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Old 11-03-23, 04:32 AM
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tcrown tcrown is offline
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Default British Parachute Distinguished Insignias - Part3

6 - The 1st Airborne Division returned to the UK

It seems that the members of the 1st Brigade when returning to England from Italy in Nov 1943, didn’t adopt the blue Parachute Regiment shoulder titles and preferred to go back to the unofficial Parachute titles.
It is difficult to find a lot of evidence, and this has already been discussed about the airborne strips which were not worn by the Parachute brigades within 1st Airborne (see

Maybe this is related to the fact that contrary to the other battalions in the 6th Airborne Division, the 1st Brigade was initially composed exclusively of volunteers. Being proud of their heritage, they didn’t want to be associated with any sign issued originally to non-parachutists like the Airborne strips. Could the blue Parachute Regiment titles viewed by parachute veterans as the mark of unexperienced Airborne forces?

This can be illustrated by Pvt James Sims' experience in his book ‘Arnhem Spearhead’. After parachute training, he was posted to the 2nd battalion in April 1944. On his first day, his new roommates objected about the details of his battle dress. 'A Scot produced a razor blade. "You're improperly dressed,' he said and whipped off my bought Parachute Regiment shoulder flashes and Pegasus divisional signs and handed them to me. In the 2nd Battalion we wore only the issue flashes, which were drab in comparison. I was also wearing on each arm flashes with 'Airborne' on them, which made these terrible men hoot with laughter, as only glider-borne troops were entitled to this particular flash.'
His private purchase shoulder flashes were very likely the Cambridge blue official ‘Parachute Regiment’ titles. They would be replaced by the red 'Parachute' shoulder titles that were viewed as the recognition sign of early parachute units. The story is also informative about the preference for printed Pegasus which also had been adopted first.

I have added a few examples of parachutists from the 1st Airborne Division wearing unofficial Parachute titles. They seem to be the norm in 1944 at least with the members of the 1st Brigade.

CSM R Allen 3rd Bat DSC Nov 1943 EA19709.jpg
CSM R Allen of 3rd Battalion receiving DSC from General Eisenhower Nov 1943 (source Para Data). He was killed at Arnhem on 19 Sept 1944.

Sgt Binick of Pathfinders Coy 6 Dec 1944 H40974.JPG
Sgt Binick of Pathfinders Coy 6 Dec 1944 (source IWM H40974)

I’ve added a few details about 4th Brigade and Major Lonsdale (see photo below). 4th Brigade was formed in early 1943 in North Africa and later assigned to the 1st Airborne Division. After returning to the UK from Italy it seems that its members were issued also with the official Cambridge blue Parachute Regiment shoulder titles. See the following examples of various members of 11th Battalion.
Lt Ritchie 11th Bat.jpg
Lt E. Ritchie shortly before Arnhem in 1944 (source Paradata)
Pvt Herbert Nixon.jpg
Pvt Herbert Nixon KIA on 09/20/44 (source Paradata)

Major Lonsdale was the CO of A Coy of the 2nd Parachute Bat during the invasion of Sicily where he was awarded the DSO. Just before Arnhem in September 1944, he became 2nd IC of 11th Bat but seemed to have kept his shoulder titles from when he was posted to 2nd Bat.
26 Sept 1944 Maj Lonsdale BU1131 2.jpg

As usual, comments are appreciated.
I plan to add a final part on the early post-war years up to the reorganization of July 1950.

Last edited by tcrown; 11-03-23 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 11-03-23, 08:46 AM
Mike B Mike B is offline
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Extremely useful observations, well structured and evidenced arguments - thanks again tcrown.
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Old 19-03-23, 02:39 PM
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Default British Parachute Distinguished Insignias - Part4

7 - The Post-War Years – Reorganization of the Parachute Regiment Forces

From 1945 to mid 1948, Parachute battalions were assigned into a counter-insurgency conflict over the British mandate in Palestine. The remnants of the 1st Parachute Brigade after the disbandment of the 1st Airborne Division on 1945, joined the 6th Airborne Division. The remnant of 1st Brigade was temporarily disbanded on return to the UK with the 6th Division by June 1948. Those with service to complete were absorbed into the 4th, 5th and 7th Parachute Battalions of the 2nd Parachute Brigade.

