[ Sgt Michael Willetts & Sgt Walter Beard ]

1st Bn Parachute Regiment (1 Para)

[ Cap Badge ]

[ 1 Para SFSG ]

[ 2 Para ]

[ 3 Para ]

[ 4 Para ]

The First Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (1 PARA) is a battalion sized formation of the British Army's Parachute Regiment and subordinate unit within 16th Air Assault Brigade, but is permanently attached to the Special Forces Support Group.

An airborne light infantry unit, the battalion has since 2006 been the main contributor of manpower to the Special Forces Support Group and is capable of a wide range of operations. Based at RAF St Athan, their barracks in South Wales, personnel regularly deploy outside of the United Kingdom on operations and training. All personnel will have completed the Pre Parachute Selection (P Company) course at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire (previously it was at Aldershot, Hampshire) entitling them to wear the Maroon beret.


The 1st Battalion can trace its origins to 1940, when the No. 2 Commando were trained as parachutists. In 1941, the battalion was assigned to the 1st Parachute Brigade part of the 1st Airborne Division. The battalion took part in operation in Tunisia and Italy before dropping into the Netherlands in September 1944, as part of Operation Market Garden.

After the war the battalion was reconstituted in 1946, and affiliated to the Brigade of Guards. It was disbanded in 1948, only to be from the 4th/6th Battalion. The battalion was part of Operation Musketeer in 1956.

Operation Musketeer
Operation Musketeer was the invasion of Suez in 1956, a joint British, French and Israeli operation. The immediate cause was Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal. It was a military success and a political failure. All three of our regular battalions were there. 3 PARA jumped in. 1 PARA & 2 PARA went by sea so they missed out on the first and last operational jump since World War II ... Interesting website http://sunray22b.net

Radfan, Borneo and Aden 1964-7
In January 1967 1 PARA was sent to Aden to cover the final withdrawal of British troops from the South Arabian Peninsular. It was directed to prepare for ‘any contingency’, which might range from civil disorder to possible attack from Yemen. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walsh, established aggressive surveillance from fortified observation posts (OPs) covering the main thoroughfares in the highly volatile Sheik Othman and Al Mansura districts of Aden. ‘Fort Walsh’ named after the CO typified the well defended strong-points established to contain serious outbreaks of armed violence during the running battles of the 1st June within the city and the later mutiny by the South Arabian Army and Police Force.

Life for the troops was an endless six month round of patrolling, cordon and search operations, running Observation Posts (OPs) and check-points. The task culminated in the protection of the final withdrawal on 27th November; a tour that resulted in the award of a DSO, MBE, an MM and 16 MIDs for the battalion group.
More by Paradata Editor

Fort Walsh
1 PARA under command of Lt Col Michael Walsh completed an operational tour in Aden in 1967 to cover the British withdrawal and hand-over of the Colony. ‘Fort Walsh’ was one of the strong points established to protect the mission. On May 25th the paratroopers took over the districts of Al Mansura and Sheik Othman, known trouble spots for civil disorder in the Colony. The intention was to keep open the north-south route from the border to Aden and prevent the use of Sheik Othman as a terrorist base for insurgents allegedly funded by Egypt and the Yemen. Strikes were called to clear the streets of civilians to enable the insurgents to engage in gun battles with British troops. One paratrooper was killed and four wounded after one such day-long confrontation on 1st June when six rebels were killed, five captured and four likely wounded. When the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War broke out on 5th June Colonel Walsh decided upon pre-emptive action and deployed his battalion. One of the companies was ordered to take over a disused Mission Hospital in the heart of Sheik Othman. Three strong Observation Posts (OPs) were established nearby to protect the Police Station, the Mission and ‘Grenade Corner’. Firing broke out and continued until nightfall.

As this was going on the rest of the battalion at Radfan Camp to the south east was filling sandbags to the accompaniment of the firing clearly heard to the north. By dawn the sandbags had been moved forward and the newly occupied buildings were swiftly labelled ‘Fort Walsh’ by the soldiers. Colonel Walsh occupied it with his tactical headquarters to control the street battles. Strong-points had been established in the hot-spots capable of resisting any attack. After facing three General Strikes, the fall-out from the Arab-Israeli War and an armed mutiny among the police and South Arabian Army, 1 PARA was secure in well fortified positions like Fort Walsh. Life settled to an endless round of patrolling, manning check-points and cordon and search operations from stable bases. Companies revolved on four-day rotations manning these outposts in Sheik Othman and Al Mansura until withdrawal in November. Lt Col Walsh had seized the initiative and with strong points like Fort Walsh dominating Sheik Othman, 1 PARA retained control.

