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Paratroopers remember the original ‘Red Devils’

Exactly 80 years to the day that paratroopers jumped into North Africa during the Second World War, the current generation of airborne soldiers paused training in Morocco to pay their respects.

A Company Group, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment held a Remembrance service during Exercise Jebel Sahara, which saw the unit training alongside the Moroccan 2e Brigade d'Infanterie Parachutiste to develop their desert warfare skills.

As the paratroopers stood in respectful silence to remember those killed in the war, close in their thoughts were the soldiers who helped establish The Parachute Regiment’s formidable reputation during fighting in North Africa 80 years before.

Operation Torch - the Allied invasion of French North Africa - started with amphibious landings in Morocco, followed by the 3rd Parachute Battalion parachuting in to capture Bone airfield in Algeria on 12 November 1942. Across the month, the 1st and 2nd Parachute Battalions also jumped in to seize key objectives in Tunisia at Beja and Oudna respectively.

Paratroopers were in the thick of heavy fighting until German and Italian forces surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943, winning eight battle honours for the newly formed regiment. Paratroopers were nicknamed rote teufeln - red devils - by German troops struck by their ferocity in combat and how the tail strap hanging from their parachute smocks became covered in the region’s red earth.

A Coy’s Company Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class Two Adam Croucher described it as “a huge privilege” to be in North Africa for the 80th anniversary of Operation Torch.

“We are incredibly proud of The Parachute Regiment’s history, which we’re taught about from the first day in basic training,” he said. “We know that, as today’s red devils, the standard that we aim for was set by the towering achievements of those who served before us."

“The heat and rocky terrain makes the desert an incredibly demanding environment to operate in. For me, to experience it for a few weeks of tough training only adds to the respect I have for the paratroopers who fought here for six months during the Second World War.”