During these years, it is difficult to be affirmative about which type of shoulder titles were worn amongst the Parachute Forces. It seems that the two types of titles continued to coexist even within the 1st Battalion: the unofficial maroon ‘Parachute’ along with the official light blue ‘Parachute Regiment’ titles, as can be seen on the photos below.

1st Bat Members in Germany early 1948.jpg
1st Battalion Members in Germany early 1948 (source Paradata)

7 Plt D Coy 1st Bat in Germany ca 1948 zoom.jpg
7 Plt D Coy 1st Battalion in Germany ca 1948 (source Paradata)

Arnhem 26 Sept 1949 2.jpg
1st Battalion veterans at Arnhem on 26 Sept 1949 (source British Pathé)

In July 1948, the Parachute Regiment was reorganized with three Regular battalions (and other TA units). I have tried to illustrate in the table below the evolution of the 14 original parachute battalions from initial assignment to their respective brigade until disbandment.
Table with battalions.jpg

It is certain that maroon and light blue parachute titles co-existed within the same newly formed Para units in 1948 and 1949. Uniformity of patches wasn’t achieved before the introduction of the new maroon ‘Parachute Regiment’ title, I believe in early 1950. The new title might have been designed as a compromise between the maroon colour of the original titles worn by members of the 1st Brigade and the official designation ‘Parachute Regiment’ adopted by the other battalions in mid 1943.
1950 Para Title.JPG
The official maroon ‘Parachute Title’ introduced in 1950

Presentation 1st Colours to Para Rgt 19 July 1950.jpg
HM the King with RSM Lord, Marshall Montgomery, Brig Hill & General Browning in the background during the presentation of the 1st Colours to Parachute Regiment to 3 Regular Battalions on 19 July 1950 (source Paradata)

The maroon ‘Parachute Regiment’ title would be worn by parachute units up until the 1960s when battle dress was withdrawn.
This post concludes on the last results of the research I wanted to share regarding the wear of parachute distinguishing insignias. I would be grateful to receive comments or constructive criticism on anything I may have missed.

Last edited by tcrown; 21-03-23 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 19-03-23, 10:17 PM
Colin S Colin S is offline
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Excellent information - thank you for sharing with such detail.
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Old 19-03-23, 10:23 PM
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Once again, a very appreciated piece of work !
Thank you !
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Old 20-03-23, 09:54 PM
NewCollector NewCollector is offline
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Great stuff and thanks. The Seventh (Light Infantry) Battalion The Parachute Regiment were not disbanded in 1946; they subsumed 17 Para with no change in title. In 1948 they did change title to Third Battalion The Parachute Regiment which is why 3 Para have a Light Infantry Green DZ Flash.
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Old 21-03-23, 10:28 PM
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tcrown tcrown is offline
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Thanks for your comments and kind words.

Thanks also for the precision about the 7th battalion. Indeed it seems that it survived the disbandment of 5th Brigade in July 1946. I'll correct my table accordingly.
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Old 06-07-23, 10:33 AM
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JerryBB JerryBB is offline
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Great resource this thread, thanks Tcrown.

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Old 06-07-23, 10:58 AM
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54Bty 54Bty is offline
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The words PARACHUTE REGIMENT embroidered in Light Blue thread into a maroon felt background with a cut edge.
Worn at the top of both sleeves of the Battle Dress Blouse by members of the Parachute Regiment. Catalogue number CB 2206, pattern number 14100, sealed 16th September 1949. Introduced 31st August 1950 by List of Changes No C4211. ACI’s 758/1949, 410/1951 and 581/1952. NSN CB 8455-99-974-0669.

I am still looking for British Army cloth Formation, Regimental, Battalion, Company and other Unit sleeve badges, from 1980 onwards.
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Old 06-07-23, 06:08 PM
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tcrown tcrown is offline
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Thanks for the detailed confirmation Marc.
The earliest dated photo with these shoulder titles was one for the presentation of the Colours to the Regiment on 19 July 1950.
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