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  RINGWAY 1943 to 1945

When the Battalion first arrived in England, they only had the maroon beret, cap badge and AIRBORNE CANADA shoulder title. Shortly after, by the end of 1943, they were issued with the gold cloth Battalion Identification epaulette slip-ons. For a very short period, before the issue of the printed Battalion shoulder title and after they legally joined the British 6th Airborne Division, they were permitted to wear the British Airborne Corps sign with the AIRBORNE CANADA shoulder title.  

Although the original workhorse of the Parachute School was the Whitley, they soon acquired a single C-47 Dakota to familiarize all parachute troops with jumping from the US built Douglas aircraft. These aircraft were in short supply through the entire war so only a few were actually utilized at Ringway later in the war.

Members of the Battalion on parade at Ringway

Canadians either recruited in England for the parachute battalion or those who were shipped overseas with the battalion who did not yet qualify being presented with their parachute badges and the following document from General Browning.

Members of the Battalion conducting training on loading parachute containers on to the Whitley.

   CANADIANS AT RINGWAY   

Canada's most experienced army parachutist in WW II, Major Raymond Wooler (Center). Ray made in excess of 120 jumps during WW II. He parachute trained SOE, SIS, OSS and Aussie Z personnel from Ringway to North Africa to Italy and then in Australia. Written permission to post from Ray Wooler

Members of 11 SAS Bn. getting ready for a jump. Note they wear the early step in smocks and early sorbo training helmets. Also note the parachute badges appear to be embroidered on a dark, almost black background.

Slide show showing Canadians selected in England for the 1st Special Service Force who underwent parachute training at Ringway in August 1942.

The tarmac at Ringway with General Aircraft Hotspur Gliders in the background, a Westland Lysander  and three Armstrong Witworth Whitley Bombers converted to parachute use by cutting an aperture in the floor of the fuselage of the aircraft.

British airborne badges including the white metal and plastic Army Air Corps cap badges (The plastic badge being made by Stanley & Sons Ltd. Walsall). The Corps was formed on 21 December 1941. These are the badges worn by army pilots and paratroopers until the creation of the Parachute Regiment on 1 August 1942. At that time the cap badge for members of parachute units (only) changed to the version in the middle. This was made in white metal and plastic. The plastic version above, was first made available on 20 August 1943. It was manufactured by Roanoid Plastic's Ltd. of Birmingham. At bottom is the British Army Parachute Badge as worn by ALL British parachute trained personnel except those not operating in a parachute role. They wore a simple parachute on a khaki wool background.

On 21 June 1940 a joint Royal Air Force and Army parachute and gliding school was set up at Ringway, Airport, Manchester, England. Originally named the Central Landing School, they immediately set to work developing  parachute training techniques and a syllabus from scratch. This began on 9 July when volunteers were placed in "B" and "C" Troop of Combined Operations No. 2 Commando Commanded by Colonel I.A. Jackson. Initially all that was known about parachuting was derived from the RAF as it applied to pilots baling out of aircraft.  Very quickly a system was developed and with the inclusion of glider training, the school became the Central Landing Establishment on 19 September. At that time Group Captain L.G. Harvey became the CLE's Commanding Officer. Under him were; Squadron Leader H.E. Hervey who commanded the Glider Training Squadron and Squadron Leader Maurice Newnham who commanded the Parachute Training Squadron. For the Army, Major John Rock was placed in command of the Tactical Development Unit. He was assigned to create airborne tactics, clothing and equipment.

At the end of 1940 the parachute troops of No. 2 Commando were re-designated the 11th Special Air Service Company. In July 1941 Jackson was replaced as CO by Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Down. Again in September 1941, the CLE was re-designated as the Airborne Forces Establishment. Army physical training instructors were brought to Ringway with the result being the creation of the Airborne Forces Depot at Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Earlier, this was not required as most volunteers were already trained commandos. However with the expansion of the airborne and calls going out to the military in general, this proved vital to weed out those not suited as paratroopers or glider infantry. Very soon after the Depot was established, the Royal Air Force was given control over parachute training. On 2 February 1942, Newnham posted Flying Officer J.C. Kilkenny to oversee ground parachute training at the No.1 Parachute Training School (PTS). He would develop a myriad of apparatus that soon became known as Kilkenny's Circus. This was made up of swings, slings and slides in order to practice landings, control oscillation and collapse the canopy in high winds. Roughly two weeks later, the Army transformed the AFE into the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE).

