The Parachute Regiment has its origins in the elite force of Commandos set up by the British Army at the request of Winston Churchill during the initial phase of the Second World War. Churchill had been an enthusiast of the concept of airborne warfare since World War I, when he had proposed the creation of a force that might assault the German flanks deep behind the trenches of the static Western front. In 1940 and in the aftermath of Dunkirk, Churchill’s interest was caught again by the idea of taking the fight back to Europe – the airborne was now a means ‘to be able to storm a series of water obstacles… everywhere from the Channel to the Mediterranean and in the East’.wwII brit paratroopers
Lieutenant Bob Midwood briefs his platoon of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company on their pathfinding role in Normandy.
Soldiers of the 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry loading a 6-pounder anti-tank gun aboard a Horsa.
Airborne soldiers hauling a 6-pounder anti-tank gun aboard a Horsa.
Soldiers of the 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry loading a Jeep aboard a Horsa glider.
Engineers of the 249th Field Company load their folding bicycles aboard a Horsa.
Paratroopers and Signallers drinking tea and eating sandwiches in the hours before take-off.
Paratroopers drinking tea and eating sandwiches in the hours before take-off.
Men of the 5th Parachute Brigade HQ at RAF Fairford in the hours before emplaning. In the centre is Major Ted Lough, the Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General, and partially hidden on the extreme right is Captain Guy Radmore, the Brigade Signals Officer.
Paratroopers applying camouflage cream before take-off.
Paratroopers applying camouflage cream. Note the life jacket, specifically designed for the Airborne Forces, in the bottom-left hand corner.
Paratroopers waiting and applying camouflage cream to their faces.parachutists.
A group of paratroopers are amused to inspect each other’s newly issued sleeveless smocks.
A heap of parachutes wait for their owners beside an Albemarle.
Members of a parachute field ambulance sharing cigarettes with their aircrew shortly before take-off.
Men of the 3rd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery standing beside their highly decorated Hamilcar glider prior to take-off. These men are part of the troop who manned the Battery’s powerful 17-pounder guns. Together with their two glider pilots (back row, first and second from the right) and the four crew of their tug aircraft (back row, second to fifth from the left, wearing life jackets), they receive their final briefing.
Paratroopers playing cards before take-off as RAF personnel look on.
Men of the 4th Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery drinking tea before take-off.
Four officers of the Independent Company synchronise watches. Left to right: Captain Bob de Lautour (KIA 20/06/44) and Lieutenants Don Wells, John Vischer, and Bob Midwood.
Men of the Independent Company emplaning. Lieutenant Bob Midwood is standing fourth from the left, facing his stick of parachutists.geovisit();
The advance party of the 8th Battalion, emplaning on the 5th June. Fourth from the left is Ted Eaglen. Also travelling in his aircraft were Thomas Billington and Arthur Platt, who were both captured shortly after landing and then murdered by soldiers of the 125th Panzergrenadier Regiment.
Paratroopers in good cheer en-route to Normandy. The man on the left is a medic.
Soldiers decorating the fuselage of their Horsa before departing with the Second Lift.
Men of the 6th Airlanding Brigade in their Horsa glider, shortly before take-off on the 6th June. The “Angels with dirty faces” remark refers to the camouflage cream that each man wore.
Medical personnel, presumably of the 195th Airlanding Field Ambulance, boarding a Horsa glider.
Soldiers of the 6th Airlanding Brigade attaching a trailer to their Jeep.
Men of the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles leaving LZ-N in a Jeep.
Abandoned Horsa gliders on one of the landing zones. Note the numerous anti-glider poles.
Private Durston, of the 9th Battalion’s “A” Company, with a wounded German POW near the Ecarde crossroads, near the Chateau d’Amfreville. Just above Durston’s left wrist there is a skull and crossbones on his smock. This indicates that he was amongst those men of “A” Company who carried out the glider assault on the Merville Battery. Every man in G-B Force had a luminous skull and crossbones painted about them, so that once they had landed in the battery they could be distinguished from the enemy.
