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The 1st Airborne Division was an
airborne Airborne or Airborn may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * Airborne (1962 film), ''Airborne'' (1962 film), a 1962 American film directed by James Landis * Airborne (1993 film), ''Airborne'' (1993 film), a comedy–drama film * Air ...
infantry Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored warfare, armored forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantrymen or infanteer, i ...

infantry
division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing the result of mathematical division Military *Division (military), a formation typically consisting o ...
of the
British Army during the Second World War British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ir ...
. The division was formed in late 1941 during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, after the
British Prime Minister The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either the highest or second-highest official in the executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), b ...
,
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The hea ...

Winston Churchill
, demanded an airborne force, and was initially under command of
Major-General Major general (abbreviated MG, maj. gen. and similar) is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of a lieu ...
Frederick A. M. Browning. The division was one of two airborne divisions raised by the British Army during the war, with the other being the
6th Airborne Division The 6th Airborne Division was an Airborne forces, airborne infantry Division (military), division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British A ...
, created in May 1943, using former units of the 1st Airborne Division. The division's first two missions—
Operation Biting Operation Biting, also known as the Bruneval Raid, was a British Combined Operations raid Raid or RAID may refer to: Attack * Raid (military), a sudden attack behind the enemy's lines without the intention of holding ground * Corporate rai ...
, a
parachute A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a layer or ...

parachute
landing in France, and
Operation Freshman Operation Freshman was the codename given to a British airborne operation conducted in November 1942 during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that last ...
, a glider mission in Norway—were both raids. Part of the division was sent to
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...
at the end of 1942, where it fought in the
Tunisian Campaign The Tunisian campaign (also known as the Battle of Tunisia) was a series of battles that took place in Tunisia during the North African campaign of the World War II, Second World War, between Axis powers, Axis and Allies of World War II, Allied ...
, and when the
Allies An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out among them. Members of an alli ...
invaded Sicily in July 1943, the division undertook two
brigade A brigade is a major tactical military formation Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the armed forces of a State (polity), state so as to offer such military capability as a military policy, national de ...

brigade
sized landings. The first,
Operation Ladbroke Operation Ladbroke was a glider landing by British airborne troops during the Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved t ...
, carried out by
glider infantry Glider infantry (also referred to as airlanding infantry esp. in British usage) was a type of airborne infantry Airborne operation Military parachuting or gliding form of inserting personnel or supplies. Purpose Delivering personnel, equip ...
of the 1st Airlanding Brigade and the second,
Operation Fustian Operation Fustian was an airborne forces Airborne operation Military parachuting or gliding form of inserting personnel or supplies. Purpose Delivering personnel, equipment, or supplies. Origins Attributed to Italian troops on November ...
, by the
1st Parachute Brigade The 1st Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces brigade formed by the British Army during the Second World War. As its name indicates, the unit was the first Paratrooper, parachute infantry brigade formation in the British Army. Formed from three ...
, were far from completely successful. The 1st Airborne Division then took part in a mostly diversionary
amphibious landing Amphibious warfare is a type of offensive military operation that today uses naval ships to project ground and air power onto a hostile or potentially hostile shore at a designated landing beach. Through history the operations were conduct ...
, codenamed
Operation Slapstick Operation Slapstick was the code name A code name, call sign or cryptonym is a code word In communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful d ...
, as part of the
Allied invasion of Italy The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement ha ...
in September 1943. In December, most of the 1st Airborne Division (minus the 2nd Parachute Brigade) returned to
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
, and began training and preparing for the
Allied invasion of Normandy Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allies of World War II, Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Front (World War II), Western Europe during World War II. The operati ...
. It was not involved in the
Normandy landings The Normandy landings were the landing operation Allied invasion of Sicily, 1943 A landing operation is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended fo ...

Normandy landings
in June 1944, being held in reserve. In September 1944 the 1st Airborne took part in
Operation Market Garden Operation Market Garden was an Allies of World War II, Allied military operation during the World War II, Second World War fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944. Its objective was to create a Salient (military), salient into Ge ...
. The division, with the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade temporarily attached, landed behind German lines, to capture crossings on the
River Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many s ...

