Pompey’s WW2 Paras

The Parachute Regiment

The Parachute Regiment

Many Portsmouth men served in the Parachute Regiment during the Second World War.

The Parachute Regiment was formed during the Second World War, after the Germans had used Airborne forces to great effect in the invasion of Holland and Belgium in 1940. Although initially Britian’s Airborne forces operated as small raiding parties, by the time it came to invade Europe in June 1944 the Airborne forces had expanded into 2 full Divisions, each of over 10,000 men. Each contained 2 Brigades of Parachute troops, and there was also an independent Parachute Battalion in the Mediterranean. The Parachute Regiment had expanded enormously to more than 10 Battalions.

During the war men could only volunteer for the Para’s from another unit, not directly from civilian life. They underwent strenuous physical training, and in addition had to complete a number of parachute jumps to obtain their parachute wings and additional pay. Naturally, they soon earned a reputation as among Britain’s toughest troops. The Germans nicknamed them ‘Der Roten Tefuel’ – the Red Devils. Field Marshal Montgomery paid the paras perhaps their most timeless tribute when he described them thus:

‘They are in fact, men apart. Every man an Emperor’

More Pompey paras are bound to emerge from the records as I carry on analysing the list of war dead, but here are some names and stories from among the first 600 names I have researched.

Private John Byng, 21, was killed in action in Tunisia on 11 March 1943, during the invasion of French North Africa. He was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and had originally been a member of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. After serving in North Africa the Paras then went on to Italy, where Private George Bayton, 34 and from Southsea, was killed on 8 December 1943, fighting with the 4th Battalion. He joined the Paras from the East Surrey Regiment.

The Regiment suffered heavy losses on D-Day and in the subsequent battle of Normandy. Private Ronald Kent, 24, and from the 8th Battalion, was killed on D-Day. He had originally joined the Royal Artillery. In the heavy fighting after D-Day the 6th Airborne Division was in action right through until August 1944. Sergeant Frank Kempster, 30, was killed on 19 August 1944. He had previously been a member of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.

The famous battle at Arnhem also saw heavy losses. Corporal Thomas Bedford, age 22 and from Paulsgrove, was killed on 18 September 1944, the day that the 11th Battalion landed at Ginkel Heath. Bedford had previously been in the Royal Artillery. He was serving in the same battalion as my Grandad, Private Henry Miller, also from Portsmouth, who interestingly lived in Paulsgrove for almost 50 years after the war.

Finally, the 6th Airborne Division later saw service in action supporting the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945 and subsequently on until VE Day. Sergeant Sidney Cornell, 31, was killed on 7 April 1945, just over a month before the end of the war. He is buried at Becklingen in Germany, not far from the site where the Germans surrendered to Field Marshal Montgomery at Luneberg Heath. Although we do not know what unit he had served in prior to the Paras, he had been called up after September 1943, and thus was very new to the Army.

Sergeant Cornell was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery in action during the Battle of Normandy, when he was a Private and serving as his company runner in the 7th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. The DCM was second only to the Victoria Cross for bravery shown by non-officers. The recommendation for his DCM is available to download from the National Archives website, and I’ll quote from it here:

‘This soldier was one of the parachutists to land behind the German lines in Normandy on the night 5/6 June 1944. During the next five weeks he was in almost continuous action of a most trying and difficult nature. Cornell was a Company runner and has repeatedly carried messages through the most heavy and accurate enemy mortar and Machine Gun fire. Four times wounded in action this soldier has never been evacuated and carries on with his job cheerfully and efficiently. Very many acts of gallantry have been performed by members of the Battalion but for sustained courage nothing surpasses Cornell’s effort. His courage and many wounds have made him a well known and admired character throughout not only his own Battalion but the whole Brigade. Space does not permit a record of all his feats as he distinguished himself in practically every action and fighting took place daily. On 18th June 1944 his company carried out a raid on a strong enemy position in the Bois de Bavent area. The position was stronger than expected and the company was hard pressed and the wireless set destroyed. Cornell was sent back with a verbal message, he was wounded during the journey but carried on and delivered his message correctly and set off with the reply. He was wounded a second time on the return journey but again carried on and again delivered the message correctly. During the remained of this raid, and despite his two wounds, he was outstanding for his courage and dash. The courage and devotion to duty displayed by Cornell on this occasion was an inspiration to all who witnessed it. He has performed similar runs on countless occasions and, as has been pointed out before, has been wounded twice more but is still the runner for his company and is as cheerful as before. On 10 July 1944 his company again carried out a raid on the same area and again, as usual, Cornell’s complete disregard for his own safety became the chief topic of conversation amongst his fellow soldiers. He has never failed to deliver a message correctly despite the fact that he has carried through a perfect hail of enemy mortar bombs and shells and very frequently aimed Machine Gun fire as well. He is a truly magnificent parachutist and I cannot recommend him too highly for a decoration’.

