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Canadian airborne parachute badges

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

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1st Canadian Parachute Battalion
Active 1942 – 1945
Country Canada
Branch Canadian Army
Type Infantry
Role Parachute
Size Battalion
Part of 6th Airborne Division
Engagements Operation Tonga
Battle of the Bulge
Operation Varsity
Battle honours Normandy Landing
Dives Crossing
The Rhine
Northwest Europe 1944-45
Lt. Col. G.F.P. Bradbrooke, 1942 – June 1944

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was formed in July 1942 during the Second World War; it served in North West Europe. Landing in Normandy on D Day, June 6, 1944 and in the airborne assault crossing of the River Rhine, Operation Varsity. After the end of hostilities in Europe, the Battalion was returned to Canada where it was disbanded on 30 September 1945.

Early history

The first airborne unit formed in Canada was created to counter the threat of invasion by the Japanese on the west coast or by the Germans on the east coast of Canada.

On 1 July 1942 the Department of National Defence authorized the raising of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. The battalion had an authorised strength of 26 officers and 590 other ranks, formed into a battalion headquarters, three rifle companies and a headquarters company. Later in the year, volunteers were also requested for the recently formed 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion, which formed the Canadian contingent of the 1st Special Service Force. The initial training was carried out at Fort Benning in the United States and at RAF Ringway in England. Groups of recruits were dispatched to both countries with the intention of getting the best out of both training systems prior to the development of the Canadian Parachute Training Wing at CFB Shilo, Manitoba. The group that traveled to Fort Benning in the United States included the unit’s first Commanding Officer, Major H.D. Proctor who was killed in an accident when his parachute rigging lines were severed by a following aircraft. He was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel G.F.P. Bradbrooke who led the battalion until the end of operations in Normandy on 14 June 1944.


In July 1943, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was dispatched to England and came under the command of the 3rd Parachute Brigade of the British 6th Airborne Division. The Battalion then spent the next year in training for airborne operations. Major differences between their previous American training and the new regime included jumping with only one parachute, and doing it through a hole in the floor of the aircraft, instead of through the door of a C-47 Dakota.

Operation Overlord

Main article: Operation Tonga

On the evening on 5 June 1944 the battalion was transported to France in fifty aircraft. Each man carried a knife, toggle rope, escape kit with French currency, and two 24 hour ration packs in addition to their normal equipment, in all totalling 70 pounds. The battalion landed one hour in advance of the rest of the brigade in order to secure the Drop zone (DZ). Thereafter they were ordered to destroy road bridges over the river Dives and its tributaries at Varaville, then neutralize strongpoints at the crossroads. In addition, the Canadians were to protect the left (southern) flank of the 9th Battalion, Parachute Regiment during that unit’s attack on the Merville Battery, afterwards seizing a position astride the Le Mesnil crossroads, a vital position at the centre of the ridge.

Lieutenant Colonel Bradbrooke issued the following orders to his company commanders:

C Company (Major H.M. MacLeod) was to secure the DZ, destroy the enemy headquarters (HQ), secure the SE corner of the DZ, destroy the radio station at Varaville, and blow the bridge over the Divette stream in Varaville. C Coy would then join the battalion at Le Mesnil cross roads.

A Company (Major D. Wilkins) would protect the left flank of 9th Btn during their attack on the Merville Battery and then cover 9th Battalion’s advance to the Le Plein feature. They would seize and hold the Le Mesnil cross roads.

B Company (Major C. Fuller) was to destroy the bridge over the river Dives within two hours of landing and deny the area to the enemy until ordered to withdraw to Le Mesnil cross roads.”

The Battalion landed between 0100 and 0130 hours on June 6, becoming the first Canadian unit on the ground in France. For different reasons, including adverse weather conditions and poor visibility, the soldiers were scattered, at times quite far from the planned drop zone. By mid-day, and in spite of German resistance, the men of the battalion had achieved all their objectives; the bridges on the Dives and Divette in Varaville and Robehomme were cut, the left flank of the 9th Parachute Battalion at Merville was secure, and the crossroads at Le Mesnil was taken. In the following days, the Canadians were later involved in ground operations to strengthen the bridgehead and support the advance of Allied troops towards the Seine River.