River Rhine
, and fought in the
Battle of Arnhem The Battle of Arnhem was a battle of the Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the v ...
. After failing to achieve its objectives, the division was surrounded and took very heavy casualties, but held out for nine days before the survivors were evacuated. The remnants of the 1st Airborne Division was returned to England soon after. The division never fully recovered from their losses at Arnhem and the
4th Parachute Brigade The 4th Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces, airborne, specifically a Paratrooper, parachute infantry, brigade formation of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in late 1942 in the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World ...
was disbanded. Just after the end of the war in Europe, the depleted formation took part in
Operation Doomsday In Operation Doomsday, the British 1st Airborne Division acted as a police and military force during the Allied occupation of Norway in May 1945, immediately after the victory in Europe during the Second World War. The division maintained law ...
in Norway in May 1945. They were tasked with the disarmament and repatriation of the German occupation army. The 1st Airborne Division then returned to England and was disbanded in November 1945.


Background

Inspired by the success of German airborne operations during the
Battle of France The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of German ...
,
British Prime Minister The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either the highest or second-highest official in the executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), b ...
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The hea ...

Winston Churchill
directed the
War Office The War Office This article contains text from this source, which is available under th Open Government Licence v3.0 © Crown copyright was a Departments of the British Government, Department of the British Government responsible for the adminis ...
to investigate the possibility of creating a force of 5,000 parachute troops. 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. On 21 June 1940 the
Central Landing Establishment The Central Landing Establishment was the Second World War British development centre for airborne warfare at RAF Ringway airfield near Manchester.Thompson 1989, p. 4. Establishment Following Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill's ...
was formed at Ringway airfield near
Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguis ...

Manchester
. Although tasked primarily with training parachute troops, it was also directed to investigate the use of gliders to transport troops into battle.Smith, p.7 At the same time, the Ministry of Aircraft Production contracted
General Aircraft Ltd General Aircraft Limited was a British aircraft manufacturer from its formation in 1931 to amalgamation with Blackburn Aircraft Blackburn Aircraft Limited was a British aircraft manufacturer that concentrated mainly on naval and maritime air ...
to design and produce a glider for this purpose.Flint, p.73 The result was the
General Aircraft Hotspur The General Aircraft GAL.48 Hotspur was a military glider designed and built by the British company General Aircraft Limited, General Aircraft Ltd during World War II. When the British airborne forces, airborne establishment was formed in 1940 b ...
, which was capable of transporting eight soldiers and was used for both assault and training purposes. 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. On 31 May 1941, a joint
army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch Military branch ...
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.


