4th Parachute Brigade (United Kingdom) - Formation

Formation

Impressed by the successful 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 corps of 5,000 parachute troops. On 22 June 1940, No. 2 Commando was turned over to parachute duties and, on 21 November, re-designated the 11th Special Air Service Battalion, with a parachute and glider wing. It was these men who took part in the first British airborne operation, Operation Colossus, on 10 February 1941. The success of the raid prompted the War Office to expand the existing airborne force, setting up the Airborne Forces Depot and Battle School in Derbyshire, and creating the Parachute Regiment, as well as converting a number of infantry battalions into airborne battalions. These battalions were assigned to the 1st Airborne Division with the 1st Parachute Brigade and the 1st Airlanding Brigade. The first commander, Major General Frederick Boy Browning, expressed his opinion that the fledgling force must not be sacrificed in "penny packets" and urged the formation of more brigades.

The 4th Parachute Brigade was formed at RAF Kibrit in the Middle East on 1 December 1942. Upon formation it consisted of the brigade headquarters, signals company, defence platoon and three parachute battalions. The battalions assigned were the 156th Parachute Battalion (156 Para), raised from British servicemen in India, the 10th Parachute Battalion (10 Para), formed around a cadre from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, and the 11th Parachute Battalion (11 Para), created from a cadre of the 156th Battalion. The brigade's battalions all had the same composition: three rifle companies, each comprising a company headquarters, and three platoons. Each had a Support Company of mortar, machine-gun and carrier platoons, along with a Headquarters Company. The brigade's first commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth Smyth, was replaced by Brigadier John Hackett on 4 January 1943.

Facilities and weather conditions at Kibret proved to be unsuitable for airborne operations, so the brigade moved to RAF Ramat David in Palestine to continue their training. The brigade came to full strength in May 1943, and in June was sent to Tripoli, where it joined the 1st Airborne Division. Also assigned to the division were the 1st and 2nd Parachute Brigades and the glider infantry of the 1st Airlanding Brigade.

In 1944, the brigade also had under their command 133 Parachute Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, 2nd Airlanding Light Battery Royal Artillery, 2nd (Oban) Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, Royal Artillery and 4th Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers.

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