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12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion
200px
Cap badge of the Parachute Regiment
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Service history
Size Battalion
Part of 5th Parachute Brigade
Nickname Red Devils[1]
Motto Utrinque Paratus
(Latin "Ready for Anything")
Battles Operation Tonga
Operation Varsity
Operation Tiderace
Commanders
Insignia
Insignia British Airborne Units

The 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment, raised by the British Army during the Second World War.

The battalion was formed by the conversion of the 10th (East Riding Yeomanry)Battalion, Green Howards to parachute duties in May 1943. They were then assigned to the 5th Parachute Brigade, which was part of the 6th Airborne Division.

They battalion took part in Operation Tonga during the Normandy invasion, capturing Ranville and held it against several German counter-attacks. It later fought in the Battle of Breville, and played a part in the 6th Airborne Division advance to the River Seine, after which it was returned to England. Its final mission in Europe was Operation Varsity the River Rhine crossing. They then advanced further into Germany, and had reached the Baltic Sea, when Germany surrendered.

After the war in Europe the battalion was sent to the Far East, taking part in operations in Malaya and Java. In 1946 the battalion rejoined the 6th Airborne Division in Palestine, where it was disbanded in July. In 1947 a new 12th Battalion was raised as part of the 16th Airborne Division in the reformed Territorial Army.

BackgroundEdit

Impressed by the success of German airborne operations during the Battle of France, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, directed the War Office to investigate the possibility of creating a force of 5,000 parachute troops.[2] As a result, on 22 June 1940, No. 2 Commando assumed parachute duties, and on 21 November was re-designated the 11th Special Air Service Battalion, with a parachute and glider wing.[3][4]

British parachute troops Norwich 1941

British paratroops, in Norwich during exercises 23 June 1941

On 21 June 1940 the Central Landing Establishment was formed at Ringway airfield near Manchester. Although tasked primarily with training parachute troops, it was also directed to investigate the use of gliders to transport troops into battle.[5][6] At the same time, the Ministry of Aircraft Production contracted General Aircraft Ltd to design and produce a glider for this purpose.[7] The result was the General Aircraft Hotspur, an aircraft capable of transporting eight soldiers, that was used for both assault and training purposes.[8]

The success of the first British airborne raid, Operation Colossus, prompted the War Office to expand the airborne force through the creation of the Parachute Regiment, and to develop plans to convert several infantry battalions into parachute and glider battalions.[9][nb 1] On 31 May 1941, a joint army and air force memorandum was approved by the Chiefs-of-Staff and Winston Churchill; it recommended that the British airborne forces should consist of two parachute brigades, one based in England and the other in the Middle East, and that a glider force of 10,000 men should be created.[11]

FormationEdit

In May 1943, the 10th (East Riding Yeomanry) Battalion, Green Howards was converted to parachute duties becoming the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel R.G. Parker.[12] The battalion was then assigned to the 5th Parachute Brigade, part of the 6th Airborne Division.[13]

Upon formation, the battalion had an establishment of 556 men in three rifle companies. The companies were divided into a small headquarters and three platoons. The platoons had three Bren machine guns and three 2-inch mortars, one of each per section.[14] The only heavy weapons in the battalion were a 3 inch mortar and a Vickers machine gun platoon.[15] By 1944 a headquarters or support company, was added to the battalion comprising five platoons: motor transport, signals, mortar, machine-gun and anti-tank. With eight 3 inch mortars, four Vickers machine guns and ten PIAT anti-tank projectors.[14]

Parachute training 1941

Parachute troops jumping from an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley near Windsor in England.