On 23 August 1944 Lieutenant Colonel Bradbrooke was appointed to the General Staff at Canadian Military Headquarters in London with Major Eadie taking temporary control of the battalion. Three days later, on 26 August 1944, the 6th Airborne Division was pulled from the line in Normandy. Of the 27 officers and 516 men from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion who took part in the Battle of Normandy, 24 officers and 343 men gave their lives. The unit had to be re-organized and retrained in order to regain its strength and combat-readiness. The Battle of Normandy had brought a major change to the way the war was fought. Airborne troops needed new training to prepare for an offensive role, including street fighting and capturing enemy positions. On 6 September the Battalion left Normandy and returned to the Bulford training camp in the United Kingdom.

In December 1944, the Battalion was again sent to mainland Europe, on Christmas Day they sailed for Belgium, to counter the German offensive in the Ardennes what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The Ardennes and Holland

Main article: Battle of the Bulge

Operation Varsity was the greatest airborne operation of the war. Some 40,000 paratroops were dropped by 1,500 troop-carrying planes and gliders beginning on 24 March 1945.

On 2 January 1945, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was again committed to ground operations on the continent, arriving at the front during the last days of the Battle of the Bulge. They were positioned to patrol during both day and night and defend against any enemy attempts to infiltrate their area. The Battalion also took part in a general advance, taking them through the towns of Aye, Marche, Roy and Bande. The capture of Bande marked the end of the fight for the Bulge and the Battalion’s participation in the operation.

The Battalion was next moved into the Netherlands in preparation for the crossing of the River Rhine. They were active in carrying out patrols and raids and to establish bridge heads where and when suitable. Despite the heavy shelling of the Canadian positions, there were very few casualties considering the length of time they were there and the strength of the enemy positions. During this time, the Battalion maintained an active defence as well as considerable patrol activity until its return to the United Kingdom on 23 February 1945.

On 7 March 1945, the Battalion returned from leave to start training for be the last major airborne operation of the war, Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine.

Operation Varsity

Main article: Operation Varsity

The 17th U.S. Airborne and 6th British Airborne divisions were tasked to capture Wesel across the Rhine River, to be completed as a combined paratrooper and glider operation conducted in daylight.

3rd Para Brigade was tasked;

  • To clear the DZ and establish a defensive position road at the west end of the drop zone.
  • To seize the Schnappenburg feature astride the main road running north and south of this feature.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was ordered to seize and hold the central area on the western edge of the woods, where there was a main road running north from the Wesel to Emmerich, and to a number of houses. It was believed this area was held by German paratroopers. “C” Company would clear the northern part of the woods near the junction of the roads to Rees and Emmerich. Once this area was secure, “A” Company would advance through the position and seize the houses located near the DZ. “B” Company would clear the South-Western part of the woods and secure the battalion’s flank. Despite some of the paratroopers being dropped some distance from their landing zone, the Battalion managed to secure its objectives quickly. The battalion lost its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Nicklin who was killed during the initial jump on 24 March 1945. Following the death of Lt. Col Nicklin, the last unit Commander was Lt. Col. G.F. Eadie until its disbandment.

The outcome of this operation was the defeat of the I. Fallschirmkorps in a day and a half. In the following 37 days, the Battalion advanced 285 miles (459 km), driving the German Army to the Baltic Sea and taking, the city of Wismar on May 2, 1945. It was at Wismar that the battalion met up with the Red Army (the only Canadian unit to do so during hostilities). The armistice was signed on May 8 and the battalion returned to England.

The Battalion sailed for Canada on the Isle de France on 31 May 1945, and arrived in Halifax on 21 June. They were the first Canadian unit to be repatriated, and on September 30 the battalion was officially disbanded.

Victoria Cross

One member of the Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross, Corporal Frederick Topham, east of the River Rhine, near Wesel, Germany, on 24 March 1945.

