed over the signal troop to Captain Mike Walker who also took on pay and MT.

On return to Malaya Major J P Cross MBE took over command of the company based in Kluang. Under his inspired leadership the company was soon put on a more permanent footing. Stricter training was introduced on individual skills, with more emphasis on fitness and SAS standard selection procedures. Life in the company was exciting and purposeful. Hearing all the battalion dialects of Gurkhali was fascinating and fluency in speaking was essential in daily dialogue. The company returned to Borneo for a further tour in the Fifth Division that included cross border ‘Claret’ patrols.

In spring 1966, back in Kluang again, the company became firmly established by an affiliation to the Parachute Regiment. At a parade on 30 June 1966 the company adopted the Maroon Beret and the Parachute Regiment winged badge on cloth background of rifle green on Brigade of Gurkhas colours.

The company returned again to the Haunted House, former home of the SAS in Brunei, and in August 1966 Captain Mike Walker handed over to Captain Keith Ryding. The company had a direct involvement at the end of operations in Borneo Confrontation and later returned to Malaya to resume a conventional infantry role. Captain Johnny Fielding also commanded the signal troop until 1968 when Gurkha Signals operators were gradually phased out. On withdrawal of the Brigade of Gurkhas from Malaysia to Hong Kong the company finally disbanded on 31 October 1971.

The response to an urgent requirement for skilled operators was typical of the proactive nature of the Gurkha Signal Regiment. All members of the troop were volunteers and as an integral part of the company, as parachutists and as individual operators on long range patrols deep in the jungle for long periods and across the border, took pride in becoming part of the history of Queen’s Gurkha Signals.

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