Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK


UK

The Paras: Britain's elite fighters

Paratroopers undergo seriously tough training

In the 50 years since Winston Churchill called for the formation of a parachute regiment, the Paras have earned a reputation for being one of the toughest regiments in the British Army.

Kosovo: Special Report
The regiment is made up of three battalions, 1, 2 and 3 Para. One battalion is always in the Airborne Battlegroup, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world.

And now the focus of these world-famous crack troops is on Kosovo with around 700 ready for action.

Red Devils

During World War II, the Paras, wearing their traditional maroon-coloured berets, became known as the Red Devils after several successful campaigns in Europe and North Africa.

But their most famous exploit was the drop at Arnhem in 1944.


[ image: Proud to wear the Red Beret]
Proud to wear the Red Beret
This disastrous operation, which was dramatised in the film A Bridge Too Far, was an attempt to end the war early that went horribly wrong.

There were not enough planes to bring in the whole air-land bridgade, and the lightly armed 1st Parachute Brigade were left to secure the bridge over the Rhine until the second battalion came in.

Unknown to British intelligence, the German army had sent in extra troops of the SS Panzer Corps to protect the bridge.

Brits in Balkans
The second battalion along with soldiers from other regiments managed to secure the northern end for three days and four nights - they had expected to wait just 48 hours for ground reinforcements that failed to arrive on time.

Of the 10,000 men sent in from various regiments, just 3,000 returned. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery - two of them for members of the Parachute regiment.


[ image:  ]
Some 40 years on, the paras were sent in as part of a British task force to take back the Falkland Islands from Argentine forces in 1982.

The 3 Para and 2 Para battalions were the first troops to enter the capital, Port Stanley.

It was victory but at a price. They had sustained 40 dead and 93 wounded. The two battalions were honoured with 68 awards including two posthumous VCs.

More controversially, during a demonstration in Londonderry in January, 1972, 13 people were shot dead by soldiers from the First Parachute Regiment. The shootings are once again the subject of public inquiry.

'You don't have to be superman'

Training has been described as the toughest in the world.

Kosovo - Military hardware
But the British Army, eager for recruits, wants to reassure young hopefuls that they do not need superhuman strength to make the grade.

"You don't have to be superman to complete training - all you need is some guts and determination and the will to be a paratrooper!" says its Website.

Over a period of 19 weeks at a base in Catterick, North Yorkshire, new recruits are trained in marksmanship, field firing, trench warfare, and finally parachute training.

Those who have earned the Maroon Beret are based at Aldershot in Hampshire.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England

Relevant Stories

11 Jun 99 | UK
UK troops bear Nato's load

09 Jun 99 | UK
Gurkhas: A force to be reckoned with

07 Jun 99 | Europe
KFOR: How it will work

05 Jun 99 | UK
British troops head for Balkans

15 May 99 | UK
UK increases Serbia forces

11 Jun 99 | UK
SAS 'on ground in Kosovo'





Internet Links


The British Army


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online