Canadian Special Air Service Company

The Canadian Special Air Service Company BADGES

The Special Air Service (S.A.S.) originated during World War II, when after numerous operations military authorities were convinced that a few men working behind the enemy lines could, with A sufficient bluff & daring wreak havoc with supplies and communications. Results obtained during the war assured its continued existence. The spirit of adventurous individualism has always been a characteristic of this nation, and one which has been handed down to us through generations. There are, and always will be in this country, those whose finer qualities are brought out to the full when they are given individual responsibilities, and it is these men who initiate, lead, and made successful a force like the S.A.S.

During World War II the S.A.S. was formed to attack military targets, including airfields behind the enemy lines. They operated in small parties in uniform, and whether they arrive at their destination by sea or land was immaterial. Yo operate behind enemy lines it was necessary to have men finely trained and utterly reliable. “The chosen few”. After World War II in 1947 the Canadian Special Air Service was formed and organized by the Canadian Army. It was the first to operate as an airborne unit in 1948 – 1949. The Canadian Army wanted to establish within the army a mobile airborne group capable of performing army, inter-service and public duties in the following fields: army/air tactical research and development, demonstrations to assist army/air training airborne fire-fighting , search and rescue and aid to the civil power.

The S.A.S. was established at Rivers, Manitoba as a normal sub-unit of the army component of the joint air school. It consisted of four officers: Capt. L. G. D`Artois DSO GM (R22R) Lt. A.J.M. Angus (R.C.R.) Lt. H. Moncrief (P.P.C.L.I.) and Lt. J.J.R. Lamontagne (R22R) and approximately 35 other ranks of each battalion of the three permanent force infantry regiments: RCR, PPCLI and R22R (in late Oct. 1948 a composite platoon was formed consisting of personnel from the RCE, RCAC (Lord Strathconas Horse) RCA, RCASC, RCOC, and the RCEME. The members, many of whom had served in the wartime parachute units, had to be bachelors in superb physical condition, innovative, self-reliant, immensely quick in thought and action, and to have control, a strong sence of discipline and an original approach.

The Canadian Special  Air Service badges were designed by A.J. (Badge) Franklin a former member of the S.A.S.. These badges were never worn by the S.A.S. personnel. They proudly wore their own regimental badges. This was due the short existence of the S.A.S. which was Jan. 1948 to June 1949.

It was decided by army Headquarters in Ottawa to have three regular force infantry battalions of the Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal 22e Regiment form the mobile striking force. The S.A.S. badges are commemorative souvenirs and are considered collectibles.

By B. A. J. (Badge) Franklin (#  2400 MCC of C)

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Canadian Special Air Service Company
Active 1947–September 1949
Country Canada
Branch Regular Army
Type Special Forces
Size 140 men
Major Guy D’Artois

The Canadian Special Air Service Company (CSAS) was a Canadian Airborne Special Forces unit in operation between 1947 and 1949.


As opposed to a purely military function, the Canadian SAS was originally given functions of airborne firefighting, search and rescue and aid to the civil powers. However once officially sanctioned, the SAS was assigned the functions of being initially a parachute company but able to be the cadre of up to three parachute battalions, provide demonstrations of their capabilities throughout the nation, and “preserve and advance the techniques of SAS (Commando) operations developed during World War II”.

The Canadian SAS performed an arctic rescue mission in 1947 and provided flood relief efforts in the Fraser Valley in 1948.


Appointed as the first commander of the unit was Major Lionel Guy d’Artois a savate instructor who served in World War II with the First Special Service Force and Special Operations Executive in France.


The Company was formed as a standard infantry company with a company headquarters and three platoons; a fourth “services” platoon added in 1948. The unit had no distinctive insignia.


The Canadian SAS carried on in its mission of providing the nucleus of an airborne battalion that became the Mobile Striking Force in 1949, replacing the SAS.

Canadian Airborne Regiment

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The Canadian Airborne Regiment
Active 8 April 1968 – 1 September 1995
Country Canada
Branch Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Airborne Infantry
Size One battalion
Part of Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
Garrison/HQ CFB Petawawa
Motto Ex coelis (From the Clouds)
March The Longest Day
Colonel in Chief HRH The Duke of York

The Canadian Airborne Regiment was a Canadian Forces formation created on April 8, 1968. It was not an administrative regiment in the commonly accepted British Commonwealth sense, but rather a tactical formation manned from other regiments and branches. It was disbanded in 1995 after the Somalia Affair.

