List of Second World War British airborne battalions

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1st Airborne Division paratroopers and gliders during the Battle of Arnhem.

The Second World War British airborne forces comprised the Parachute Regiment, the Glider Pilot Regiment, the airlanding battalions and from 1944 the Special Air Service Brigade.[1] Their formation followed the success of the German airborne operations, during the Battle of France. The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, directed the War Office to investigate the possibility of creating a corps of 5,000 parachute troops.[2]

On 22 June 1940, No. 2 Commando was turned over to parachute duties and on 21 November, re-designated the 11th Special Air Service Battalion, with a parachute and glider wing.[3][4] It was 38 men of this battalion who on 10 February 1941 took part in Operation Colossus the first British airborne operation.[5] In September, the battalion was re-designated the 1st Parachute Battalion.[5] A request for volunteers for parachute duties provided enough men to form the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Parachute Battalions.[5] The volunteers for glider-borne infantry were formed into airlanding battalions from December 1941.[6]

The success of early British airborne operations prompted the War Office to expand the existing airborne force, setting up the Airborne Forces Depot and Battle School in Derbyshire in April 1942, and creating the Parachute Regiment.[7] The fledgling force received another boost following the German success in the Battle of Crete, when the War Office issued a communiqué.

The Airborne Forces of the British Army consists of the parachute troops and glider-borne troops of all arms of service. Officers and men in any regiment or corps, may apply for transfer to a parachute or glider-borne unit of the Airborne Forces.[8]

By the end of the war the British Army had raised seventeen parachute and eight airlanding battalions. These battalions served in seven parachute brigades, three airlanding brigades and three airborne divisions. Some British battalions served in the Far East with Indian Army formations. One Canadian parachute battalion served in a British parachute brigade and a Polish parachute brigade served with a British division.[6]

Almost all the battalions played some part in British airborne operations. The first of which was a platoon sized operation in Italy. The second a company parachute landing in France. Building experience all the time these operations were followed by three battalion sized parachute landings in Tunisia. Parachute and airlanding brigades carried out landings in Sicily and the south of France. But the pinnacle of British airborne operations, were three divisional landings at Normandy, Arnhem and the River Rhine crossing in Germany.

The British airborne forces were easily identified by their distinctive uniform. The maroon beret,[9] the airborne forces patch of Bellerophon riding the flying horse Pegasus and parachute wings worn on the right shoulder of trained parachutists.[10][nb 1] On operations, airborne forces wore their own pattern steel helmet instead of the standard British Brodie helmet and after 1942, the camouflaged Denison smock was issued to airborne forces.[13]

Battalions[edit]

