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Learning To Leap At RAF Abingdon
New paratroop is trained at unique RAF school for vital rule.
(Flying Review  August 1962)

TWO OF the toughest fighting units in the world are without a doubt the Red Devils—or, to give them their correct title, the Parachute Regiment--and Les Paras, the French equivalent of the famous British regiment. Over the years they have established
themselves as tenacious fighters and their many brave deeds, ranging from the Red Devils' gallant stand at Arnhem in 1944 against overwhelming German odds to Les Paras last ditch defence of ill-fated Dien Bien Phu in Indo China in 1954, will long be remembered.

Learning To Leap At RAF Abingdon. RAF Parachute School 1962


RAF Paratroop
This year a new chapter in the history of parachute fighting forces has been written as the Red Devils and Les Paras now have a new baby brother—the RAF Paras. A section of the RAF Regiment has just been trained as a special parachute unit at No. 1 Parachute Training School, RAF Abingdon, Berkshire, and it may well be that the RAF Paras will one day become just as well known as their British and French Army counterparts.Mobility is one of the most important factors of modern warfare and the RAF
Regiment now possesses a force capable of being flown anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. The Regiment deals
primarily with the defence of airfields and other important ground installations but at present the exact wartime role of the new paratroop cannot be divulged.To find out what the men from the Regiment had to do to gain their parachute " wings," I recently visited No. 1 Parachute Training School, which is the only one of its kind in the country." We have about 3,500 servicemen going
through the school every year," said Wing Cmdr. B. F. Stannard, AFC, commanding officer, n but of this number only a very
small percentage are from the RAF." He explained the reason why they get so few RAF servicemen was due to the fact the service has no real need of parachutists. " The majority of men we receive here are from the Army and because of this we work in close co-operation with the Army staff attached to the school," he added.Wing Cmdr. Stannard, a jovial Sussex born officer who has been in command of the school since September, 1960, made it quite clear that whether a Private or a General comes to be trained it's the same treatment for all." We have had many high-ranking officers here, but there is no preferential treatment and you could well find a General jumping alongside a Private," he remarked.

You do not have to be a superman to be a parachutist today. That's Wing Cmdr. Stannard's opinion and he says anyone with ordinary intelligence can jump." We do get a few types here who think they are God's answer to parachuting, but when it comes to the real thing invariably those who have done all the boasting soon quieten down and it's the chaps who have had butterflies in their stomachs who jump the best." Not all the new recruits at Abingdon make the grade. It's a hard life; it means getting up in the early hours of the morning and there is no let up.

Must he Fit.
Major H. M. McRitchie, who is in charge of the Army administration at the school, told me : " Before anyone comes here they have to be physically fit. Only the elite are sent to the school but even then one or two fall by the wayside." Basic training is one month. During this period the recruit receives eight days ground training including jumps from practice towers and inside the hangars as well as many lectures. About the tenth day he has his first jump which is made from a balloon. The first and second jumps are from the balloon, followed by further jumps from either a Beverley or a Hastings. Later in the course there is night jumping. Every time a jump is made the recruit wears two parachutes—one on his chest and another on the back. Should one fail to open he can use the other. Jumping can be dangerous, but the statistics show that injuries at the school every year are only 1.4 per cent.

Display Team
As well as training parachutists the school also has its own display team. This is the RAF Free Fall Display Team.Led by Flt.; Lt. Peter Hearn, the six instructors who make up the team usually free fall from a maximum altitude of 12,000 ft. and release their parachutes at about 2.000 ft. from the ground. " Last year we tried baton changing in the air and we hope to have perfected
this by Farnborough week," said Flt. Lt. Hearn. The men who make up the Display Team are very keen on free fall parachuting. In fact, many of them are so caught up in the magic spell of this that at most week-ends they rush off to private free fall clubs where they participate alongside clerks and other people from civvy street!

Many people from many different nations have been trained at Abingdon. Some go back to their countries to start parachute training schools of their own. The school, founded at Ringway in 1940, moved to Upper Heyford in 1946. Four years later it came to Abingdon, which is the home of Nos. 47 and 53 Squadrons of Transport Command. It has been successful—very successful.