The 11th Battalion was established at Kabrit in March 1943, and it had quite a problematic history. By the time of its formation, many of the most adept troops who had volunteered to be a part of the Brigade had already been taken by the 10th and 156th Battalions, and so it had to accept what was available. In addition its late birth meant that when the 4th Para Brigade joined the 1st Airborne Division in June 1943, its men were still not fully trained. Left behind to complete its training at Ramat David in Palestine, the 11th Battalion was disappointed to miss out on the fighting that the rest of the Brigade saw in Italy.

 

However a brief taste of action was to come, though only for A Company and sections of the Machine Gun and Mortar Platoons. With an invasion of occupied Greece looming, it was seen that the capture of Rhodes would be vital in facilitating this, and also that the capture of the airfield on the nearby island of Cos would make Rhodes indefensible. With their drop zone marked by men of the Special Boat Squadron, A Company captured the airfield on the 15th September without any resistance. Indeed, the Italian garrison of 4,000 men greeted them with open arms. A Company remained in defensive positions around the airfield until they were relieved on the 25th September and withdrawn by aircraft. During this time they had been bombed by the Luftwaffe, who were free to roam where they pleased as the RAF was not able to provide air support.

 

The 11th Battalion returned to England and rejoined the 4th Para Brigade in December 1943. However further problems arose to frustrate the men, not least the inability of Lt-Colonel Thomas to exercise full control over his battalion. Though a good officer, he was said to be too much of a gentleman and was therefore unsuited to the task of hammering the 11th Battalion into a decent shape. On the administrative front, the men had been used to drawing their pay in advance, but much to their annoyance this procedure suddenly ended, and so men who could not obtain walking-out passes got through the gate and into town by doing so en masse. Brigadier Hackett relieved Thomas of his command and replaced him with his own Brigade Major, George Lea, and he, together with his new Second-in-Command Major Lonsdale, made much progress in bringing the 11th Battalion up to speed.

 

After Arnhem, the 11th Battalion's survivors served to replenish the losses of the 3rd Battalion, before it was formerly disbanded in November 1945.

 

Commanders of the 11th Parachute Battalion

 

1943-1944

Lieutenant-Colonel R. Micky C. Thomas

1944

Lieutenant-Colonel George Lea