Parachute Regiment History
British parachutists have been trained at a variety of locations over the years including the Middle and Far East plus southern Africa.
The Central Landing Establishment at Ringway was the hub of operations and this evolved over the years to become No 1 Parachute Training School (PTS). PTS has been located in many parts of the UK until taking up residence at its present home RAF Brize Norton.
In 1940, Britain's darkest hour, when Britain faced invasion, the Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, sought the means to strike back at the enemy. One example was his memo of 22 June, instructing the War Office '..........we ought to have a corps of at least 5,000 parachute troops..........' and it is from this date that British airborne forces start their history.
Despite a lack of experience and equipment, a small band of resourceful men began at once to create this new force. Events moved fast; the Central Landing School was set up at Ringway, Manchester, by Army and RAF staff. Men of 2 Commando were selected for training and the first jumps were made on 13 July. In September the first Hotspur gliders were ordered.
By the end of 1940, 2 Commando, now 500 strong, with a parachute and a glider wing was renamed 11th Special Air Service Battalion.
In February 1941 only nine months after formation the first airborne operation took place, when 38 men parachuted into southern Italy to destroy the Tragino Aqueduct.
Sir Winston Churchill inspecting some of the first Airborne Soldiers at RAF Ringway, 1941.
After these tentative trials, 1941 was a year of development and expansion. The 1st Parachute Brigade was formed in September and shortly afterwards an infantry brigade became the 1st Airlanding Brigade, with four airlanding battalions and supporting arms and services to start training with the gliders now coming off the production line.
In India the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade was formed.
Major General FAM Browning was appointed Commander Paratroops and Airborne Troops. From his small HQ the 1st Airborne Division was formed in November.
In December the Glider Pilot Regiment was established as part of the Army Air Corps to fly the gliders; initially Hotspurs and Wacos, followed by Horsas and Hamilcars. The officer and sergeant pilots, all trained soldiers, fought many gallant actions along side the airborne troops they had landed.
Later in August 1942 all parachute battalions became battalions of The Parachute Regiment in this new corps.