Battalion Active in role Brigade Division Operations Image
1st Parachute Battalion 1941–1945 1st Parachute Brigade[14] 1st Airborne Division[14] Operation Torch[15]
Operation Fustian[16]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[18]
Four men of the 1st Paratroop Battalion.jpg
1st Border Regiment 1941–1945 1st Airlanding Brigade[6] 1st Airborne Division[6] Operation Ladbroke[19]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[20]
Operation Doomsday[21]
Arnhem anti tank gun.jpg
1st Royal Ulster Rifles 1941–1945 1st Airlanding Brigade
[nb 2]
6th Airlanding Brigade[23]
1st Airborne Division[6]
6th Airborne Division[23]
Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
Riflemen aboard a jeep and trailer.jpg
No. 1 Wing, Glider Pilot Regiment
[nb 3]
1941–1945 Glider Pilot Brigade
[nb 4]
Operation Tonga[27]
Operation Mallard[28]
Operation Market Garden[27]
Operation Varsity[27]
[nb 5]
Dutch school being searched for German snipers.jpg
1st SAS Regiment
[nb 6]
1941–1945 SAS Brigade[1] Operation Houndsworth[30]
Operation Bulbasket[31]
Operation Archway[32]
[nb 7]
SAS Op Bulbasket.jpg
2nd Parachute Battalion 1941–1945 1st Parachute Brigade[14] 1st Airborne Division[14] Operation Biting[33]
Operation Torch[15]
Operation Fustian[16]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[18]
2nd Btn Parachute Regiment Tunisia.jpg
2nd South Staffordshire Regiment 1941–1945 1st Airlanding Brigade[6] 1st Airborne Division[6] Operation Ladbroke[19]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[20]
Operation Doomsday[21]
The British Airborne Division at Arnhem and Oosterbeek in Holland BU1091.jpg
2nd Ox and Bucks Light Infantry 1941–1945 1st Airlanding Brigade
[nb 8]
6th Airlanding Brigade[23]
1st Airborne Division[22]
6th Airborne Division[23]
Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
2nd Ox and Bucks.jpg
2nd King's Own Royal Regiment 1945 14th Airlanding Brigade[34] 44th Indian Airborne Division[35] Participated in
Chindit operations.[36]
2nd Black Watch 1945 14th Airlanding Brigade[37] 44th Indian Airborne Division[37] Participated in
Chindit operations.[36]
No. 2 Wing, Glider Pilot Regiment 1941–1945 Glider Pilot Brigade Operation Freshman[27]
Operation Ladbroke[38]
Operation Fustian[39]
Operation Market Garden[27]
Operation Varsity[27]
Two men beside a jeep.jpg
2nd SAS Regiment 1943–1945 SAS Brigade[1] Operation Loyton[40]
Operation Archway[32]
Operation Tombola[41]
[nb 9]
SAS jeep 18 November 1944.jpg
3rd Parachute Battalion 1941–1945 1st Parachute Brigade[14] 1st Airborne Division[14] Operation Torch[15]
Operation Fustian[16]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[18]
4th Parachute Battalion 1942–1945 2nd Parachute Brigade[14]
[nb 10]
1st Airborne Division[14] Operation Fustian[16]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Rugby[43]
Operation Manna[44]
4 Para mortar team Italy 1944.jpg
5th Parachute Battalion
[nb 11]
1942–1945 2nd Parachute Brigade[14]
[nb 12]
1st Airborne Division[14] Operation Fustian[16]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Rugby[43]
Operation Manna[44]
5th parachute btn greece.jpg
6th Parachute Battalion
[nb 13]
1942–1948 2nd Parachute Brigade[14]
[nb 14]
1st Airborne Division[14] Operation Fustian[16]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Rugby[43]
Operation Manna[44]
6th Parachute Battalion.jpg
7th Parachute Battalion
[nb 15]
1942–1945 3rd Parachute Brigade
[nb 16]
5th Parachute Brigade[23]
6th Airborne Division[23] Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
7th King's Own Scottish Borderers 1943–1945 1st Airlanding Brigade[6] 1st Airborne Division[6] Operation Ladbroke[19]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[20]
Operation Doomsday[21]
8th Parachute Battalion
[nb 17]
1942–1945 3rd Parachute Brigade[23] 6th Airborne Division[23] Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
Private Smith 8th Parachute Battalion.jpg
9th Parachute Battalion
[nb 18]
1942–1945 3rd Parachute Brigade[23] 6th Airborne Division[23] Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
9th Para Battalion.jpg
10th Parachute Battalion
[nb 19]
1943–1944 4th Parachute Brigade[6] 1st Airborne Division[6]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[20]
11th Parachute Battalion
[nb 20]
1943–1944 4th Parachute Brigade[6] 1st Airborne Division[6]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[20]
11th Special Air Service Battalion 1940–1941 Operation Colossus[51] General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), inspecting parachute troops at the Central Landing Establishment at RAF Ringway near Manchester, December 1940. H6209.jpg
12th Parachute Battalion
[nb 21]
1943–1945 5th Parachute Brigade[23] 6th Airborne Division[23] Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
12th Parchute Battalion.jpg
12th Devonshire Regiment 1943–1945 6th Airlanding Brigade[23] 6th Airborne Division[23] Operation Tonga[24]
Operation Varsity[26]
13th Parachute Battalion
[nb 22]
1943–1945 5th Parachute Brigade[23] 6th Airborne Division[23] Operation Tonga[24]
Battle of the Bulge[25]
Operation Varsity[26]
15th Parachute Battalion
[nb 23]
1945 77th Indian Parachute Brigade[37] 44th Indian Airborne Division[37] Participated in Chindit
operations before
converting to parachute
duties.[36]
16th Parachute Battalion
[nb 24]
1945 50th Indian Parachute Brigade[37] 44th Indian Airborne Division[37] Participated in Chindit
operations before
converting to parachute
duties.[36]
17th Parachute Battalion 1945 1st Parachute Brigade[55] 1st Airborne Division[56]
151st Parachute Battalion
[nb 25]
1942 50th Indian Parachute Brigade[58]
156th Parachute Battalion
[nb 26]
1942–1944 4th Parachute Brigade[6] 1st Airborne Division[6]
Operation Slapstick[17]
Operation Market Garden[20]
British paratroopers in Oosterbeek cropped.jpg