All members of the battalion had to undergo a twelve-day parachute training course carried out at No. 1 Parachute Training School, RAF Ringway. Initial parachute jumps were from a converted barrage balloon and finished with five parachute jumps from an aircraft.[16][nb 2] Anyone failing to complete a descent was returned to his old unit. Those men who successfully completed the parachute course, were presented with their maroon beret and parachute wings.[16][18]

Airborne soldiers were expected to fight against superior numbers of the enemy, armed with heavy weapons, including artillery and tanks. So training was designed to encourage a spirit of self-discipline, self-reliance and aggressiveness. Emphasis was given to physical fitness, marksmanship and fieldcraft.[19] A large part of the training regime consisted of assault courses and route marching. Military exercises included capturing and holding airborne bridgeheads, road or rail bridges and coastal fortifications.[19] At the end of most exercises, the battalion would march back to their barracks. An ability to cover long distances at speed was expected: airborne platoon's were required to cover a distance of 50 miles (80 km) in 24 hours, and battalion's 32 miles (51 km).[19][nb 3]

Territorial ArmyEdit

When the Territorial Army was reformed after the war, a new 12th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (TA) was formed in 1947. The battalion was re-designated 12 PARA (TA) in 1948, and became part of the 16th Airborne Division (TA).[21] In October 1956, the 12th Battalion was amalgamated with the 13th Battalion as the 12/13 PARA (TA). A further amalgamation with 17 Para in 1967, formed the present day 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.[22]

NotesEdit

Footnotes
  1. In most conversions, the majority of the original battalion either did not wish to become paratroopers, failed medical or other tests. The spaces in the battalion were filled with volunteers from other units.[10]
  2. Barrage balloons were used to speed up training jumps and meet the target of 5,000 trained parachutists.[17]
  3. This ability was demonstrated in April 1945. When the 3rd Parachute Brigade advanced 15 miles (24 km) in twenty-four hours, which included eighteen hours of close-quarters fighting.[20] In the same month the 5th Parachute Brigade marched 50 miles (80 km) in seventy-two hours, during which they also carried out two night time assaults.[20]
Citations
  1. Otway, p.88
  2. Otway 1990, p.21
  3. Shortt and McBride 1981, p.4
  4. Moreman 2006, p.91
  5. Otway 1990, pp. 28–29
  6. Smith 1992, p.7
  7. Flint 2008, p.73
  8. Lynch 2006, p.31
  9. Harclerode 2005, p. 218
  10. "8th Parachute Battalion". Pegasus Archive. http://www.pegasusarchive.org/normandy/unit_8thBatt.htm. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  11. Tugwell 1971, p.123
  12. "12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion". Para Data. http://www.paradata.org.uk/units/12th-yorkshire-parachute-battalion. Retrieved 23 June 2011. 
  13. Gregory, p.53
  14. 14.0 14.1 Guard, p.37
  15. Peters, p.55
  16. 16.0 16.1 Guard, p.224
  17. Reynolds, p.16
  18. Guard, p.226
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Guard, p.225
  20. 20.0 20.1 Reynolds, p.87
  21. "12th Parachute Battalion (TA)". Para Data. http://www.paradata.org.uk/units/12th-parachute-battalion-ta. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  22. "12th/13th (Yorks and Lancs) Battalion The Parachute Regiment". Para Data. http://www.paradata.org.uk/units/12th13th-yorks-and-lancs-battalion-parachute-regiment. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 

ReferencesEdit

  • Gregory, Barry; Batchelor, John (1979). Airborne warfare, 1918-1945. Exeter, Devon: Exeter Books. ISBN 0-89673-025-5. 
  • Guard, Julie (2007). Airborne: World War II Paratroopers in Combat. Oxford, England: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84603-196-6. 
  • Harclerode, Peter (2005). Wings Of War – Airborne Warfare 1918-1945. London, England: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-304-36730-3. 
  • Moreman, Timothy Robert (2006). British Commandos 1940–46. Oxford, England: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-986-X. 
  • Otway, Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H (1990). The Second World War 1939–1945 Army – Airborne Forces. Imperial War Museum. ISBN 0-901627-57-7. 
  • Peters, Mike; Luuk, Buist (2009). Glider Pilots at Arnhem. Barnsley, England: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 1-84415-763-6. 
  • Shortt, James; McBride, Angus (1981). The Special Air Service. Oxford, England: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-396-8. 
  • Yeide, Harry; Stout, Mark (2007). First to the Rhine: The 6th Army Group in World War II. Suresnes, France: Zenith Imprint. ISBN 0-7603-3146-4. 

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