UK — 70th anniversary of Airborne Forces

The 70th anniver­sary of the for­ma­tion of the Air­borne Forces was marked with a cel­e­bra­to­ry din­ner held in Lon­don last week.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales talks to former members of the Airborne Forces
His Roy­al High­ness The Prince of Wales talks to for­mer mem­bers of the Air­borne Forces
Source: Cpl Rupert Frere RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The tra­di­tion­al for­ma­tion date of the Air­borne Forces is recog­nised as 22 June 1940 when Sir Win­ston Churchill signed a mem­o­ran­dum call­ing for an ‘elite corps of troops’ to form a force of 5,000 para­troop­ers.

Fol­low­ing the request a para­chute train­ing school was estab­lished at Manchester’s Ring­way Air­port.

The reg­i­ment quick­ly grew into the 11th Spe­cial Air Ser­vice Bat­tal­ion and ulti­mate­ly, on 1 August 1942, The Para­chute Reg­i­ment. By the end of the Sec­ond World War, the reg­i­ment com­prised 17 bat­tal­ions.

It sur­vives today in 16 Air Assault Brigade, a mix of para­troop­ers, avi­a­tion, air, and air assault forces.

The brigade also includes three heli­copter reg­i­ments and has par­tic­u­lar­ly close ties to the Roy­al Air Force.

To mark the 70th anniver­sary, VIPs includ­ing His Roy­al High­ness The Prince of Wales, Baroness Mar­garet Thatch­er, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Mar­shal Sir Jock Stir­rup, gath­ered with serv­ing mem­bers of 16 Air Assault Brigade and for­mer mem­bers of the Air­borne Forces at the Roy­al Hos­pi­tal Chelsea.

The cel­e­bra­tions, which took place on Thurs­day 24 June 2010, fea­tured a per­for­mance by a mil­i­tary band, the fir­ing of a can­non and a fly­past by two mil­i­tary heli­copters.

Service of thanksgiving in the Chapel at Royal Hospital Chelsea
Ser­vice of thanks­giv­ing in the Chapel at Roy­al Hos­pi­tal Chelsea
Source: Cpl Rupert Frere RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

In a fore­word to a com­mem­o­ra­tive book­let mark­ing the anniver­sary, the Prince of Wales, in his role as Colonel-in-Chief of The Para­chute Reg­i­ment, wrote:

“From their ear­li­est days, Air­borne Forces have prized self­less courage, ini­tia­tive and resolve above oth­er virtues and these, togeth­er with the rigours of a demand­ing selec­tion, have been instru­men­tal in mould­ing a for­mi­da­ble fight­ing force with an unmatched rep­u­ta­tion for excel­lence and tenac­i­ty.

“The ‘fun­da­men­tal spir­it and fight­ing ethos’ of Air­borne Forces remains unal­tered,” he said.

“70 years on, Air­borne Forces remain inspi­ra­tional and rel­e­vant, a bea­con of excel­lence and a bench­mark for attain­ment…

“I salute all those who have served with Air­borne Forces, all they have achieved over the decades, and I wish them a long and pros­per­ous future.”

Cel­e­bra­tions will con­tin­ue on 24 July 2010 when 16 Air Assault Brigade will present an open day for fam­i­lies and friends at Merville Bar­racks, Colch­ester.

Com­mand­ed by Brigadier James Chiswell, 16 Air Assault Brigade are cur­rent­ly con­duct­ing pre-deploy­ment train­ing to deploy to Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 13 in autumn this year.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK