GENERAL SIR FRANK KING'S PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF OPERATION MUSKETEER (SUEZ) 1956
This is an extract from the book 'Men of the Red Beret' (1990), Hutchison, ISBN 0-09-173931-4. Reproduced by the kind permission of the author Max Arthur.
HQ 16 Parachute Brigade formed the administrative Headquarters for operations of 16 Parachute Brigade.
It was supplemented by the Defence Platoon, a specialist unit tasked with landing ahead of the major formations to set up a perimeter defence for Brigade HQ, and to protect senior officers. The Defence Platoon was utilised in Cyprus and tasked with protection of rapid-reaction teams of officers usually first on the scene of any disturbances.
Formed from 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade in BAOR in Germany, it was re-designated the 16th Independent 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.
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: 16 Parachute BrigadeRead More
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