Origin and organizational aspects

The concept of the Airborne

The main proponent of the Airborne was General Jean Victor Allard who, as commander of the Army (i.e. Mobile Command) and then Chief of Defence Staff, created it between 1965 and 1968 as a large rapid-reaction, light mobile force, suitable for overseas brigade-size missions. It was designed as a flexible short-term immediate response available to the government when it accepted an overseas reinforcement or intervention mission within NATO, or elsewhere. It would be replaced in a brigade’s proposed mission area, after no more than a few weeks, once the main body of a heavier brigade was mobilized and transported with its fighting vehicles and support to the area. (See Gen. Allard’s memoirs, Chap. 12.)

Over time, and a succession of chiefs of defence, the Airborne remained an object of conflicting concepts of operations, military structure and linguistic identity. Originally designed as a quick-reaction immediate-response force that could, if absolutely necessary, use parachutes, it was quickly transformed into a highly specialized parachute force, to be used for special parachute missions in the regular order of battle. (See Allard’s memoirs.) This, in turn, created controversy since there was no accepted requirement for such a Canadian Forces capability in operational plans, other than the rather pedestrian task of jumping into remote locations in the Canadian Arctic.

The original concept of the Airborne envisaged a rotation of young infantry soldiers and officers through its units, serving a maximum of two years. It was to be an essential and exciting posting for all young infantry leaders prior to their promotion to sergeant or captain in their own regiment. Allard wrote: “this regiment would not reflect the identity of a Victorian-era regiment because its members would serve in it for only a short period (Chap 12).” However, under Allard’s successors, the Airborne became instead another separate regiment, specializing in parachuting, and keeping its members for as long as possible. It adopted all the symbols of a line regiment, including badges, colours, and history (creating a historical link with Canadian war-time parachute battalions). In particular, it sought to replace the identity of its members from Canada’s line regiments with that of the Airborne. This aborted the original operational purpose of the Airborne and, significantly, planted the seeds of an ongoing conflict of identity and loyalty within the Canadian infantry family. Allard wrote that “those who took this route showed an absolute ignorance of the requirement for quick-reaction in today’s world.”


On Allard’s retirement, the unit was established in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1968. This was a large Air Transport Command base. The prairie weather is ideal for specialized parachute training, and Edmonton is the “gateway to the North”. But the location in western Canada was disputed by some for operational reasons in that Canada’s rapidly declining troop strength was consequently heavily skewed to that part of the continent where neither its population nor its NATO commitments justified. There was a full brigade in the West, plus the Airborne. In central and eastern Canada, there were only four battalions of infantry.

The Edmonton location also created linguistic problems. The Airborne’s French-speaking elements had initially been left at CFB Valcartier in Quebec, but they too were moved to Alberta in 1970. There, it became difficult to keep them up to strength, particularly as many married leaders refused to make their career in an environment unsuitable for their families.

Finally, in the face of recruiting and retention problems, as well as operational concerns, the Airborne was moved to CFB Petawawa in Ontario, where it remained until it was disbanded.

In 1970 a mechanized infantry battalion was added to the regiment and was named 3rd Canadian Mechanized Commando. This unit was an element of the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade and was stationed in CFB Baden, Germany. Although it was part of the regiment it did not have a parachute role. It was disbanded in 1977.

Organization, size, and identity

The Airborne Regiment also suffered from frequent reorganizations. Initially conceived as a small brigade, its lack of resources forced it from the start to become a rather large tactical “regiment” with two infantry “commandos”, one English-speaking and the other mostly French-speaking, as well as one artillery battery, one engineer field squadron, one signal squadron, and a service company.

A tug-of-war thus started between advocates of an exclusive “airborne” identity versus Canada’s other infantry regiments, whose support was needed to promote a flow of soldiers and, in particular, leaders. An uneasy compromise was reached after 10 years, in 1979, when the Airborne was reorganized into three infantry commandos each identified with, and supported from, one of Canada’s three line infantry regiments. Over time, this support was generally excellent, and the commandos became a legitimate part of their regimental family of origin. There were, however, occasions when the quality of that support was questioned (see Somalia Affair).

