Becoming a Paratrooper, 1945 style

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In my rummaging around for more information on Dad’s (Private Desmond Le Pard) time in the forces towards the end of the Second World War, I have found these photos which have Dad’s own explanations written on the back. I give them to you as written by him.

First, there is the static balloon drop, the first jumps you do when qualifying as a paratrooper. Dad did these at Ringway in Manchester in Spring 1945. They are not of him dropping but they are, unless otherwise stated by him, contemporary to his time.


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The Balloon…

The Balloon with the cage is just descending. Standing on the deck is the next ‘stick’ awaiting their turn for ‘Up 7 – down 5’! Very probably this will be their first drop, and the moment is pretty tense.

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Taken from…

Taken from the deck as the balloon ascends the boys are sitting round the edge of the hole in ready position for the drop. It is now the potential paratrooper becomes scared – very scared!

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Very good photograph…

Very good photograph of a bloke just dropping through the hole from the balloon cage. Note the static line coming up from his pack; it is this which pulls the ‘chute from the pack.

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This chap…

This chap jumped thro’ the hole about 1½ seconds before this photo was taken, as his ‘chute has only just developed. With close scrutiny the basket can just  be discerned under the balloon. There were two balloons at Ringway, affectionately named ‘Bessie’ and ‘Betty’; and it is from these balloons that every paratrooper does his first two jumps.

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This is quite…

This is quite a good photo of a chap doing a kitbag drop – see it swinging from his leg. He is holding quite a good position but his feet should be together. Note the air-vent in the top of the ‘chute.

Once you’ve done your basic static balloon jumps you move onto jumping from a plane; in Dad’s case a Dakota.

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Dad’s ‘stick’

This is my ‘stick’ taken just before we took off for the first jump. Note the wing of our Dakota just behind us. I am in the centre of the front row.

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A Dakota…

I think this was taken in Italy – these mountains don’t look like England. Actually these are canisters being dropped, probably contain ammo or small arms. It is a Dakota they are being dropped from, although Lord knows why the undercart is down.

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Inside the Dakota…

This was probably taken during these blokes training at Ringway. They are sitting inside a Dakota, waiting for take-off. Some have rifle valises and some have kit-bags. The first bloke on the left is stick – N.C.O. – he is holding a Sten gun. The officer stick – commander is standing at the end. Now you know what I mean by ‘pregnant peanuts’ – see the second bloke on the left! The bulge is his small pack, which, personally I prefer on my chest.

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at the door…

This is a rather dramatic photo. The chap is standing at the door of a Dakota and you can see him looking down, watching for the green light. In about a second after this was taken he jumped, because the red warning light must have been on, or otherwise he would not be standing at the door. You can see No. 2 behind him, ready to follow him right away. In a stick like this the boys go out at a hell of a lick.

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Probably, certainly in fact, this photo was taken at Ringway – I recognise the wood on the deck. He had just baled out – you an see the static line coming from the top of his pack. In the bottom left hand corner is a chute just developing and farther down is one fully developed.

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Snap no. 1

Snap No. 1. this bloke has just jumped and his chute has not yet started to develop.

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Snap no. 2

Snap No. 2. Farther on now. Note the static line from his chute to the aircraft. Smoke on the deck is to give pilot and paratrooper an indication of wind strength, drift etc.

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Snap no. 3

Snap no. 3. Here comes his chute, still attached to the static line. Note his position –  feet and knees together. That is very important for combating the slipstream of the aircraft.

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Snap no. 4

Snap No. 4. Well away now. Chute developed and broken from static line. Now he is on his own and it’s a glorious feeling. In a few seconds he will be landing.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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7 Responses to Becoming a Paratrooper, 1945 style

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Woo! that was so interesting thNkz for sharing. Great photos. 🙂


  2. Cindi says:

    Oh WOW. These are a fascinating glimpse into your Dad’s life, and the steps necessary to jump out of perfectly good airplanes! I’m so glad you shared them. 🙂


  3. Charli Mills says:

    These are incredible photos! I’m so glad you’re taking the time to upload and with the explanations, as well. The Hub is currently snoring, rather loudly, but I’ll bring him back to this post when he’s upright. He’ll be very interested!


  4. Sohrab says:

    Reflecting on your unbelievable stock of your fathers paratrooper photos
    They are so much better than the usual photos one has of family past which are simple portraits.
    It seems possible to really feel his experiences and I guess for you Geoff that means he is still with you and ever closer which is wonderful.


    • TanGental says:

      Memories of the deceased are triggered by the oddest things, these photos being one. It perturbs me sometimes that it is easier to conjure dad to mind that mum. Partly that is because he was such a dominant character in our lives. But then something, the smell of a grated lemon say, will bring her back.


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