In the 1970s, the battalion first deployed to Northern Ireland in Operation Banner. The Battalion was central to the events of Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972.

The battalion was involved in the NATO operations in Kosovo in 1999, Operation Agricola. They were also selected to provide support for the Special Air Service in Sierra Leone during Operation Palliser in 2000. 

Operation Barras
Operation Barras was the name given to a hostage rescue operation by the British Special Air Service, Special Boat Service, and Parachute Regiment in Sierra Leone on 10 September 2000. The men on the ground nicknamed the dangerous mission 'Operation Certain Death' On August 25, 2000, members of the British Army's Royal Irish Regiment led by Major Alan Marshall and their Sierra Leone Army liaison officer, Lieutenant Musa Bangura were on a vehicular patrol in the Occra Hills. At the time, the area was infamous for being sightings of attacks, banditry, and kidnappings. The patrol was ambushed, surrounded, and forced to surrender. The eleven-man-patrol was taken prisoner and held hostage by an armed rebel group known as the West Side Boys led by then, 24 year old Foday Kallay. Some controversy exists regarding the mission of the British troops; British sources initially maintained that the soldiers were returning to Freetown from a meeting with Jordanian United Nations forces when they were captured. However, the Nigerian UN commander, General Garba, claims that the British soldiers never met with the Jordanian troops. British authorities later admitted that their soldiers may have been captured while deep in rebel territory. On 3 September, five of the eleven British soldiers were released in exchange for a satellite phone and medical supplies. Further negotiations then broke down and Foday Kallay threatened to kill the remaining hostages. It was then that British Prime Minister Tony Blair authorised the mission.
The operation
At 6:16 a.m. local time on 10 September, three Chinook and three Lynx helicopters took off from the Freetown airport and headed for Rokel Creek, upon the banks of which was located the West Side Boys' camp. On the northern bank was the village of Geberi Bana, where the remaining British soldiers were being kept. On the opposite bank were two more villages, Magbeni and Forodugu, also occupied by the rebels. The Land Rovers used by the captured soldiers had been taken to Magbeni. The attack on the rebel camps commenced at around 6:30 as the helicopters came in and disgorged troops almost simultaneously on both northern and southern target locations. In Geberi Bana, SAS observation teams, which had been inserted days before and had kept the rebels under surveillance ever since, began to engage them. The rescuers, SAS troopers, extracted the remaining six British soldiers and the Sierra Leonean Officer, Lieutenant Musa Bangura, within twenty minutes. They were flown out to the RFA Sir Percivale moored in Freetown harbour at about 7:00 that morning. In Magbeni, the Paratroopers engaged the awakened rebels. A second wave soon brought the Paras to full strength as they continued the assault. This attack diverted attention from the rescue mission on the opposite bank in Geberi Bana. Most of the action was over by 8:00, although the last British troops pulled out at 14:00 in the afternoon, after conducting mopping-up operations that saw the capture of Foday Kallay and the recovery of the Land Rovers. One SAS member, Bombardier Brad Tinnion, was killed in the operation, and 8 paratroopers and 4 SAS were wounded ... Read more Wikipedia

In 2003, they were deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Telic in Iraq. In 2006, it was announced that the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment would in future be based at RAF St Athan, in Wales and assigned to the Special Forces Support Group United Kingdom Special Forces.

The Special Forces Support Group or SFSG is a special operations unit of the British Armed Forces. The SFSG is the newest addition to the United Kingdom Special Forces. It was formed officially on 3 April 2006 to support the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service on operations. This could include diversionary tactics, protective cordons and extra fire power. The SFSG was initially composed of personnel from the British Army's Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment, but is now open to all personnel in the United Kingdom's Armed Forces that have passed either Pegasus Company run by the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines Commando Course or the Royal Air Force Pre-Parachute Selection course.

[ Back to the Para's home page ]