On the 22nd October 1797 the first successful parachute jump was made from a balloon


On the 22nd October 1797 André-Jacques Garnerin made the first successful parachute jump from a balloon above Paris.


World War 2 Airborne Forces

When Winston Churchill saw the performance of Germany’s paratroops in the first two years of the Second World he called for the formation of a British equivalent and by the end of 1941, No2 Commando had been retrained as parachutists. Airborne forces played major roles in Allied operations in North Africa (1942), Sicily (1943), Normandy (1944) and Germany (1945). By 1943 the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions had been formed, each with a signal regiment.


The First Airborne Lanyard

Immediately after the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, the CO of 6th Airborne Divisional Signals, Lt Col ‘Pygmy’ Smallman-Tew, encouraged each man to plait for himself a lanyard from the rigging lines of parachutes. This was to ensure that they each had a length of strong cord that might be useful if they needed to escape capture by the enemy. The CO was killed a few weeks later and the lanyard has continued to be worn by all ranks of Airborne signallers in his memory.


Airborne Signals

Lt Col Douglas Pringle commanded 6th Airborne Divisional Signals in Palestine in 1946–48. He had previously commanded the divisional signal regiment when 44th Indian Airborne Division was created, in 1945, incorporating elements of the Chindits. In 1948 the parachute capability reduced to just 16th Independent Parachute Brigade with its signal squadron. This squadron saw service in Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Bahrain, Aden, Borneo, British Guyana and Northern Ireland. In 1959 it was given the number 216 but in 1977 the Parachute Regiment and 216 Parachute Signal Squadron lost much of their parachute capability. In 1982 the Squadron was redesignated 1st Infantry Brigade HQ and Signal Squadron. It handed over this role to 215 Signal Squadron in 1983 and the number 216 went into suspension. After the Falklands campaign 5th Infantry Brigade became 5th Airborne Brigade with 205 Signal Squadron as its HQ and Signal Squadron. In October 1991, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Airborne Forces, 205 Signal Squadron was renamed 216 Parachute Signal Squadron. In 2007 it was retitled as 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron.