Para History & Para Legends

Decwba18

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Just a quick one here, got me ac 16th december (next week). Feeling confident. Just wondering if there is anymore not so well known history about the paras that i could mention that will impress the interviewer. Cheers.
 

Chelonian

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Just wondering if there is anymore not so well known history about the paras that i could mention that will impress the interviewer.
My bold. I can think of some examples but probably unhelpful at interview. 🙂

But seriously: have a basic knowledge of regimental battle honours. So if asked, for example, "What can you tell me about Bruneval?" you can at least answer "Wasn't that an early airborne raid to capture Nazi radar technology?"
You probably won't need to bog yourself down in minute historical detail. Convey respect for the regiment you aspire to join and its heritage.

Others here who know much more than what I do. Hopefully they will chip in.
Best of luck. Let us know how you get on at AC.
 

Admin

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Great question. Definitely take some time to research the various battle honours and Victoria Cross winners. I guarantee you’ll find them inspirational. Definitely take the time to read the citations.

As @Chelonian has said, you don’t need to bog yourself down with the minutiae of historical events but a base knowledge is always good.
Whilst we are on the topic did you know that The Paras are the only infantry regiment of the British Army that has not been amalgamated with another unit since the end of the Second World War?

Watchwords to remember are professionalism, resilience, discipline, versatility, courage and self-reliance. Para Reg is light by design, because this confers speed of reaction, and is expert at air-land deployments, by helicopter, aeroplane or parachute. Understanding Regimental history, pride and ethos is a fantastic way to judge motivation. I’ve posted some useful links below.

https://www.paradata.org.uk/timeline

https://www.paradata.org.uk/decoration/victoria-cross

https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/paras

https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/corps-regiments-and-units/infantry/parachute-regiment/
 

Scraps

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As an aside, this would be a great topic for a proper thread. @Chelonian, like myself is a history nut so maybe he and I could come up with something?
 

Chelonian

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Suits me fine. How about a regimental history thread? Not only the dry, official versions but also the overlooked and seldom recorded nuggets which embody the Airborne Spirit and are often the stuff of legend?
 

smudge67

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Also, Audible is perfect for learning about the history whilst on long runs, tabs, etc.
 

Scraps

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Suits me fine. How about a regimental history thread? Not only the dry, official versions but also the overlooked and seldom recorded nuggets which embody the Airborne Spirit and are often the stuff of legend?
Exactly this ^
 

Dot

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Suits me fine. How about a regimental history thread? Not only the dry, official versions but also the overlooked and seldom recorded nuggets which embody the Airborne Spirit and are often the stuff of legend?
Definitely this
 

Chelonian

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1973 Op Banner ‘Invasion’

This might be of interest to some. The first quoted extract is from Big Boys’ Rules by Mark Urban:

One incident, which could have been even more serious than that involving the SAS, is related by a member of the Parachute Regiment. A patrol commanded by a colourful NCO nicknamed ‘Banzai’ was landed in a field by an RAF helicopter. The pilot had made a map reading error, putting the soldiers down too far south, well inside the Irish Republic. When Banzai and his patrol sighted Irish Army armoured cars and troops moving to the north of them, they concluded that they were witnessing an invasion of Northern Ireland. Alarmed, British Army officers were readying their own armoured cars to fight the Irish Army before it was realised that Banzai’s patrol was inside the Republic.

The late Jim ‘Banzai’ Burton was later CSM of B Coy 2 PARA amongst other subsequent appointments.

To add context in the early 1970s there was speculation that the Republic of Ireland might invade across the border into Ulster. This sounds fanciful now but at the time it was considered a serious possibility.

The terrain of South Armagh along the border is very rural. From the air it is a vast patchwork of green farm fields which is why patrols sometimes strayed across the border when ‘navigationally challenged’ or in other words ‘totally lost’. Depending on the political climate and the good humour of the Garda Síochána a straying patrol might be arrested or simply pointed in the appropriate direction.

A credible source adds more detail to Mark Urban’s sketch:

“When the patrol exited the chopper they did the standard SOP and sat tight. This is when a steady stream of Ferret, Fox and other armoured vehicles were observed heading north along a nearby road. Banzai had no timely way of working out the patrol’s exact location on the ground but he knew that the designated LZ was well within the North and that he had not moved away from the LZ. He communicated what he had observed back to battalion and was ordered to stay put and observe.
It was at this point that the flapping began in the head-shed. Banzai’s report was escalated up the Army’s NI chain of command and then across to London. The British Embassy in Dublin received an encrypted signal alerting it to developing events on the border. Apparently the report almost reached 10 Downing Street.
Meanwhile, a member of the Garda Síochána on his routine rural beat had noticed the helicopter activity and sauntered across the fields with a local farmer to see what was up. Happening upon Banzai’s patrol he pointed north and chuckled “You’re too far south boys. But it’s not a problem. Just walk that way for a quarter hour and you’ll be back in the North, so you will.”"