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ The maroon beret has since become the symbol of airborne forces worldwide.[11] The airborne forces patch was chosen by Lieutenant General Frederick Browning. The emblem was designed in May 1942 by Major Edward Seago, to be worn on the arms of all Airborne soldiers.[12]
  2. ^ 1st Airlanding Brigade until May 1943, then transferred to the 6th.[22]
  3. ^ Trained as soldiers first, the Glider Pilot Regiment consisted of two wings. Each wing was the equivalent of to a small infantry battalion.[27]
  4. ^ The two wings of the Glider Pilot Regiment were trained to fight as a two battalion brigade.[27]
  5. ^ Operation Dragoon and Operation Manna in the Mediterranean were carried out by an independent Glider Pilot Squadron the equivalent of an infantry company.[29]
  6. ^ The SAS regiments became part of the British Airborne forces in March 1944.[1]
  7. ^ Only operation while attached to airborne forces included
  8. ^ 1st Airlanding Brigade until May 1943, then transferred to the 6th.[22]
  9. ^ Only operation while attached to airborne forces included
  10. ^ Part of the 1st Airborne Division until November 1943 when it became an independent parachute brigade[42]
  11. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 7th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.[45]
  12. ^ Part of the 1st Airborne Division until November 1943 when it became an independent parachute brigade[46]
  13. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 10th Royal Welch Fusiliers.[45]
  14. ^ 1st Airborne Division until November 1943 when it became an independent parachute brigade[47]
  15. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 10th Somerset Light Infantry.[45]
  16. ^ Until August 1943 replaced by the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.[48]
  17. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 13th Royal Warwickshire Regiment.[45]
  18. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 10th Essex Regiment.[45]
  19. ^ Formed in Indian from volunteers from the 2nd, 4th and 5th Battalions, Royal Sussex Regiment. It was disbanded after the battle of Arnhem.[49]
  20. ^ Formed from volunteers from the 156th Parachute Battalion. It was disbanded after the battle of Arnhem.[50]
  21. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 10th Green Howards.[52]
  22. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 2/4th South Lancashire Regiment.[52]
  23. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion from the 13th King's Regiment (Liverpool).[53]
  24. ^ Converted to a parachute battalion with volunteers from the 1st South Staffordshire Regiment.[54]
  25. ^ Formed in India from volunteers of 27 British infantry battalions in India. The unit moved to Egypt and then to England and renamed 156 Parachute Bn and formed part of the 4th Parachute Brigade[57]
  26. ^ Renumbered from the 151st Parachute Battalion in December 1942. It was disbanded after the battle of Arnhem.[57]
Citations
  1. ^ a b c d Shott & McBride, p.12
  2. ^ Otway, p.21
  3. ^ Shott & McBride, p.4
  4. ^ Moreman, p.91
  5. ^ a b c Guard, p.218
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Guard, p.275
  7. ^ Harclerode, p.218
  8. ^ Peters, p.5
  9. ^ r Ferguson, p.16
  10. ^ Guard, p.227
  11. ^ King, p.185
  12. ^ "The Journal Of The Parachute Regiment And Airborne Forces". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  13. ^ Guard, p.232
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Chant, P.270
  15. ^ a b c Harclerode, p.209
  16. ^ a b c d e f Chant, p.58
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Chant, p.254
  18. ^ a b c Ferguson, p.22
  19. ^ a b c Mitcham, p.73
  20. ^ a b c d e f Ferguson, p.23
  21. ^ a b c Otway, p. 325
  22. ^ a b c "1 Airlanding Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ferguson, p.16
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h Ferguson, p.17
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Cole, p.154
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h Chant, p.317
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h Peters, p.10
  28. ^ Peters, p.15
  29. ^ Peters, p.41
  30. ^ Bowman, p.144
  31. ^ "Operation Bulbasket". Royal British Legion. Retrieved 23 March 2011. 
  32. ^ a b Davies, p. 19
  33. ^ Chant, p.7
  34. ^ "14 Airlanding Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  35. ^ "44 Indian Airborne Division". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  36. ^ a b c d Wiest, pp.144–145
  37. ^ a b c d e f Conboy, p.5
  38. ^ Peters, p.11
  39. ^ Peters, p.14
  40. ^ "Obituary:Henry Duce". Daily Telegraph (London). 7 February 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2011. 
  41. ^ "Obituary for Major Roy Farran". London: Daily Telegraph. June 5, 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2011. 
  42. ^ "2 Parachute Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  43. ^ a b c Rottman, p.15
  44. ^ a b c Chant, p.158
  45. ^ a b c d e Horn, p.270
  46. ^ "2 Parachute Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  47. ^ "2 Parachute Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  48. ^ "3 Parachute Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  49. ^ "10 Parachute Regiment". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  50. ^ "11 Parachute Regiment". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  51. ^ Harclerode, p.200
  52. ^ a b Gregory, p.53
  53. ^ "15 Parachute Regiment". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  54. ^ "16 Parachute Regiment". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  55. ^ "1 Parachute Brigade". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  56. ^ "1 Airborne Division". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  57. ^ a b "151 Parachute Regiment". Order of Battle. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  58. ^ Conboy, p.3

References[edit]

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