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History

299 Airborne Field Squadron Royal Engineers was formed in 1947 when the Territorial Army (now the Army Reserve) was reformed, as part of 131 Airborne Engineer Regiment. The regiment provided engineer support for 16 Airborne Division, which consisted of three brigades - 44, 45 and 46 Parachute Brigades. In addition to 299 Squadron, 131 Regiment also consisted of 300, 301 and 302 Airborne Field Squadrons and Regimental Headquarters (RHQ).

First Officer Commanding

The first Officer Commanding the Squadron was Major George Widdowson, TD, who served with the 1st Airborne Division in North Africa, Italy and Arnhem. Headquarters was at the Royal Engineers Drill Hall, Corporation Field, Park Street, Hull.

The Squadron was established for 13 officers and 251 other ranks. Initially persons eligible to join had to be either qualified parachutists or tradesmen.

Geographical Reorganization

Over the next few years The Squadron and Regiment were progressively geographically reorganized until by 1954, 299 Squadron consisted of Headquarters and 1 Troop in Hull, with Field Troops in Liverpool and Doncaster.

In 1956 16 Airborne Division was reduced in size to become 44 Independent Parachute Brigade Group (consisting of four Parachute Regiment battalions). 131 Regiment was retained complete and was renamed 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment with 299 becoming 299 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers, the other Squadron's being similarly renamed.

The Regiment reached its peak in the early 1960s when it fielded over 1000 volunteers.

Annual Camp Aden (now South Yemen)

In 1965 the bulk of the Regiment went to Annual Camp in Aden (now South Yemen) to work on the Dhala Road construction project. It was during this time that Warrant Officer Class 2 (Squadron Sergeant Major) John Lonergan of 300 Parachute Field Squadron was killed in action during an attack by dissidents, with two other 300 Squadron’s soldiers wounded.

The Regimental Doctor, Major Clive Samuel, was awarded an MBE for attending casualties in the open. It is in honour of the men involved in this incident that Aden Troop of today's 299 Parachute Squadron is named.

Post War Reduction of the TA (now Army Reserve)

In 1967, in the second major reduction and post-war reorganization of the Reserves, 44 Independent Parachute Brigade Group was reduced in size to three Parachute Regiment Battalions, a Royal Artillery Battery and a Royal Engineer Squadron.

131 Parachute Engineer Regiment was reduced in size to become 131 Independent Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers and the squadrons which made up the regiment were correspondingly reduced to become the Troops of the new squadron. Headquarters and Support Troops were based at Kingsbury, with the three Parachute Field Troops inheriting the numbers and locations of the squadrons that had been their predecessors. Thus 299 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers became 299 Parachute Field Troop, based at the former squadron location in Hull.

Further Reductions

In 1977 drastic reductions in Regular and Reserve Airborne Forces were announced and on 31st March 1978, 44 Independent Parachute Brigade Group was disbanded after a parade at Altcar Ranges.

131 Independent Parachute Squadron's uncertain future was assured when on the 1st April 1978 it was accepted onto the order of battle of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, as 131 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers.

299 Parachute Field Troop became 299 Troop of the renamed squadron. 131 became the only Reserve unit on the order of battle of a Regular brigade. In order to wear the green beret of commando forces every soldier who wished to remain with the squadron in it's new role had to pass the commando tests and in July 1978 a specially run Airborne Engineers Commando Conversion Course was undertaken as annual camp for that year. The Squadron retained an official parachute capability with the support of 3 Commando Brigade.

Arctic and Jungle Warfare Proficiency

In the following years 299 Troop members became proficient in arctic and jungle warfare in addition to parachuting and engineer training. Changes in the way reservists could be employed, with the introduction of the Reserve Forces Act of 1996 led to 299 Troop Sappers deploying more widely with the Regular Army including to Cyprus with the UN and on the worldwide Exercise OCEAN WAVE in the late 1990s.

Operation TELIC

In January 2003, 299 Troop was mobilized, along with the rest of 131 Independent Commando Squadron, for service on Operation TELIC, the forthcoming Invasion of Iraq. In the hours of darkness before 'H Hour', 299 Troop were busy clearing mines and other obstacles from 'Red Beach' in advance of a beach assault by the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

Later, 299 Troop achieved an operational first by constructing the first Medium Girder Bridge (MGB) to be flown into position.