Banzai’s ‘invasion’ became the stuff of legend. :)
 

Tony_m

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Love this and this is exactly the type of history thread we need. Top drills Chelonian !
I didn’t know Jim well but I attended his funeral a few years back. The stories told that night had us all howling. Banzai was a true Airborne character.
 

Nutter

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1973 Op Banner ‘Invasion’

This might be of interest to some. The first quoted extract is from Big Boys’ Rules by Mark Urban:

One incident, which could have been even more serious than that involving the SAS, is related by a member of the Parachute Regiment. A patrol commanded by a colourful NCO nicknamed ‘Banzai’ was landed in a field by an RAF helicopter. The pilot had made a map reading error, putting the soldiers down too far south, well inside the Irish Republic. When Banzai and his patrol sighted Irish Army armoured cars and troops moving to the north of them, they concluded that they were witnessing an invasion of Northern Ireland. Alarmed, British Army officers were readying their own armoured cars to fight the Irish Army before it was realised that Banzai’s patrol was inside the Republic.

The late Jim ‘Banzai’ Burton was later CSM of B Coy 2 PARA amongst other subsequent appointments.

To add context in the early 1970s there was speculation that the Republic of Ireland might invade across the border into Ulster. This sounds fanciful now but at the time it was considered a serious possibility.

The terrain of South Armagh along the border is very rural. From the air it is a vast patchwork of green farm fields which is why patrols sometimes strayed across the border when ‘navigationally challenged’ or in other words ‘totally lost’. Depending on the political climate and the good humour of the Garda Síochána a straying patrol might be arrested or simply pointed in the appropriate direction.

A credible source adds more detail to Mark Urban’s sketch:

“When the patrol exited the chopper they did the standard SOP and sat tight. This is when a steady stream of Ferret, Fox and other armoured vehicles were observed heading north along a nearby road. Banzai had no timely way of working out the patrol’s exact location on the ground but he knew that the designated LZ was well within the North and that he had not moved away from the LZ. He communicated what he had observed back to battalion and was ordered to stay put and observe.
It was at this point that the flapping began in the head-shed. Banzai’s report was escalated up the Army’s NI chain of command and then across to London. The British Embassy in Dublin received an encrypted signal alerting it to developing events on the border. Apparently the report almost reached 10 Downing Street.
Meanwhile, a member of the Garda Síochána on his routine rural beat had noticed the helicopter activity and sauntered across the fields with a local farmer to see what was up. Happening upon Banzai’s patrol he pointed north and chuckled “You’re too far south boys. But it’s not a problem. Just walk that way for a quarter hour and you’ll be back in the North, so you will.”"

Banzai’s ‘invasion’ became the stuff of legend. :)

That’s class mate!
 

Iron

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This is an excellent idea @Chelonian and we can promote some of the less stuffy and dry regimental histories!

Sticking with the early 70s

On the evening of the 25th May 1971 a PIRA terrorist entered the reception hall of Springfield Road RUC station in West Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumping the case on the floor he fled out-side, inside the enquiry office were an adult couple and two young children and several Police officers. One of the police officers raised the alarm then began ushering the civvies out to safety. Sgt Michael Willetts of 3 PARA was on duty in the inner hall, on hearing the alarm he sent an NCO to the first floor to warn those above and hastened himself to the door towards which the police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway shielding those taking cover. He then placed his body in the path of the bomb to save lives.

In the next moment the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sgt Willetts was mortally wounded. His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area. All those people who were approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they had had to check to open the door, They would have perished. Sgt Willetts waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.

By this act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and children.

Sgt Michael Willetts was awarded the George Cross (Posthumous)
 

Chelonian

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...we can promote some of the less stuffy and dry regimental histories!
Agreed. It's generally the blokes on the ground who make history while the head-shed write it up.

NI was not exactly a barrel of laughs but 'dark humour' keeps blokes going. One old boy of my acquaintance tells the tale of public disorder in Belfast in 1969. Troops deployed into a blizzard of bottles and half-bricks followed the protocol of the early days and unfurled a fifteen-foot-wide banner on poles upon which was printed the lawful order to disperse. The obvious problem was that the banner was old stock from the recent Aden theatre so the message was printed in elaborate Yemeni-Arabic script. :)
 
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Chelonian

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Some years back a delightful, tiny woman of my acquaintance (just under 1.2 m tall; she let me measure her) explained to me the difference between midgets and dwarfs.
But that's swerving the thread way off topic.
 

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Northern Ireland plays an important part in Para Regimental history:

The accumulated total in months spent operating in the Province for 1, 2 and 3 PARA amounted to 24 years and six months. The cost was high: Sergeant Michael Willetts with 3 PARA was awarded a posthumous George Cross in 1971; in January 1972 1 PARA was involved in the riots on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Londonderry and the following month the 16th Parachute Brigade Officer’s Mess was bombed at Aldershot; 17 soldiers from 2 PARA were killed in one bombing incident at Warrenpoint on August 27th 1979.

The Parachute Regiment received over 40 gallantry awards and 180 honours and commendations and 60 Mention in Dispatches for service on Op Banner.

Information sourced via ParaData.
 
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