[ Sgt Michael Willetts & Sgt Walter Beard ]

3rd Bn Parachute Regiment (3 Para)

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[ 2 Para ]

[ 2 Para ]

[ 3 Para ]

[ 4 Para ]

The Battalion was formed in September 1941 from volunteers from across the Army at Hardwick in Derbyshire and commanded by Lt Col GW Lathbury. From 500 interviewed by one company only 100 were accepted for training. Before leaving for North Africa with the 1st Parachute Brigade intense parachute and field exercises were conducted to prepare the new battalion for combat.

On the 12th November 1942 the 3rd Battalion captured the German airfield at Bone in Tunisia, the first British Army battalion level parachute operation. They were relieved by 1st Army; thereafter the battalion fought as line infantry for the rest of the campaign. The parachute battle cry Waho Mohammed allegedly began with the 3rd Battalion, stemming from this period in North Africa. It was used as a recognition cry when operating in close country and was adopted by the 1st Brigade and the other parachute battalions.

During the parachute assault on the Primosole Bridge in Sicily on 13th July 1943 the 3rd Battalion drop was scattered alongside that of the 1st and 2nd Battalions. A two-day hard fought action developed at the bridge until they were relieved by the sea-landed Durham light Infantry. The Battalion lost 250 all ranks killed, wounded and missing, one man in two. On 9th September the Battalion landed by sea at Taranto Harbour Italy and moved north up the east coast to Barletta, with little opposition. By early December they returned to the UK to prepare for the invasion of Europe.

After 15 cancelled operations following D-Day the 3rd Battalion dropped at Arnhem on 17th September during the MARKET-GARDEN airborne offensive mounted in Southern Holland. Part of C Company reached the Arnhem Bridge and joined Lt Col Frostís 2nd Battalion. The rest were blocked with heavy casualties and fell back to Oosterbeek where the 1st British Airborne Division was destroyed in an epic nine day stand. Ground forces from XXX Corps failed to link up. The remnants of the battalion were withdrawn to England.

During the first post-war deployment in Palestine beginning in 1945 the remnants of 2 and 3 PARA were combined to form the 2/3rd Parachute Battalion, which was disbanded in June 1948. A new 3 PARA was resurrected in July 1948, formed from the 7th (light Infantry) Parachute Battalion.

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

During 1951-4 the Battalion conducted internal security operations in the Egypt Canal Zone before deployment on anti-EOKA operations with 1 PARA on the Island of Cyprus in 1956. One of their first acts was to arrest Archbishop Makarios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus and an EOKA supporter. Counter-terrorism operations followed in the Paphos Forest before returning to the UK in December.

3 PARA conducted the first and last battalion parachute assault since the War when it attacked El Gamil airfield west of Port Said on 5th November 1956, during the Suez Crisis. The drop was conducted under fire and the assault and reduction of the Egyptian coastal defences before the amphibious landings cost the Battalion four killed and three officers and 29 men wounded.

3 PARA formed part of the 16th Parachute Brigade intervention force that was air landed at Amman in Jordan in July 1958 to counter an Egyptian/ Iraqi threat. They departed in October. Two internal security tours in Bahrain followed between 1961-2 and again in 1964-5.

In May 1964 counter-insurgency operations against dissident tribesmen occurred with 45 Commando in the Radfan Mountains north of Aden. The Wadi Dhubson previously considered impregnable to Europeans was taken and 200 square miles of mountainous terrain and villages dominated in an internal security operation that cost the battalion one killed and seven wounded.

Other internal security duties followed in 1965 when the Battalion flew to British Guiana to assist in preparing for Independence in February 1966. 3 PARA was then sent on an accompanied tour to Malta in 1968-70, primarily to cover the withdrawal of British forces from Libya.

The first Operation BANNER tour to Northern Ireland started in January 1971, to be followed by 12 more deployments between 1971 to September 2004, amounting to 81 months active service. Sergeant Michael Willets was awarded a posthumous George Cross for outstanding gallantry during the first tour.

A UN tour in Cyprus between May-October 1972 preceded the presentation of new Colours to the Battalion, with the other regular battalions and 4 PARA in 1974. With the disbandment of 16th Parachute Brigade in 1977, 3 PARA deployed to Osnabruck with the newly formed 5th Field Force in BAOR Germany. It returned to the UK in 1980 to join 8th Field Force as the in-role parachute battalion.

During the Falkland Islands conflict 3 PARA deployed with 3 Commando Brigade and landed in the north near Port San Carlos at the end of May 1982. The Battalion marched across the Island to Teal Inlet and on to the final battles around Port Stanley. It attacked Mount Longdon during the night of 11/12th June and ejected the Argentinean defenders after 10 hours bloody fighting that cost the battalion 22 men and earned Sergeant Ian MacKay a posthumous VC. Both 2 and 3 PARA were among the first troops to enter Port Stanley after the Argentinean surrender on 14th June.

In 1984 the Battalion completed a six month tour to Belize and a further UN tour with UNFICYP in Cyprus two years later. By 1989 they were back in Northern Ireland for a 26-month residential tour lasting until 1991. Four years later the Battalion took up the Armyís Mountain and Arctic Warfare role with the AMF (L) spending four winters in Norway. C Company group meanwhile reinforced the 1 PARA Group with the 5th Airborne Brigade operational deployment to Kosovo in 1999.

After the demise of 5 Airborne Brigade in 1999, 3 PARA came under command of 16th Air Assault Brigade and was included as one of the battle groups deployed on Operation TELIC in 2003, the second Anglo-American war against Iraq. The Battalion crossed into Iraq on 21st March and played its part securing the Rumaylah and West Qurnah oil fields in southern Iraq. It entered Basra with the 7th Armoured Brigade in early April and later moved to secure the southern half of Maysan Province, prior to departure at the end of May.

The next active deployment was Afghanistan in 2006, when 3 PARA formed the nucleus of a 1,200 strong all-arms Battle Group with 16th Air Assault Brigade. This was a fiercely contested tour against Taliban insurgents during which three Battalion soldiers were among 14 soldiers killed and 45 wounded in the Battle Group. Corporal Bryan Budd was awarded a posthumous VC and Corporal Mark Wright a posthumous GC, both from 3 PARA.

In 2008 3 PARA returned from yet another intense six month tour in Afghanistan with the 16th Air Assault Brigade.

Northern Ireland Tours:

Op BANNER Jan-Jun 71 6 Months
Op BANNER Mar- Jul 73 4 Months
Op BANNER Feb-Jun 74 4 Months
Op BANNER Apr-Aug 76 4 Months
Op BANNER Feb-Jun 78 4 Months
Op BANNER Dec 80-Apr 81 4 Months
Residential Feb 89-Feb 91 26 Months
Op BANNER Feb-Jun 92 4 Months
Spearhead Mar-Jun 92 3 Months
Op BANNER (URB) Jul 97-Jan 98 6 Months
Op BANNER (ETB) Dec 99-Jun 2000 6 Months
NIBAT 4 Dec 01- Jun 02 6 Months
NIBAT 3 May-Sep 04 4 Months

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