The resources provided for the Airborne continued to dwindle. In 1977, when the regiment moved to CFB Petawawa from Edmonton, it became the core of the Airborne Battle Group within the new Special Service Force, an all-arms light brigade group, tasked with the rapid reinforcement of NATO forces in Norway or Denmark. Its airborne artillery and engineer elements were reassigned to their parent units of the brigade. The total peacetime strength of the regiment was down to 750 all ranks.

In 1992, the Canadian Airborne Regiment was reduced to battalion size (601 members). Its commandos lost their status as distinct administrative units commanded by Commanding Officers and became companies of the Airborne, commanded by a Officer Commanding,albeit maintaining their links with their regiments of origin.

In the 1970s a mechanized infantry battalion had been created within Canada’s down-sized brigade in Germany and named 3 Canadian Mechanized Commando; its dress, colours and other symbols were those of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. This designation was a convenient mechanism for manning it from Canada’s two English-speaking infantry regiments, allowing both to maintain NATO expertise. However, its role was strictly that of a mechanized infantry battalion and had nothing to do with the parachute operations of the regiment in Canada.

The Canadian Airborne Regiment was ordered to be disbanded by the Minister of National Defence after the Somalia Affair on September 1, 1995. This move occurred during a period marked by severe defence budget cuts and internal reorganization. Although General John de Chastelain, Chief of Defence Staff, publicly disagreed with the minister on this decision, it is likely that the lack of an obvious role in the force structure outlined in the 1994 Defence White Paper, as well as a record of controversy during its peace-time history, allowed much of National Defence Headquarters leadership to tacitly concur with the minister’s reaction to the Somalia Affair.

Operational service

In Canada

The Airborne deployed twice at home in the 1970s: once in response to the October Crisis in Quebec in 1970, then in 1976 to provide counter-terrorism support during the Montreal Olympics.


The Canadian Airborne Regiment’s first overseas tour was to Cyprus in April 1974, viewed at the time as an ordinary peace-keeping task. The contingent was structured around its 1er Commando and its field (engineer) squadron.

However, in July 1974, an attempt by agents of the dictatorship then ruling Greece to seize power and unite the island with Greece was met by military intervention from Turkey, which invaded Cyprus on July 20. In a two-stage offensive, Turkish troops took control of 38% of the island. Many Greek Cypriots fled south while many Turkish Cypriots fled north.

In the first phase, the 1er Commando consolidated its positions on the Green Line in Nicosia, while the rest of the regiment deployed rapidly from its base in Edmonton. On 14 August the second wave of the Turkish invasion began and both sides began to target UN positions. After the ceasefire, the Turks and Greeks began building defensive positions. Meanwhile, the Airborne troops, with British support, took command of the international airport to deny further troop movement, then intervened with patrols to prevent escalation of the conflict, patrolling the buffer zone between the lines, assisting with the delivery of relief supplies to refugees and organizing exchanges of PoWs. The Airborne lost two killed (Paras Berger and Perron of the Royal 22e Régiment) and 30 wounded, while also earning several significant decorations.

The Airborne continued its peacekeeping rotations to Cyprus, returning to the island in 1981, 1985 (3 Commando under 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery) and 1986 (less 3 Commando).

Western Sahara 1991

In 1991, the regiment was scheduled to deploy to the Western Sahara, under the auspices of UN mission MINURSO to monitor the cease-fire and enforce agreements between Polisario Front forces and the Moroccan army, but the mission was postponed and eventually cancelled.

Somalia 1992

Since the Airborne was designed to deploy rapidly into “hot” situations, its 1, 2, and 3 Commando units, with attached support—a total of 900 soldiers—were sent to Somalia late in 1992. The operation was called Operation Deliverance and formed part of the overall U.S.-led Operation Restore Hope.

The unit had recently been reduced to battalion size and was still in the throes of reorganization as well as the severe cut-backs by the government at the time. Its positive accomplishments in Somalia have been overshadowed by the torture and murder of Somali teenager Shidane Arone, which became known as the Somalia Affair. The unit was subsequently disbanded.