Formation history

The existing 11th Special Air Service Battalion was renamed the 1st Parachute Battalion and, together with the newly raised 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalions, formed the first of the new airborne formations, the
1st Parachute Brigade The 1st Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces brigade formed by the British Army during the Second World War. As its name indicates, the unit was the first Paratrooper, parachute infantry brigade formation in the British Army. Formed from three ...
, commanded by
Brigadier Brigadier is a military rank, the seniority of which depends on the country. In some countries, it is a senior rank above colonel, equivalent to a brigadier general or commodore (rank), commodore, typically commanding a brigade of several thous ...
Richard Nelson Gale General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral zone ...
, who would later command the
6th Airborne Division The 6th Airborne Division was an Airborne forces, airborne infantry Division (military), division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British A ...
. The 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalions were formed from volunteers, between the ages of twenty-two and thirty-two, who were already serving in infantry units. Only ten men from any one unit were allowed to volunteer. In October 1941, Brigadier Frederick Arthur Montague "Boy" Browning was promoted to
major general Major general (abbreviated MG, maj. gen. and similar) is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of a lie ...
, named the Commander Parachute and Airborne Troops, and ordered to form a headquarters to develop and train airborne forces.Tugwell, p.125 The next unit formed was the 1st Airlanding Brigade on 10 October 1941, by the conversion of the
mountain warfare Mountain warfare refers to warfare in the mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, ...
trained 31st Independent Infantry Brigade Group, commanded by Brigadier George Frederick "Hoppy" Hopkinson, later to command the division.Ferguson, p.7 The brigade comprised four battalions: the 1st
Border Regiment The Border Regiment was a line infantry Line infantry was the type of infantry Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armo ...
, 2nd
South Staffordshire Regiment The South Staffordshire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army in existence for only 68 years. The regiment was created in 1881 under the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot and ...
, 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and the 1st
Royal Ulster Rifles The Royal Irish Rifles (became the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1 January 1921) was an infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during the First World War Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel ...
.Ferguson, p.15 The men who were unsuitable for airborne forces were replaced by volunteers from other units. By the end of the year Browning's command had become the headquarters of 1st Airborne Division. Browning expressed his opinion that the force must not be sacrificed in "penny packets", and urged the formation of a third brigade.Ferguson, p.8 Permission was finally granted in July 1942, and the 2nd Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brigadier
Ernest Down Lieutenant-General Lieutenant general or lieutenant-general (Lt Gen, LTG and similar) is a three-star military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfar ...
, was formed. The 2nd Parachute Brigade was assigned the existing
4th Parachute Battalion The 4th Battalion, Parachute Regiment (4 PARA), is an Army Reserve (United Kingdom), Army Reserve unit of the British Army and is based across the United Kingdom. Originally the Battalion covered the North of England, with its headquarters located ...
, and two new battalions converted from
line infantry Line infantry was the type of infantry Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored warfare, armored forces. Also known as ...
units, the 5th (Scottish) Parachute Battalion, converted from the 7th Battalion,
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders or 79th (The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot was a line infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during the First World War Infantry is an army specialization whose ...
, and the
6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion The 6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion was an Airborne forces, airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment (United Kingdom), Parachute Regiment raised by the British Army during the Second World War. The battalion was created in 194 ...
, from the 10th Battalion,
Royal Welch Fusiliers The Royal Welch Fusiliers ( cy, Ffiwsilwyr Brenhinol Cymreig) was a line infantry Line infantry was the type of infantry that composed the basis of European land armies from the late 17th century to the middle of the 19th century. Maurice of Na ...
. The 3rd Parachute Brigade was formed in November 1942 and assigned to the 1st Airborne Division. The brigade, under Brigadier Alexander Stanier, comprised the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion, previously the 10th Battalion,
Somerset Light Infantry The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's) was a light infantry Light infantry is a designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers (infantry) throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or Weapon, armament or a more mobile ...
, the
8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion The 8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion was an airborne Airborne or Airborn may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * Airborne (1962 film), ''Airborne'' (1962 film), a 1962 American film directed by James Landis * Airborne (1993 fi ...
, converted from the 13th Battalion,
Royal Warwickshire Regiment The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, previously titled the 6th Regiment of Foot, was a line infantry Line infantry was the type of infantry that composed the basis of European land armies from the late 17th century to the middle of the 19th century. ...
, and the
9th (Eastern and Home Counties) Parachute Battalion The 9th (Eastern and Home Counties) Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during the First World War Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage i ...
, formerly the 10th Battalion,
Essex Regiment The Essex Regiment was a line infantry Line infantry was the type of infantry that composed the basis of European land armies from the late 17th century to the mid-19th century. Maurice of Nassau and Gustavus Adolphus are generally regarded ...
. Soon afterwards, the 1st Parachute Brigade left the division, to take part in
Operation Torch Operation Torch (8 November 1942 – 16 November 1942) was an Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, wheth ...

Operation Torch
, the
Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out among them. Members of an alli ...
, and ended up participating in numerous operations in North Africa, although fighting in an infantry role. In April 1943, the commander of the 1st Airlanding Brigade, Hopkinson, was promoted to major general and given command of the division. Later that year, the division was deployed to Tunisia for operations in the Mediterranean theatre. The 3rd Parachute Brigade and two battalions from the 1st Airlanding Brigade—the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles and 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry—remained behind in England, forming the nucleus of the newly raised
6th Airborne Division The 6th Airborne Division was an Airborne forces, airborne infantry Division (military), division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British A ...
. On arrival, the 1st Airborne Division was reinforced by the
4th Parachute Brigade The 4th Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces, airborne, specifically a Paratrooper, parachute infantry, brigade formation of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in late 1942 in the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World ...
. The 4th Parachute Brigade had been formed in the Middle East during 1942. In addition to the 156th Parachute Battalion, which had been raised from British troops stationed in India, it comprised the 10th and 11th Parachute Battalions, which had been raised from troops based in Egypt and Palestine. The division took part in two brigade sized operations in
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...
, and an amphibious assault at
Taranto Taranto (, also ; ; nap, label=Tarantino Quentin Jerome Tarantino (; born March 27, 1963) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. His films are characterized by nonlinear narrative, nonlinear storylines, dark humo ...

