Ex-soldier joins celebrations of troop’s birthday

Royston Brett
Royston Brett

A former paratrooper has spoken of his time serving his country as the Parachute Regiment celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Royston Brett, who now lives in Golborne, says every recruit is made keenly aware of the history of the unit which first saw service dropping soldiers into Nazi-occupied Europe during World War Two.

Once a Para, always a Para

Royston Brett

He also compared the primitive equipment those pioneering early recruits would have been given with the high-tech gear used by today’s paratroopers.

The regiment’s first mission was 75 years ago on the evening of February 27 and into the early hours of February 28 and Royston spoke of his pride at joining the group of servicemen and women who wear the maroon beret decades later.

He said: “The history of the regiment is amazing. I’ve met some of the Para veterans and it’s a great honour and privilege to wear the maroon beret. Everyone who joins is made aware of the battle honours the regiment has won and how proud they should be to be in the regiment.

“The first paratroopers didn’t have equipment like we did. We had protective helmets but they just jumped. In training you sometimes got to put the old kit on and see what it would have been like.

“We also saw inside the aircraft and how cramped it would have been in there.

“They would have been going over there knowing they were going to be dropped into another country behind enemy lines. It would have been very scary.

“They would have had very basic kit, their rifle and enough ammunition to last several days. Some of them ran out of ammo but even then they didn’t surrender.

“They didn’t have much training like we did, they were literally signed up and asked if they wanted to be in the parchute regiment. They would probably only have had a few weeks before they were dropped into combat.”

Royston’s own grandfather Jim Brett, from Hertfordshire, served in the comparatively early days of the regiment and though he described combat operations as “horrible” inspired his grandson to follow in his footsteps.

Royston served from 1988 to 2003, with his time in the armed forces including tours of duty in Northern Ireland, the Middle East during the second Gulf War and Afghanistan.

The arduous training and ever-present risks of the front line mould an incredible camaraderie between Paras of different ages and in particular between those who have served together.

Royston said: “All your mates will get behind you if you are struggling. Once a Para, always a Para. You lose touch with some the guys over the years but I know if I was ever in trouble they would be the first ones to come and find me.”