The Somalia Affair was a Canadian military scandal in the mid-1990s. It began with the brutal 1993 beating death of a Somali teenager, Shidane Arone, at the hands of two Canadian soldiers participating in the United Nations humanitarian efforts in Somalia. The crime, documented by photos, shocked the Canadian public and brought to light internal problems in the Canadian Airborne Regiment that went beyond the two soldiers directly involved. Also of interest are the theories that the experimental malaria drugs that they were taking could have caused some of the behaviour. Questions were asked about why 2 Commando was chosen for that mission despite disciplinary problems at the time. Perhaps most damaging to the leadership of the Canadian military was how it reacted after the events became public, as accusations of covering up the event surfaced.

Eventually a public inquiry was called. Despite being controversially cut short by the government at the time led by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Minister of National Defence David Collenette, the Somalia Inquiry found deep problems in the leadership of the Canadian Forces. The affair led to the disbanding of Canada’s elite Canadian Airborne Regiment, greatly damaged the morale of the Canadian Forces, and damaged both the domestic and international reputation of Canadian soldiers.

Lineage of The Canadian Airborne Regiment

The Canadian Airborne Regiment traces its origin to the Second World War–era 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion (1 Can Para) and the First Special Service Force (FSSF) which was administratively known as the 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion. The regiment bears battle honours on its Regimental Colours from both units, including Normandy Landing, Dives Crossing and Rhine in the case of the former, and Monte Camino, Monte Majo, Monte La Difensa/Monte La Remetanea, Anzio and Rome in the case of the latter.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was Canada’s original airborne unit, formed on July 1, 1942. Volunteers completed jump training in England then underwent four months of training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Parachute Training Wing at Shilo, Manitoba. Part airman, part commando, and part engineer, the paras underwent dangerously realistic exercises to learn demolition and fieldcraft in overcoming obstacles such as barbed wire, bridges, and pillboxes. By March, Canada had its elite battalion, which returned to England to join the 6th Airborne Division as a unit of the Britain’s 3rd Parachute Brigade.

The battalion’s service in the European theatre included the airborne invasion on D-Day, a short reinforcement stint in Belgium and the Netherlands, the airborne crossing of the Rhine and the subsequent advance to Wismar where they met the Russians.

With victory in Europe and the Pacific War ending in August, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was disbanded. The battalion was perpetuated in the infantry commandos of The Canadian Airborne Regiment, whose colours carried the battle honours: Normandy Landing, Dives Crossing, The Rhine, and North-west Europe 1944–1945.

First Special Service Force

The Canadian Airborne Regiment also drew much inspiration from the history of the First Special Service Force. The Regiment bears the FSSF battle honours Monte Camino, Monte Majo, Monte La Difensa/Monte La Rmetanea, Anzio and Rome on its Regimental Colour. As well the unconventional nature of the First Special Service Force, similar to the British SAS and the current U.S. Army Special Forces and elsewhere, was not replicated in the more conventional role of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Nevertheless, its accomplishments served as a model for many members of the new “Airborne”.

The First Special Service Force was a unique joint formation of Canadian and American troops assigned to perform sabotage operations in Europe in World War II. Simply named “special forces” to conceal its “commando” or “ranger” purpose, this unit later gained fame as the “Devil’s Brigade“. The Canadians were designated the “2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion”.

Members were handpicked and sent to Helena, Montana, for special training. The Canadians wore American uniforms and equivalent ranks to eliminate any questions of command among the troops. Their work-up took place in three phases, with extensive physical training throughout the program. The first phase included parachute training, small unit tactics and weapons handling—all officers and ranks were required to master the full range of infantry weapons from pistols and carbines to bazookas and flame throwers. Next came explosives handling and demolition techniques, then a final phase consisted of skiing, rock climbing, adapting to cold weather, and operation of the Weasel combat vehicle. Exercises in amphibious landings and beach assaults were added later.

The first deployment of FSSF to the Aleutian island of Kiska disappointed the troops when it was found that the Japanese forces expected there had already evacuated, but the exercise was considered good experience. The force was next sent to Italy, where German forces entrenched in two mountains were inflicting heavy casualties on the 5th US Army. The first regiment, 600 men, scaled a 1,000-foot (300 m) cliff by night to surprise the enemy position. Planned as a three-to-four day assault, the battle was won in just two hours. The force remained for three days, packing in supplies for defensive positions and fighting frostbite, then moved on to the second mountain, which was soon overtaken. In the end, FSSF suffered 511 casualties including 73 dead and 116 exhaustion cases. The commander, Colonel Robert Frederick, was wounded twice himself.