The earliest known Canadian's involved with Army parachuting were George R. Patterson and Geoffrey Jowett who had joined No. 2 Commando. Next in line was Major Raymond Wooler. He joined the Independent Companies (precursor to the commandos) and fought in Norway in April 1940. After the expeditionary force had been withdrawn, he was invited by Brigadier Colin McVean Gubbin's to join the fledgling Special Operations Executive. Although he had never parachuted in his life, he volunteered to become an instructor for SOE. He immediately familiarized himself with parachuting and soon excelled at his work training some of the Allies top SOE/SIS agents at Tatton Park, Ringway. Among those agents training at Ringway were also Canadians who joined SOE like Major Gustave Bieler. Bieler was parachute trained, under SOE guidelines, at Ringway shortly before the 85 men selected by McNaughton for the 1st SSF underwent their parachute training in August 1942. The rest of 1942 and 1943 saw many more Canadians in SOE parachute trained at Tatton Park while the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion began parachute instruction for volunteers in the UK as well as conversion training at Ringway in September 1943. It was around this time (August) that parachute training in Canada began at the S-14 Canadian Parachute Training School.

Lieutenant J.D. Poupore of the Toronto Scottisth Regiment

From left to right, A/Sgt. L.J. Stanlake RCE, unknown, unknown, Sgt. H.R. Nicolson wearing the early 2nd Division formation patches of the Royal Highlanders of Canada,  Sgt. L. B. Hall 7th Recce Regt. (17th D.Y.R.C.H.) and C.S.M. W.J. Clark of the Royal Canadian Regt.

Acting Lance Sergeant D.R. Christianson with A/L/Sgt. W. Irvine (right). Both of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Note that they wear the early triangular unit shoulder title above the grey 3rd Division patch. The name of the unit is embroidered around an embroidered "little black devil" motif.  

Corporal A. Twaddle Royal Canadian Army Service Corps beside Corporal M.C. MacPherson North Nova Scotia Highlanders (Right)

Notice the RAF Instructor badges being worn and the use of leather name tapes on the battle dress

British Parachute Jump Instructor Badge. This was the only version of the badge worn by British Instructors during WW II.

The roster of 85 men selected by General McNaughton's newly formed First Canadian Army HQ in England who were to join the 1st Special Service Force (1stSSF) under the cover of joining a Canadian parachute battalion. They began training on 25 August 1942 and 79 were presented with the British Parachute Badge upon qualifying on 8 September. After it was deemed too late for these men to join the 1stSSF, they were sent to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. With the PLOUGH operation cancelled in September 1942, some of these men did volunteer to move from the 1stCPB to the 1stSSF over the December 1942/February 1943 period. It was initially thought that the 1stSSF would see action first.   

  Man to the right of Waterman is Pte. D.O. Trudeau. He was taken Prisoner on D-Day and released on16 May 1945

Men waiting their turn to jump from the Kite Balloon. Some courses were mixed with men from the Battalion jumping with British and Polish trainees.

A diagram showing the original purpose of the Kite/Barrage Balloon.

Pte C.C. Waterman of Toronto was not the only black paratrooper to join the battalion overseas. There was also Pte. H.E. "Texas" Hensen (Henson) and Pte Clarence David LaPierre from Owen Sound, Ontario. He underwent parachute training at Ringway on 3 March 1944. Sadly LaPierre was killed in Normandy on 7 June 1944. (Info courtesy Hugo Mitchell)  The author knows of two other black men  parachute trained with the Battalion but, as far as the Webmaster knows,  did not remain with them.  The webmaster would appreciate any info on these men. Reynolds was the one taking the photos, the other man in the photo is a British instructor.

The "Squander-Bug" badge (right)  is new to me. The cartoon character was originally used as a symbol by the British National Savings Committee to discourage frivolous spending amongst the citizenry. What it's connection to the Physical Training Corps is, I have no idea.

    Lieutenant J.P.Hanson Royal Montreal Regiment would join the parachute battalion

The British X Type Parachute and volunteers of the Battalion at Ringway about to undertake their parachute training.

Photographer Sergeant D. Reynolds of the Public Relations Group/ Film and Photo Unit who parachute qualified at Ringway so he could cover the training and operations of the Canadian Parachute Battalion. He had previously accompanied the Canadian Army to France in 1940. Many who qualified at Ringway were given the James Gregory/Raymond Quilter or GQ Parachute Company pin. The first British parachute troops of No. 2 Commando wore these before the British Parachute Badge was developed.

Group photos of Canadian parachute courses at Ringway with their parachute instructors. These photos mostly represent those taking their qualifying course. However in late 1943 the Battalion started conversion training to learn how to jump the British way. Sadly, the webmaster has not yet been able to locate any captions for these photos to identify the men.

Members of the Battalion wearing X Type Parachutes emplane for one of their 5 qualifying jumps.

        Pte. Clarence David LaPierre

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