Reformation of 299 Parachute Squadron RE

A further restructuring of the Army Reserve called for the creation of a parachute trained Royal Engineer Squadron and on 6th June 2006, 299 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers was officially reformed at a parade held at the new Squadron Headquarters in Wakefield. The new Squadron Colours were raised by Norman Sangwin (pictured) - one of the few surviving members of the original 299 Airborne Field Squadron Royal Engineers.

This new squadron was based on 299 Troop of 131 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers, who became 1 Troop, and Minden Company, Light Infantry, whose Headquarters at George Street Army Reserve Centre was taken over as Headquarters of the reborn 299 Parachute Squadron, this being the location of Headquarters and 2 Troops. A third field troop, 3 Troop, was raised in Gateshead in 2009. The Squadron is part of the reformed 72 Engineer Regiment.

Afghanistan - Operation HERRICK V

Despite becoming part of the new 299 Parachute Squadron, 1 Troop still had an outstanding commitment to fulfil to 131 Independent Commando Squadron and the majority of the troop were mobilised for service in Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK V over the winter of 2006/7. The Sappers used their skills to provide close engineering support for 3 Commando Brigade all over Helmand Province.

Since then 299 Para Squadron has continued to provide soldiers for operational service with the Regular Army whilst building the number of parachute trained soldiers up to the Squadron's established strength.

Re-subordination – Operation HERRICK 13

On 01 April 2010 the Squadron officially re-subordinated to become part of 23 Engineer Regiment ( Air Assault ) the dedicated regular Army engineer unit in 16 Air Assault Brigade. 2010 was also the first time since its formation that Squadron soldiers deployed in strength. Thirteen soldiers deployed with 23 Engineer Regiment on Operation HERRICK 13, Afghanistan during September 2010 to March 2011.

The Reserve sappers were integrated into field Troops with their Regular Army counterparts. Some of the tasks undertaken by the Engineers during their tour were: route maintenance and construction, FOB??? and Patrol base construction, locating buried improvised explosive devices (IED’s), mentoring members of the Afghan National Army and close support engineering to infantry patrols. It was during this deployment that Sergeant Craig Gadd - who was the only qualified Reserve Royal Engineer Search advisor- stood on an IED and lost his left leg below the knee.

After OP HERRICK 13 and up to the end of the war in Afghanistan the Squadron continued to supply airborne sapper support to other Royal Engineer units that deployed on Operation HERRICK.

In June 2011 Major Christopher Wilcock assumed command of 299 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers as the first Army Reserve Officer Commanding since its formation in September 2006. Several Sappers where deployed as OP HERRICK individual reinforcements with 22 Engineer Regiment. Army 2020 laydown proposed that 299 Parachute Squadron would be resubordinated to 21 Engineer Regiment Ripon as part of the adaptive force. This decision was reversed by Commander Land Forces. This period saw a change of the recruiting process to civilian contract run by Capita which initially as recruiting slowed reduced the Sqn size to 79 trained soldiers. OP fortify was land Command initiative to reverse the decline in the Reserves Forces and provide a Reserve trained strength of 30 000 to back fill a reduction in the Regular Army from 112000 to 82 000. The Squadron enjoyed a uplift of manpower including former Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Phil Taylor in the recruiting role, and the unit increased in size to 120.

May 2014 saw the arrival of Major Brad Hardwick, a Regular Officer Commanding with 24 Commando Regt and 23 Air Assault experience. Op FORTIFY went from strength to strength and at his mid tour point the Squadron was fully manned with 150 soldiers. The Squadron also deployed to the Falkland islands on annual Camp. In September 2014 a small group of soldiers from 299 Parachute Squadron and 9 Parachute Squadron headed out to Kenya to tackle two TLZ’s (Temporary Landing Zones) and re establish a Drop Zone in time for the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiments Battle Group to commence Airborne operations as part of Exercise ASKARI STORM.

The renaming of 23 Engineer Regiment ( Air Assault)

In March 2015, 23 Engineer Regiment ( Air Assault) changed its name to 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment to reflect that it commands 3 parachute Squadrons, 299, 51, and 9 Squadron.

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