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History

The present-day Squadron has a pedigree of service to Commando Forces going back to 1978, and before that to Airborne Forces. 131 had originally been formed as 131st Field Company in April 1915, and fought in support of the 26th Division in France and then Salonika. However, the unit was disbanded at the end of WW1 and had ceased to exist in 1919.

131 Airborne Engineer Regiment was formed on 1 April 1947, as part of the reformation of the Territorial Army (TA). The unit's role was to provide engineer support to 16 Airborne Division, which consisted of 9 Territorial Army parachute battalions spread the length and breadth of Great Britain. All of the founding commanders of the 131 Airborne Engineer Regiment and many of its soldiers had served with 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions during WW2. A number had also served in the Army Commandos and with other specialist organisations, as well as in non-Airborne RE units and the wider Services. The regiment had its headquarters in Chelsea and consisted of three field squadrons - 299 Airborne Squadron in Hull, 300 Airborne Squadron in Liverpool and 301 Airborne Squadron in Croydon - plus 302 Airborne Field Park Squadron in Hendon. There were satellite troop locations spread as far as Glasgow in the north and Guilford in the south.   

The reduction in size of the TA in 1956 saw 16 Airborne Division reduce to a single large brigade: 44 Independent Parachute Brigade Group. Such was the strength and standing of 131 that rather than reduce in size it was retained as a regiment. By now renamed 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment, with all its squadrons retitled Parachute Squadrons and with 300 now fully based in Scotland, the unit was by the early 1960s the biggest unit in the British Army, consisting of over 1,000 trained Parachute Engineers. Since its formation the unit had had a close relationship with 9 Independent Airborne (later Parachute) Squadron RE, its Regular Army counterparts, from which all permanent staff were drawn. Many members of the unit were ex-9 Squadron and many younger Territorials from 131 went on to join 9 Squadron either as National Servicemen or as Regulars. There were often opportunities for service on attachment to 9 Squadron, supporting the Regular Army parachute battalions, and 131 was as well travelled then as it is now.   

Further reductions in the size of the TA in 1967 saw 131 down-scaled and renamed as 131 Independent Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers (Volunteers). Each of the original field squadrons reduced to troop size but retained their numbers, with 299 Troop in Hull, 300 Troop in Grangemouth, 301 Troop in Birmingham and HQ and Support troop with SHQ in Kingsbury. The squadron continued to support a smaller 44 Parachute Brigade consisting of 3 Territorial parachute battalions in London, Northern England and Scotland. Opportunities for service continued to abound and the close relationship with 9 Parachute Squadron flourished.   

131 was rerolled as 131 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers (Volunteers) in 1978, when 44 Parachute Brigade was disbanded, and it moved under the order of battle of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. Those serving with the Squadron or wishing to join now had to undertake the Commando Course to earn the coveted Green Beret. For those who had passed P Company to earn their Red Berets during their previous service there were many similarities in the training and the pass standards, though there were differences too. Fortunately 131 retained a significant parachute capability so parachuting remained firmly on the programme for many years, in addition to those aspects of training devoted to supporting Commando units, like mountain and cold weather warfare. A close relationship developed with Regular Army counterparts 59 Independent Commando Squadron, with all permanent staff now drawn from that specialist unit. 

Changes in troop location during the Green Beret years have meant the loss of two troops and the formation of two more. In 1982/3 300 Troop moved from Grangemouth to Plymouth, with the former Commando Engineers in Scotland transferring to the Royal Marines Reserve as a specialist Assault Engineer Troop. Then in 2006/7 299 Troop reverted to being 299 Parachute Squadron, this time separate from 131 and under the umbrella of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) (later Parachute Engineer Regiment) in support of 16 Air Assault Brigade. In 299 Troop's place a new troop was formed in Bath taking on the old Parachute Field Park Squadron number, 302, as its identifier. The pace of operations in Afghanistan meant that in 2006 the RAF had to significantly reduce the support it could give to parachute operations and so it was that the last two Commando Sappers from 131 went through No1 Parachute Training School in the autumn of that year. 

In 2008 59 Independent Commando Squadron expanded to form 24 Commando Engineer Regiment, with two Commando Squadrons, 54 and 59, under command. 131 continued to retain very close ties with the regiment until on 2 October 2015 it became the third squadron of a now-hybrid 24 Commando Engineer Regiment. Under this arrangement the Regular/Reserve relationship is now closer than ever and the future is very bright. 

Since 1947 131's Reservists have served in more than 50 different nations and territories, including Afghanistan, Albania, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Belize, Bosnia, Botswana, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Falkland Islands, France, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Holland, India, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Montserrat, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Protectorate of South Arabia, including Aden (now Republic of Yemen), Romania, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America.   

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