Taranto
in
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...
. During the fighting in Italy, Major General Ernest Down became the divisional commander, after his predecessor, Major General Hopkinson, died of wounds received in the fighting.Ferguson, p.13 After service in the Mediterranean, the division returned to England in December 1943, leaving the 2nd Parachute Brigade behind as an independent formation.


1944–1945

After the division arrived in England, Ernest Down was posted to
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

India
to oversee the formation of the
44th Indian Airborne Division The 44th Indian Airborne Division was an airborne forces Division (military), division of the Indian Army during World War II, created in 1944. It provided a parachute battalion for one minor airborne operation, but the war ended before the comple ...
, and was replaced by Major General
Roy Urquhart Major-General Robert Elliott "Roy" Urquhart CB DSO (28 November 1901 – 13 December 1988) was a British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the Brit ...
. In September 1944, for ''Operation Market Garden'' in the Netherlands, the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade was attached to the division.Ferguson, p.21 Following ''Market Garden'', fewer than 2,200 men from the 10,000 that were sent to the Netherlands returned to the British lines.Ferguson, p.26 Having suffered such severe casualties, the 4th Parachute Brigade was disbanded, with its surviving men being posted to the 1st Parachute Brigade. The division then went through a period of reorganisation, but had still not fully recovered by the end of the war, due to the acute shortage of manpower throughout the British Army in 1944–1945. Still under strength in May 1945, it was sent to Norway to disarm the German army of occupation; returning to Britain in November 1945 where the 1st Airborne Division was disbanded.


Operational history


France

Operation Biting Operation Biting, also known as the Bruneval Raid, was a British Combined Operations raid Raid or RAID may refer to: Attack * Raid (military), a sudden attack behind the enemy's lines without the intention of holding ground * Corporate rai ...
, also known as the Bruneval Raid, was the
codename A code name, call sign or cryptonym is a code word In communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private a ...
for a raid by
Combined Operations In current military use, combined operations are operations conducted by forces of two or more allied nations acting together for the accomplishment of a common strategy, a Military strategy, strategic and operational warfare, operational and so ...
in 1942. Their objective was a German ''Würzburg'' radar installation at
Bruneval Saint-Jouin-Bruneval is a commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of group cohesiveness, social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typi ...
in France. Due to the extensive coastal defences erected by the Germans to protect the array, it was thought a
commando Royal Marines from 40 Commando on patrol in the Sangin">40_Commando.html" ;"title="Royal Marines from 40 Commando">Royal Marines from 40 Commando on patrol in the Sangin area of Afghanistan are pictured A commando (etymologically derive ...
raid from the sea would incur heavy losses, and give the
garrison Garrison (from the French ''garnison'', itself from the verb ''garnir'', "to equip") is the collective term for any body of troop A troop is a military sub-subunit, originally a small formation of cavalry, subordinate to a Squadron (cav ...

garrison
sufficient time for the radar equipment to be destroyed. It was therefore decided that an airborne assault followed by sea-borne evacuation would be the ideal way to surprise the garrison and seize the technology intact.Tugwell, p.126 On the night of 27 February, 'C' Company, 2nd Parachute Battalion, under the command of
Major Major is a military rank Military ranks are a system of hierarchical A hierarchy (from the Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are repre ...

Major
John Frost, parachuted into France a few miles from the installation. The force then proceeded to assault the villa in which the radar equipment was kept, killing several members of the German garrison and capturing the installation after a brief fire-fight. A technician that had come with the force partially dismantled the ''Würzburg'' radar array and removed several key pieces to take back to Britain; the raiding force then retreated to the evacuation beach. The detachment assigned to clear the beach had failed to do so, however, and another brief fire-fight was required to eliminate the Germans guarding the beach. The raiding force was then picked up by a small number of landing craft and transferred to several
Motor Gun Boat The motor gun boat (MGB) was a small, high-speed British military vessel of the World War II, Second World War, which was armed with a mix of guns, in contrast to the physically similar motor torpedo boat (MTB), whose main offensive weapon we ...
s which brought them back to Britain. The raid was entirely successful. The airborne troops suffered only a few casualties, and the pieces of the radar they brought back, along with a German radar technician, allowed British scientists to understand German advances in radar and to create counter-measures to neutralise those advances.