Commandos (wearing berets) and 9th Battalion men (in helmets and bulky Denison smocks) in Amfreville.
Men of “D” Company, 2nd Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who had been on their way to DZ-W on the 8th or 9th June to collect supplies, pose for a photograph around a motorbike in Le Port with a local French girl. Left to right: Private Musty, CQMS Smith, Captain Priday, Unknown 12th Devonshires man and Corporal Lumbley. Private Gardner, sadly out of shot, should be on the extreme right.
Men of the RASC collecting supplies after an air drop over DZ-W, on the western bank of the River Orne, on the 23rd June.Men of the 6th Airborne Division crossing the remnants of the final bridge at Pont L’Eveque on the 24th August. The devastation caused during the two-day battle, particularly due to the fires, is plain to see.geovisit();
Soldiers resting beside a Horsa glider which had broken through a brick wall upon landing.
The remains of a Horsa glider and the house it collided with on LZ-N. Corporal Wagstaff is shown casually inspecting the damage. The house belonged to the Tanguy family, who were uninjured, if a little surprised, when the glider smashed through the wall into their bedroom. Several of the occupants of the glider were not so fortunate, however, one of the Glider Pilots was killed and one of the passengers thrown from the side door of the glider to be left hanging, badly injured, from a roof beam.
Men of the 12th Parachute Battalion taken prisoner during the fighting at Le Bas de Ranville on the 6th June. The paratrooper at the front, wearing the beret, is Lance-Corporal Frank Gleeson.geovisit();
Men of the 1st Special Service Brigade cross over Ranville Bridge and into the Divisional perimeter. The horse had been requisitioned during their advance from the beaches and was used to carry their heavy packs.
Men of the 12th Parachute Battalion’s Machine-Gun Platoon give the thumbs up for the camera during a tea break on the 10th June. Left to right: Dave Weightman, Phil Gudgeon, Jack Thorpe, Bill Armstrong, Willy Watkins, Fred Browning, Tom Matthews, Unknown, and Spike Walker (kneeling).
James Hill attending a ceremony in Normandy, June 2004, the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.
Field Marshal Montgomery awarding the Distinguished Service Order to Brigadier Hill.
Edwin Flavell with Field Marshal Montgomery and senior officers of the 6th Airborne Division in the Ardennes, January 1945. Left to right, back row: Lieutenant-Colonels Napier Crookenden (9th Battalion), Paul Gleadell (12th Devons), Gerald Ford, Michael Roberts (GSO-1 (Ops), Divisional HQ), and Major Archie Bookles (Adjutant, 8th Battalion). Middle row: Lieutenant-Colonels Kenneth Darling (12th Battalion), Geoffrey Pine-Coffin (7th Battalion), Jeff Nicklin (1st Canadian Battalion), and Peter Luard (13th Battalion). Front rows: Brigadier Edward Flavell (6th Airlanding Brigade), Major-General Eric Bols (Commander, 6th Airborne Division), Brigadier James Hill (3rd Parachute Brigade), Field Marshal Montgomery, and Brigadier Nigel Poett (5th Parachute Brigade).
Major-General Richard Gale
Major-General Richard Gale (right) with Queen Elizabeth, exchanging a few words with two Glider Pilots standing beside their Horsa.
Gale (foreground left) with Field Marshal Montgomery (centre) and Brigadier Kindersley (right) on the 8th March 1944.
Major-General Gale with Brigadier Poett.
Richard Gale (second from the right) during a Royal visit on the 19th May 1944. The officer of the 3rd Parachute Squadron on the left is explaining demolition charges to King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth. To the extreme right stands Brigadier James Hill, the commander of the 3rd Parachute Brigade.
Major-General Gale addressing his troops before D-Day.
Major-General Gale addressing his troops before D-Day.
Gale standing amongst some of his paratroopers, fully kitted up with their faces blackened, shortly before take-off on the 5th June.
Group Captain Surplice presenting a can of treacle to Richard Gale in the moments before take-off. In the few days that the two men had known each other, Gale happened to mention that he was very fond of treacle and so the Group Captain was left in little doubt of what to provide by way of a departing gift.