FSSF saw continued action throughout the Mediterranean, at Monte Sammucro, Radicosa, and Anzio. For the final advance on Rome, 1SSF was given the honour of being the lead force in the assault and became the first Allied unit to enter the “Eternal City”. Their success later continued in southern France and then at the France-Italian border. Often misused as line troops, the force suffered continuously high casualties until it was finally withdrawn from combat.

On the December 5, 1944, in the town of Menton in southern France, the First Special Service Force was disbanded. Its battle honours included Monte Camino, Monte La Difensa, Monte La Remetanea, Monte Majo, Anzio, Rome, Advance to the Tiber, Italy 1943–44, Southern France and Northwest Europe. The Canadians rejoined their home units and the Americans were assigned to either Airborne units or the newly formed 474th Infantry Regiment. Frederick became the youngest Major-General ever in the American army, at the age of 37, and took command of the 45th Division.

The success, esprit and discipline of FSSF became a template for building modern special forces worldwide.

Post-war parachute units

In 1947, the Canadian Special Air Service Company was created with former members of the 1CanPara and FSSF at its core. It was commanded by Major Guy D’Artois, a Canadian hero of the French Maquis.

However, in 1950, Canada was once again mobilizing, this time for Korea and NATO Europe. Each of Canada’s three traditional Regular Force regiments (The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Royal 22e Régiment) expanded to three battalions. A brigade commitment, consisting of airborne and air-delivered troops to defend Canada’s North, was undertaken. Battalions of this Brigade were all airborne. It was structured, over the next 20 years, into the “Mobile Strike Force” and subsequently reduced in size to the “Defence of Canada Force”. This parachute role, was switched from one battalion to another within each of Canada’s regular infantry regiments, as they rotated to and from Korea and, subsequently, to Europe. The brigade’s elements remained garrisoned in their respective bases across the country and seldom exercised as a complete brigade.

Each of the battalions was trained to fly into Canada’s North, and seize an airhead or location that could be developed for airlanded operations. When the role changed from one battalion to another, within each regiment, a small nucleus of specialized instructor-planners and riggers generally transferred over to the new battalion; however, the rest of the unit quickly undertook the requisite parachutist qualifications, generally with much enthusiasm; the requirement that parachutists be “volunteers” was rarely an issue in converting these tightly-knit infantry units. There were also airborne artillery, signals, medics, and engineer elements in the brigade.

In 1958 the “Mobile Strike Force” was restructured as “The Defence of Canada Force”, resulting in a reduction to one parachute company in each battalion. At this time the airborne artillery was disbanded and other support elements reduced. The parachute component in each battalion consisted of battalion tactical headquarters, and a large company group (i.e. four platoons) with support detachments of mortars, machine guns, pioneers and reconnaissance detachments. A large reserve of trained parachutists was built up in the other companies.

In 1968, many of the officers and soldiers of the “Defence of Canada Force” provided the nucleus of expertise for the new Canadian Airborne Regiment, being created at CFB Edmonton, Alberta, with its French-speaking element at CFB Valcartier, Quebec.

Current parachute capability

After the disbandment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment in 1995, the Canadian army reverted to its former practice of maintaining a parachute company within one of the battalions of each of the regular infantry regiments. The commandos, at that time, returned to their regimental “homes” and became a Company of the light battalion of each of their regiments (the 3rd Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment, the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the 3e Bataillon Royal 22e Régiment).

From 1982 to 1995, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada were operationally tasked to provide an Airborne Company to the Canadian Airborne Regiment and the Canadian Parachute Centre in CFB Trenton. Today, it is the only Primary Reserve unit with an airborne capability.

In April 2005, the Canadian government’s new defence policy statement was made public. It included a concept of first responders for international tasks consisting of “special forces” (such as Joint Task Force 2) supported by one of the light battalions (presumably on a rotational basis), including the parachute capability of its integral para company.

As a result, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) was formed.

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