‘The Paras: Men of War’: New 3 Part UK TV Series

This three-part TV series just aired on British TV. It is not available in the US, but has been posted on YouTube, links copied here.

It is an interesting TV show, well worth watching. In many respects it misses opportunities by focusing on certain areas, where they had nearly three hours to do something truly educational. But it is still worth a watch.

The first two episodes focus on recruit training / selection into the Paras. The Parachute Regiment was my unit and I served in both 1 and 2 Para. I also spent two tears, approximately 20 years ago, doing the recruit platoon commander job as shown by the Lieutenant in the first two episodes, and an appearance by a Captain in the third. In my time Northern Ireland was also very much an issue, and I served multiple tours there as well as other locations, to include Afghanistan.

In the third episode, it focuses on 3 Para. The way the Paras work is there are three regular battalions, 1, 2 and 3 Para. 1 Para is in role as the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) along with a company of Royal Marines and some other miscellaneous units. 2 and 3 Para are in role as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade as the UK Rapid Reaction Force.

I recall doing time at Fort Bragg in the 90’s in a very similar way to that portrayed in episode 3. It always saddened me a little, because we did not spend more time operating with the Ranger Battalions. I have always tried to explain that Para Reg is more akin to the Rangers than it is to the 82nd Airborne, but the elite status of the Paras is not as important as the diplomatic function of role-equivalent airborne forces. So you could say it is role to role, with those in 1 Para matching more to the role of the Ranger Battalions, and 2 and 3 Para to US Airborne Forces, if that makes sense. We made a huge protocol mistake on one of those Brigade runs – it was so slow and alien to us, we overtook a unit, which is something that is not done. I assume Para Reg has learned that lesson now over the years!

The series does focus mostly on those who are not doing well, or not going to make it., Bear that in mind when you see episodes 1 and 2, and note that the usual TV issue is in play, with them focusing on the least competent. There is also a huge amount missing from the recruit training over the 28 weeks, including all the tactical and live fire exercises.

In my day, the Basic Parachute Course (BPC) was included as part of basic training, not an add-on after reaching battalion, as shown in the show. After P Company, the recruits would go to Brize Norton, and then return for completion of training, including a full airborne exercise as part of Basic Training. BPC was also 8 jumps, the first being out of a tethered balloon at 800 feet, later changed to a Skyvan, followed by C-130 jumps including equipment and night. Budget cuts, I believe.

My balloon jump was terrifying. I had pictured a calm balloon. They winch you up to 800 feet with four of you plus the PJI in a wicker basket. But due to high winds at altitude, the balloon cage was rocking and bucking. When I went to stand in the ‘door’ which was an opening in the cage side, I am still not sure to this day if , when he told me to go, I just fell out, or maybe he even pushed me out. The worst thing about the balloon is that it is like a base jump, because you start at zero and accelerate, so it is that massive feeling of falling. Out of a plane, you are already moving at speed and you just fall away along the slipstream, way more civilized.

Anyway, well worth a watch. Enjoy!