Richard Gale (left), talking to Len Mosley (right), the War Correspondent, at Divisional HQ in Ranville.
Richard Gale with Field Marshal Montgomery.
Lieutenant-General Gale, then Deputy Commander of the 1st Allied Airborne Army, standing in triumphant pose over a Nazi flag in 1945.General Gale (third from the right) in 1960, with the staff at SHAPE who had assisted him in his two-year appointment as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.geovisit();
Brigadier James Hill
James Hill (left) with Major Don Wilkins of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during a Royal visit on the 19th May 1944.
James Hill with Princess Elizabeth during a Royal visit on the 19th May 1944.
James Hill with Field Marshal Montgomery during the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. Left to right: Major-General Eric Bols (CO 6th Airborne Division), Field Marshal Montgomery, Brigadiers Edward Flavell (6th Airlanding Brigade), James Hill, Nigel Poett (5th Parachute Brigade), and Lieutenant-Colonel Napier Crookenden (CO 9th Parachute Battalion).
Lieutenant Michael Aston
Major John Howard
John Howard at the Chateau St Côme in late July, with “D” Company’s snipers. Left to right: “Wackers” Waite, “Pete” Musty, “Nobby” Clarke, John Howard, “Rocky” Bright, “Paddy” O’Donnell, and Denis “Eddie” Edwards.
John Howard (left) beside the glider in which he landed. The front end, on which he is leaning, was smashed during the landing.
Major Allen Parry
Private Tom BillingtonSam Raffery (left) and his best friend “Ginger” Brownsword of the 8th Parachute Battalion. The latter was killed-in-action on the 19th August 1944.
Private John Butler
Sapper Dennis Chatham
Dennis Chatham, second from the right, in Palestine
Dennis Chatham, back row, second from the right, with a football team in Palestine
Corporal John Cooper
John Cooper (left) in Normandy, believed to be on the 11th June, with Privates F. Heaton (centre) and “Geordie” Smith.
John Cooper with his son, Harold, at their home in March 1944.
Corporal Arthur Charles Donovan
Taken aged 25, in the YMCA grounds, Jerusalem, 6th November 1945
Denis Edwards at the Chateau St Côme in late July, with Major John Howard and “D” Company’s snipers. Left to right: “Wackers” Waite, “Pete” Musty, “Nobby” Clarke, John Howard, “Rocky” Bright, “Paddy” O’Donnell, and Denis Edwards. Corporal Wally Parr is not amongst the group, having been wounded earlier in the fighting.
Staff-Sergeant James Forlow of the Army Physical Training Corps at Aldershot in 1944. Left to right, back row: D. Anderson, A. Baxter, T. Cooper, Dofort, Day. Middle row: Docker, James Forlow, Glyn, Hunter, Hampton, Jackson, Michells, Maskel. Front Row: Preston, Roberts, Redcliffe, Langman, Scarlett, Smith, and Walker.
C” Company, 9th Parachute Battalion, taken on Salisbury Plain before D-Day. Private Ron Jones stands 10th from the right, 3rd row from the top
Sam Rafferty (on the front row, bottom right, lying down) with his “B” Company, 8th Parachute Battalion comrades shortly before take-off for Operation Varsity on 24th March 1945. On the back row, second from the right is “Paddy” who later became mayor of Saskatoon, Saskatchuan, Canada. Second from the left is possibly Jimmy Spencer. On the next row, first and second from the right respectively, are Jimmy Stagg and David Gooding, the latter was killed in action several hours later. On the second from front row, third from the right, is Fred Potts, one of the two battalion armourers.