Norway

Operation Freshman Operation Freshman was the codename given to a British airborne operation conducted in November 1942 during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that last ...
was the first British airborne operation conducted using gliders, its target was the
Vemork Vemork is a hydroelectric Hydroelectricity, or hydroelectric power, is electricity produced from hydropower Hydropower (from el, ὕδωρ, "water"), also known as water power, is the use of falling or fast-running water Wate ...
''
Norsk Hydro Norsk Hydro ASA (often referred to as just ''Hydro'') is a Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to N ...

Norsk Hydro
''
chemical plant A chemical plant is an industrial process Industrial processes are procedures involving chemical A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. Some references add that chemic ...

chemical plant
in Norway, which produced
heavy water Heavy water (deuterium oxide, , ) is a form of water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a ). I ...

heavy water
for Nazi Germany.Ferguson, p.9 By 1942 the German atomic weapons programme had come close to being able to develop a
nuclear reactor A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a fission nuclear chain reaction 300px, A possible nuclear fission chain reaction: 1) A uranium-235 atom absorbs a neutron">uranium-235.html" ;"ti ...

nuclear reactor
, but in order for the reactor to function it would require a great deal of heavy water. The source of this water was the Norsk Hydro plant, which had been occupied in 1940; when the British government learned of the German nuclear developments, it was decided that a raid would be launched to destroy the plant and deny the Germans the heavy water.Tugwell, p.139 Several tactics were discussed and discarded as impractical, and it was finally decided that a small force from the 1st Airborne Division, comprising 30
sapper A sapper, also called pioneer Pioneer commonly refers to a settler who migrates to previously uninhabited or sparsely inhabited land. In the United States pioneer commonly refers to an American pioneer, a person in American history who migrate ...
s from the
Royal Engineers The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers (RE), and commonly known as the ''Sapper A sapper, also called pioneer Pioneer commonly refers to a settler who migrates to previously uninhabited or sparsely inhabited ...
, would land by glider a short distance from the plant, and demolish it with explosives. Two aircraft, each towing one glider, left Scotland on the night of 19 November 1942. All managed to reach the Norwegian coast, but none were able to reach their objective. The first pair suffered from navigational difficulties and severe weather, which resulted in the tow rope snapping and the first glider crash-landing, with its towing aircraft returning to base; eight airborne troops were killed outright, four were severely injured and five unhurt. The survivors were captured shortly after the crash. The second pair fared even worse, with both aircraft and glider crashing into a mountain for unknown reasons; the aircrew and several men were killed outright, and those who survived were taken prisoner. None of the prisoners survived for very long, being either poisoned or executed as a result of
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
's
Commando Order The Commando Order () was issued by the OKW, the high command of the German armed forces, on 18 October 1942. This order stated that all Allied commando Royal Marines from 40 Commando on patrol in the Sangin">40_Commando.html" ;"title="Roya ...
, which stated that all
British Commandos The Commandos, also known as the British Commandos, were formed during the Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an inte ...
personnel were to be killed immediately when captured.