About these ads

22 Comments

Filed under Army, Arnhem, Local History, portsmouth heroes, World War Two

22 responses to “Pompey’s WW2 Paras

  1. Pingback: Battlefield 3

  2. This is forr external application on your belly, please don’t
    consume it. Such peokple require immunity boosters in appropriate doses
    from time to time. Did you know that parsley can actually help improve kidney functions.

  3. Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is
    great, as well as the content!

  4. However, practically everybody has heard about diet developed by Dr.
    Click The Link to join up as an individual currently.
    The individuals having diabetes control their diets
    and must take appropriate sleep.

  5. Hi, I do think this is a great site. I stumbledupon it ;
    ) I may revisit once again since i have bookmarked it.
    Money and freedom is the greatest way to change,
    may you be rich and continue to help other people.

  6. If some one wants to be updated with latest technologies afterward he must be pay a visit this web page and be up
    to date all the time.

  7. Secret Guitar transforms your iPhone into a guitar device.
    The packages are very fast without any restrictions whatsoever.

    In the beginning there existed different reasons starting doing
    a jailbreak.

  8. Hey there! I know this is kind of off topic but
    I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha
    plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

  9. Attractive portion of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to claim that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your weblog
    posts. Any way I will be subscribing for your augment
    and even I success you get admission to constantly rapidly.

  10. Great delivery. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the
    good effort.

  11. Hi there mates, good paragraph and pleasant arguments commented here, I am genuinely enjoying by these.

  12. But what can you do, once the manufacturers decide to invent a
    concurrent research of the own! It has been put the best shows for individuals’ and
    is available in DVD types too.

  13. The emphasis is gradually moving towards the online press.
    Definitely what’s soul-stirring image, a movie without beautiful scenery, and strong people?

    These are some movies it is possible to download
    to your iPod.

  14. Certainly one of my personal favorite paranormal tv shows is “Supernatural”.
    Consult people to mention among the best tv shows
    of 2008 and some can claim Desperate Housewives.

  15. De précieux conseils que je met dans un coin de ma petite tête et qui
    vont m’aider, c’est sur! Et ce blog est wahou, bravo!
    n’hesiter pas de rendre visite à mon blog qui donne des conseils à porpos de
    la la mutuelle asaf afps , c’est interessant :
    )

  16. If you are going for best contents like myself, only go to see
    this web site everyday because it presents feature contents,
    thanks

  17. These kind of games involve use of strong terms, more violence, small blood, and gross humor.
    The nearest period approximating for the mother’s stomach wins the award!
    Nevertheless, prevent “growing” the seventh gift.

  18. But what’re the dumbest reality shows to ever air on
    television? I Love You celebrities Gerard Butler as Gerry Kennedy and Hillary Swank
    as Holly Kennedy. You merely have to find the right shows.What are yours?

  19. Hi, every time i used to check web site posts here early in the break of
    day, for the reason that i enjoy to gain knowledge of more and more.

  20. Place them inside the refrigerator until they set.
    Fill the diaper bag with anything you believe you may need .
    Discovering the weather of destressing and using your children brings the very best of both worlds.

  21. Now you can put all your worries to rest and transfer music
    as and when you want. It is the first the first Dash device to provide the Window’s
    Cellular 6. You will need the IMEI for doing all this.

  22. Do you want to play the victim, the villain, the hero? You are liberated
    to choose in any manner of taking a look at oneself and the entire world around you.
    Also find out about the top anime movies of all time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s