A” Company, 12th Battalion The Devonshire Regiment. Bert Milne is possibly on the front row, 2nd or 4th from the left
No.3 Platoon, “A” Company, 13th Parachute Battalion, taken in October 1943.Back row (left to right): Unknown, Whiteside, Eales, Smith, Unknown, West, Bardsley, Oliver, Barclay, Unknown, Unknown, Durnley, Unknown, Unknown, Corporal Unwin.Middle row (left to right): Unknown, Birchall, Unknown, Sergeant M. Farrell, Sergeant T. Taylor, Sergeant G. Butler, Sergeant Lawley MM, Hawthorn MM, possibly Cave, also possibly Cave.Front row (left to right): Unknown, Gospel, Brown, Lieutenant J. Watson MC, Darnell, Corporal Bott, Unknown.Men of “B” Company, 8th Parachute Battalion.B” Company, 8th Parachute Battalion, at Quastina, in Palestine, July 1946.men of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company in 1943.Men of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, taken after the Normandy landingsTetrarch light tank of the 6th Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment leaving its Hamilcar glider during a training exerciseCaptain John Max, before the invasion, urging soldiers not to talk about any aspect of their training. The caption reads: “A wise old Owl – perched in an oak, The more he saw – the less he spoke, The less he spoke – the more he heard, Oh SOLDIER – imitate that bird!!”. Captain Max was GSO-3 (Intelligence) to Divisional HQ. He was killed on the 6th June when his glider crashed to the east of the River Dives in the grounds of the Chateau de Grangues. The other men in the glider survived and were taken prisoner, however one of the glider pilots, Barry Powell, died on impact, and the other pilot, Duncan Wright, was murdered by soldiers of the 711th Division, together with the seven survivors of a crashed Stirling which was carrying men of the 591st Parachute Squadron and HQ Royal Engineers.The senior Intelligence Officers of the 6th Airborne involved in the planning of the Division’s role in Normandy. Left to right: Captain John Max (GSO-3, KIA 6th June 1944), Major Gerry Lacoste (GSO-2, Wounded 6th June), and Captain Freddie Scholes (GSO-3, KIA 16th June 1944).Field Marshal Montgomery addressing 6th Airborne Division paratroopers in March 1944. His insistence upon wearing the Red Beret, which had been presented to him in Sicily by the former commander of the 1st Airborne Division, Major-General Hopkinson, who was later killed in Italy, did not go well amongst all members of the Parachute Regiment, who had of course worked very hard to earn theirs.Glider Pilots being briefed shortly before the InvasionGlider Pilots being briefed shortly before the Invasion.Airborne troops receiving Invasion Currency. A Lieutenant of the Parachute Regiment is sitting behind the table, handing out the money.A soldier of the Royal Corps of Signals (right) receiving Invasion Currency from a Captain and a Lieutenant of the Parachute Regiment.Signalman John Easby (left) discussing his Invasion Currency with Douglas Davis at RAF Fairford on the 3rd June. Easby survived the War, however Signalman Davis was Killed in Action on the 6th June 1944Paratroopers packing PIAT bombs into supply containers before D-Day.Captured Airborne troops on the 6th June.Captured Airborne troops being escorted by German guards. On the far right of the picture is the Glider Pilot, Staff-Sergeant Bill Ridgeway. His glider landed near Le Bas de RanvilleA group of 8th Battalion paratroopers taken prisoner shortly after landing. The two men in the foreground are Sergeant Arthur Cain and Corporal Reg BrownhillMajor Cramphorn (second from the left), commander of “A” Company, 13th Parachute Battalion, with three of his men who were separated from the Battalion for over month. They landed at Troarn and were sheltered by the French Resistance until they were able to rejoin their unit when Caen fell to Allied forces. Left to right: Company Sergeant Major McParlan, Private Bardsley, and Lance-Corporal West.German mobile 20mm Anti-Aircraft gun, captured by the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and used by Troopers C. Davies and L. Walden (pictured) against German aircraft. They successfully shot down a Bf-109 and Fw-190.Lance-Corporals L. Barnett and A. Burton of the Provost Company dug in at a crossroads.The 9th Parachute Battalion escorting German prisoners.
Freed Italian POW’s under escort.An Airborne soldier in a village to the east of the River Orne.
Captain Priday (centre), the Second-in-Command of “D” Company, 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, together with two men of No.4 Platoon, Private Frank Gardner (left) and Lance-Corporal B. H. Lambley. Their glider had landed eight miles from Ranville Bridge and it was not until the 7th June that they were able to rejoin the Company.