Paratroopers History

Paratroopers are airborne soldiers trained to parachute into enemy territory/situations and then to undertake land force tasks. Paratroopers are a relatively new addition to the armed forces and the possibility of using troops in this way was mooted from the early days of the Air Force but did not actually happen until some years later. It is thought that the French did the first military parachute jump in 1915 and that the first combat jump was probably made by the Italians in 1918.

The idea of paratroopers was considered during the First World War but paratroopers did not really appear until the 1930s when the Russians parachuted troops into manoeuvres as a test. However, it was Germany and England that was to use paratroopers most during the Second World War. The Germans, for example, had a parachute regiment as early as 1935 and their regiments gained combat experience during the Spanish Civil War. England, however, had no formal regiment close to the beginning of the Second World War.

Paratroopers were used a lot by the Germans in the run up to and during the Second World War. For example, they were used during the invasions of Austria and Norway and on attacks in the Netherlands and Crete. It is thought that the attack on Crete, although successful, did not go according to plan and Hitler disbanded his paratroopers. The British forces, however, could see the advantages of paratroopers by this stage and started to form regiments.

The first British regiment was assigned to the Army rather than the Air Force and was based near Manchester. The troops here did not have specially designed planes but had to jump out of the rear gun turret area. By 1940 the troops formed the Special Air Service regiment. They sustained a lot of casualties during the D-Day landings and the attack on Arnhem although they captured air strips in Burma.

Since the Second World War paratroopers have been deployed in various wars/incidents including the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Balkan War and the Iraq War.