Sicily

Operation ''Turkey Buzzard'', also known as Operation ''Beggar'', was a supply mission to North Africa that took place between March and August 1943. The mission was undertaken by the division's
glider pilots Glider may refer to: Aircraft and transport Aircraft * Glider (aircraft) 300px, Aerobatic glider with tip smoke, pictured on July 2, 2005 in Lappeenranta, Finland A glider is a fixed-wing aircraft that is supported in flight by the dynamic ...
and No. 295 Squadron Royal Air Force, as part of the preparations for the Allied invasion of Sicily. The mission involved Handley Page Halifax, Halifax bombers towing Airspeed Horsa, Horsa gliders from England to Tunisia. The Horsas were needed to complement the smaller American Waco glider, Waco gliders, which did not have the capacity required for the planned operations.Peters and Buist, p.12 During the mission two German Focke Wulf Condor, Condor patrol aircraft located and shot down a Halifax-and-Horsa combination. Altogether five Horsas and three Halifaxes were lost, but 27 Horsas arrived in Tunisia in time to participate in the invasion of Sicily. Operation Ladbroke was a glider assault by the 1st Airlanding Brigade near Syracuse, Sicily, Syracuse, that began on 9 July 1943 as part of the invasion of Sicily. The brigade were equipped with 144 Waco and six Horsa gliders. Their objective was to land near the town of Syracuse, secure the Ponte Grande Bridge, and ultimately take control of the city itself with its strategically important docks. On the way to Sicily, 65 gliders were released too early by the towing aircraft and crashed into the sea, drowning around 252 men. Of the remainder, only 87 men arrived at the Pont Grande Bridge, which they successfully captured and held beyond the time they were to be relieved.Mitcham, p.75 Finally, with their ammunition expended and only 15 soldiers remaining unwounded, they surrendered to the Italian forces. The Italians sought to demolish the bridge after regaining control of it, but were unable to do so because the airborne forces had removed the explosive charges. Other troops from the airlanding brigade, who had landed elsewhere in Sicily, destroyed communications links and captured artillery batteries. Operation Fustain, the division's second mission in Sicily, was carried out by the 1st Parachute Brigade. Their objective was the Primosole Bridge across the Simeto, Simeto River. The intention was for the parachute brigade, with glider-borne forces in support, to land on both sides of the river. While one battalion seized the bridge, the other two battalions would establish defensive positions to the north and south.Reynolds, p.37 They would then hold the bridge until relieved by the advance of XIII Corps (United Kingdom), XIII Corps, part of the Eighth Army (United Kingdom), Eighth Army which had landed on the south eastern coast three days previously. The start of the operation was a disaster. Many of the aircraft carrying the paratroopers from North Africa were shot down, or were damaged and turned back, due to both friendly fire and enemy action. The evasive action taken by the pilots scattered the brigade over a large area, and only the equivalent of two Company (military), companies of troops were landed in the correct locations.Mitcham, p.152 Despite this and the defence by German and Italian forces, the British paratroops captured the bridge. Resisting attacks from the north and south, they held out against increasing odds until nightfall. The relieving force led by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, which was short of transport, found it hard going to reach the parachute brigade and were still away when they halted for the night.Tugwell, p.165 By this time, with casualties mounting and supplies running short, the brigade commander, Brigadier Gerald Lathbury, had relinquished control of the bridge to the Germans.Quarrie, p.77 The following day the British units joined forces, and the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry with armour support attempted to recapture the bridge. It was not finally secured until three days after the start of the operation, when another battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, led by the paratroopers, established a bridgehead on the northern bank of the river.


Italy

Operation Operation Slapstick, ''Slapstick'' was an
amphibious landing Amphibious warfare is a type of offensive military operation that today uses naval ships to project ground and air power onto a hostile or potentially hostile shore at a designated landing beach. Through history the operations were conduct ...
at the Italian port of
Taranto Taranto (, also ; ; nap, label=Tarantino Quentin Jerome Tarantino (; born March 27, 1963) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. His films are characterized by nonlinear narrative, nonlinear storylines, dark humo ...

Taranto
, part of the
Allied invasion of Italy The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement ha ...
in September 1943.Cole, p.51 The mission had been planned at short notice, following an offer by the Italian government to open the ports of Taranto and Brindisi on the Apulia, heel of Italy to the Allies. The 1st Airborne Division was selected to undertake the mission, but at the time they were located in North Africa. A shortage of transport aircraft meant the division could not land by parachute and glider, and all the landing craft in the area were already allocated to the other landings: Allied invasion of Italy#Salerno landings, Operation Avalanche at Salerno on the western coast, and Operation Baytown at Calabria. Instead, the division had to be transported across the Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean by ships of the Royal Navy. The landing was unopposed, and the airborne division successfully captured the ports of Taranto, and later Brindisi on the Adriatic sea, Adriatic coast, in working order. The only German forces in the area were elements of the 1st Parachute Division (Germany), German 1st Parachute Division, which engaged the advancing British in ambushes and at roadblocks during a fighting withdrawal north. By the end of September, the 1st Airborne Division had advanced to Foggia. Reinforcements from two infantry divisions, the 8th Infantry Division (India), 8th Indian and 78th Infantry Division (United Kingdom), British 78th, had by then been landed behind them, which allowed the airborne troops to be withdrawn back to Taranto. Despite casualties for the 1st Airborne Division in Italy being relatively light, the General officer commanding, General Officer Commanding (GOC),
Major-General Major general (abbreviated MG, maj. gen. and similar) is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of a lieu ...
George F. Hopkinson, George Hopkinson, was killed while watching an assault by the 10th Parachute Battalion (United Kingdom), 10th Parachute Battalion where he was mortally wounded by a burst of machine gun fire. He was replaced by
Brigadier Brigadier is a military rank, the seniority of which depends on the country. In some countries, it is a senior rank above colonel, equivalent to a brigadier general or commodore (rank), commodore, typically commanding a brigade of several thous ...
Ernest Down, Ernest E. Down, previously the commander of 2nd Parachute Brigade.


