The Parachute Regiment was established on 1 August 1942 from No 2 Commando/No. 11 Special Air Service Battalion (which had already conducted the first British airborne operation, Operation Colossus, against the Tragino aqueduct, on 10 February 1941, and been renamed 1st Parachute Battalion in September 1941) and volunteers who were forming the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions. This new regiment was placed under the Army Air Corps, alongside the existing Glider Pilot Regiment (air-landing infantry), as the 1st Parachute Brigade and, before 1942 was up, was tossed into action in French Morocco and Algeria during Operation Torch.
By Overlord in June 1944, the British had five parachute brigades consisting of 17 battalions, most of which were under the 1st (British) Airborne Division, and 6th (British) Airborne Division. By the end of the war, the Brits had an impressive 31 battalions of Denison smock-wearing airborne troops in a mix of glider-borne infantry (10), SAS (3), and parachute light infantry (18) units, not even counting hard-charging Indian (6) and Gurkha (1) airborne battalions who were very active that year against the Japanese in the CBI theatre.
The “PARAS” have been paired down quite a bit over the years but are still very much around.
Today, 2 Para and 3 Para Bns serve as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, the UK’s rapid deployment “fire brigade” force, while 1 Para serves as a support group alongside elements of the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force in the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). The Army Reserve has 4 Para Bn which retains its airborne/air assault capability through a far higher level of training typically seen in other Reserve units.
As a salute to the Regiment that over the weekend, Paratroopers of all four Battalions, the Red Devils (Britain’s version of the Golden Knights), and some 250 cherry berry vets gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum for a Service of Remembrance and recognition of the 80th Anniversary of the formation of the Regiment in 1942.