The Genesis of The Red Devils – The Parachute Regiment's Freefall Display Team
THE GENESIS OF THE RED DEVILS – THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT’S FREEFALL DISPLAY TEAM
The Parachute Regiment Freefall Team 'The Red Devils' is the official parachute display team of both the Parachute Regiment (The Paras) and the British Army.
The team's role is to promote both the Parachute Regiment and the British Army in support of recruitment - this is achieved by carrying out over 100 spectacular parachute displays at public events each year and by attracting positive publicity through the media.
The team is manned by 20 serving soldiers from the Parachute Regiment's three full-time battalions: 1, 2 & 3 PARA.
Every member of the team has served a minimum of three years in a Parachute Regiment battalion and has taken part in at least one operational tour of duty in either: The Falkland Islands, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and/or Iraq.
In 1963 sport parachuting was in its infancy, but within Airborne Forces most units had formed small freefall clubs. Parachute displays were relatively novel events but were in increasing demand at both civilian and military shows and so clearly had considerable recruiting potential.
During the summer of 1963 Lt Edward Gardener, Major John Weeks and Corporal Sherdy Vatnsdal discussed the prospect of forming a full time Regimental display team. Lt Gardener wrote a paper on this subject which eventually led to the Regimental Colonel, Glyn Gilbert giving the venture his full support. On 1 January 1964 Edward Gardener assumed the appointment of Officer Commanding the Parachute Regiment Free Fall Display Team (the name Red Devils came later) at Regimental Headquarters in Maida Barracks Aldershot.
Despite a lack of equipment, funds and nervousness among sponsors for this unknown quantity the Team eventually gained some momentum when Lt Col Gilbert proposed the Battalions fund a Dragon Rapide. Nevertheless, early Team members had to purchase their own kit!
With their Rapide 'Valkyrie' flown then, as now, by volunteer civilian and military pilots, (supported by Major Peter Cockroft of RHQ Para), around 50 displays were booked between May and October 1964 of which around thirty were completed. All fees went towards paying the aircraft purchase loans but by the end of 1964 the free fall team were well and truly established.
In following years the team was to cement a lasting bond with The Golden Knights, the US Army Parachute Display Team. The Golden Knights were instrumental in the team's early success by providing training for 15 members at Fort Bragg North Carolina. They made a total of 508 jumps and gained invaluable experience from world champion instructors. They also managed to broker the purchase of new team kit from the Knights and so became the best equipped team in the UK.
With thanks - based on text from Red Devils Online website
For more information, please visit the official Red Devils website: Click here.
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