England

By December 1943 the division had returned to England and begun training for operations in North-West Europe under the supervision of I Airborne Corps (United Kingdom), I Airborne Corps. Although the 1st Airborne Division was not scheduled to take part in the
Normandy landings The Normandy landings were the landing operation Allied invasion of Sicily, 1943 A landing operation is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended fo ...

Normandy landings
, a contingency plan, Operation Wasteage, was drawn up whereby the division would be parachuted in to support any of the Invasion of Normandy, five invasion beaches if serious delays were experienced. This plan turned out not to be required. While the
6th Airborne Division The 6th Airborne Division was an Airborne forces, airborne infantry Division (military), division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British A ...
were still fighting in Normandy, numerous plans to parachute the 1st Airborne Division into France were formulated, all to no avail. In June and July 1944, the plans included Operation Reinforcement, which was a landing to the west of St Sauveur-le-Vicomte to support the 82nd Airborne Division, US 82nd Airborne Division, and Operation Wild Oats that would have seen the division land south of Caen to meet the advancing 7th Armoured Division moving from Villers-Bocage and the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division and 4th Armoured Brigade advancing south out of the Orne bridgehead in a move to encircle and capture Caen. Such an airborne operation was vetoed by Trafford Leigh-Mallory, as being too risky for the aircraft involved. At any rate, the land portion of the attack (generally considered to be part of Operation Perch) bogged down due to German resistance and the delayed deployment of troops to Normandy. There was also Operation Beneficiary, intended to support the American XX Corps (United States), XX Corps in capturing St Malo, and Operation Lucky Strike which had the objective of seizing bridges across the River Seine at Rouen. In Operation Sword Hilt, the division was to isolate the port of Brest, France, Brest and destroy the Morlaix viaduct. Operation Hands Up was intended to support the United States Army Central, US Third Army by seizing the Meucon Airport, Vannes airfield. By August the division was still waiting to be deployed, but now plans envisioned using them as part of a larger force. Operation Transfigure involved the division, the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, US 101st Airborne Division, and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade landing at Rambouillet St Arnoult, to close the gap between Orléans and Paris. Operation Axehead, using the same force, was to seize the bridges over the River Seine in support of 21st Army Group. Operation Boxer, with the same force, was to seize Boulogne and assault V-1 (flying bomb), V1 flying bomb sites. Near the end of the month, Operation Linnet, with the same units as before, was formulated to seize crossings over the Scheldt, Escaut. Operation Infatuate, drawn up in early September, involved the entire I Airborne Corps landing in Belgium to trap the retreating German armies in the Scheldt, Scheldt estuary, as well as aiming to threaten Antwerp. Finally, in September, there was Operation Comet, in which the division's three brigades were to land in the Netherlands and each capture a river crossing. The first of these was the bridge over the River Waal at Nijmegen, the second the bridge over the River Maas at Grave, Netherlands, Grave, and the last was the bridge over the River Rhine at Arnhem. Planning for ''Comet'' was well advanced when on 10 September the mission was cancelled. Instead, a new operation was proposed with the same objectives as ''Comet'' but to be carried out by three divisions of the First Allied Airborne Army.


Arnhem

Operation Market Garden Operation Market Garden was an Allies of World War II, Allied military operation during the World War II, Second World War fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944. Its objective was to create a Salient (military), salient into Ge ...
was an airborne assault by three divisions in the Netherlands in September 1944, including the British 1st and the American 82nd Airborne Division, 82nd and 101st Airborne Division, 101st, to secure key bridges and towns along the expected Allied axis of advance. Farthest north, 1st Airborne, supported by the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade, landed at Arnhem to secure bridges across the Nederrijn. Initially expecting an easy advance, XXX Corps (United Kingdom), XXX Corps, under Lieutenant-general (United Kingdom), Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks, to reach the airborne force at Arnhem within two to three days. 1st Airborne landed some distance from its objectives and was quickly hampered by unexpected resistance, especially from elements of the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen, 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg, 10th SS panzer divisions.Ferguson, p.22 Only a small force was able to reach the Arnhem road bridge, while the main body of the division was halted on the Rural-urban fringe, outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, XXX Corps was unable to advance north as quickly as anticipated and failed to relieve the airborne troops.Ferguson, p.25 After four days, the small British force at the bridge was overwhelmed and the rest of the division became trapped in a pocket north of the river, where they could not be sufficiently reinforced by the Poles, or by XXX Corps when it arrived on the southern bank. After nine days of fighting, the shattered remains of the airborne forces were eventually withdrawn south of the Rhine. 1st Airborne lost 8,000 men during the battle and never saw combat again.


