COLCHESTER’S famous Parachute Regiment has marked the 80th anniversary of the formation of the British Army’s airborne forces.

On June 22, 1940 Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote a memorandum calling for the formation of “a corps of at least 5,000 parachute troops”, having seen the effectiveness of German airborne troops during the initial campaigns.

The date is considered to be the birthday of the Parachute Regiment and airborne forces.

By arriving on the battlefield by air - by parachute, glider or helicopter - airborne soldiers and the bravery, robustness and initiative they are famed for, has proved vital in outmanoeuvring and defeating the enemy on battlefields from Normandy and Arnhem in the Second World War.

They have also served in subsequent conflicts in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade - the British Army’s current airborne formation - marked the anniversary with a socially-distanced service at Merville Barracks.

Troops, some dressed in uniforms worn on operations over the past 80 years provided by the Airborne Assault Museum at Duxford, gathered at the barracks’ Second World War Dakota aircraft.


Brigadier John Clark, Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, read out the Churchill memorandum and laid a wreath in tribute to the achievements and sacrifice of airborne soldiers over the past 80 years.

Brigadier Clark said: “Over their 80 year history, airborne forces have been at the forefront of the nation’s defence and today’s soldiers serving in 16 Air Assault Brigade recognise their responsibilities to carry on that legacy.


“Airborne soldiers are the fittest, most motivated and best trained in the British Army and possess a mental readiness to do things that others are not prepared to.

“We will always be the first force sent out and we have to be able to adapt to any situation that we are presented with.”

Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade is the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force whose soldiers have been specially trained and equipped to deploy by parachute, helicopter and air landing.


Its core role is to maintain the Air Assault Task Force, a battle group held at high readiness to deploy anywhere in the world to carry out the full spectrum of missions from non-combatant evacuation operations to war fighting.

Built around the airborne infantry of the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Gurkha Rifles, the brigade includes artillery, engineers, signals, logistics, medical and intelligence units specially trained and equipped to deploy by air.