Norway post-war

In May 1945, immediately after the Allied Victory in Europe Day, the 1st Airborne Division was sent to disarm and repatriate the 350,000-strong German occupation army in Norway. The division maintained law and order until the arrival of the remainder of the 1st Airborne Division. During its time in Norway, the division was tasked with supervising the surrender of the German forces in Norway, as well as preventing the sabotage of important military and civilian facilities.Ferguson, p.30 The German Instrument of Surrender was delivered on 8 May to General Franz Böhme, the commander of all German forces stationed in Norway; the 1st Airborne Division landed near Oslo and Stavanger between 9 and 11 May. Most of the transport aircraft carrying the division landed safely, but one crash caused several fatalities. The division encountered little of the expected German resistance.Otway, p.328 Operational duties included welcoming back King Haakon VII of Norway, Haakon, looking after Allied ex-prisoners of war, arresting war criminals and supervising the clearing of minefields. While in Norway, the division was also able to investigate what happened to the airborne troops that had taken part in Operation Freshman. The division returned to Britain, and was disbanded on 26 August 1945.


Order of battle

The division had the following composition:


Commanders

Commanders of the division included; *1943—1944 Major General Frederick Browning, Sir Frederick Arthur Montague Browning GCVO KBE CB DSO *1944—1945 Major General Robert Elliott Urquhart CB DSO


Units

*
1st Parachute Brigade The 1st Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces brigade formed by the British Army during the Second World War. As its name indicates, the unit was the first Paratrooper, parachute infantry brigade formation in the British Army. Formed from three ...
* 1st Airlanding Brigade * 2nd Parachute Brigade * 3rd Parachute Brigade *
4th Parachute Brigade The 4th Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces, airborne, specifically a Paratrooper, parachute infantry, brigade formation of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in late 1942 in the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World ...
* Divisional troops ** Divisional headquarters and signal squadron ** 1st Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery ** 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery *** 1st Argyll and Bute Artillery Volunteers#204 (Oban) Anti-Tank Battery, 204th (Oban) Independent Anti-Tank Battery (later 2nd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery) *** 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery *** 5th Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery ** 283rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery, 283rd Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) Battery (later 1st (City of London Yeomanry) Airlanding LAA Battery) (''left 21 February 1944'') ** 1st Forward (Airborne) Observation Unit, Royal Artillery ** Pathfinder (military)#History, 21st Independent Parachute Company, Army Air Corps (United Kingdom), Army Air Corps ** 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron ** 9 Parachute Squadron RE, 9th (Airborne) Field Company,
Royal Engineers The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers (RE), and commonly known as the ''Sapper A sapper, also called pioneer Pioneer commonly refers to a settler who migrates to previously uninhabited or sparsely inhabited ...
** 1st Somersetshire Engineers, 261st (Airborne) Field Park Company, Royal Engineers ** 591st (Antrim) Airborne Squadron, Royal Engineers (''from 1 June 1945'') ** 250th (Airborne) Light Company, Royal Army Service Corps ** 93rd Company, Royal Army Service Corps ** Detachment Ordnance Field Park ** Detachment, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Workshop ** 89th Field Security Section, Intelligence Corps (United Kingdom), Intelligence Corps ** 1st Airborne Division, Provost Company, Royal Military PoliceUrquhart, p.225


See also

* List of British divisions in World War II


Notes

;Footnotes ;Citations


References

* * * * * * * * * * * Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, ''Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945'', London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, . * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:1st Airborne Division British World War II divisions Airborne divisions of the United Kingdom Paratroopers, Airborne Division (United Kingdom) Military units and formations of the British Empire in World War II Military units and formations established in 1941, Airborne Division UK Military units and formations disestablished in 1945, Airborne Division UK Military parachuting, Airborne Division (United Kingdom)