Originally the 156th Battalion had been known as the 151st Battalion, and it was raised in India, the first parachute battalion to be formed in that country, in October 1941. When it was called to Kabrit to help form the 4th Para Brigade in November 1942, it was renamed the 156th Battalion, for no other reason than to mislead enemy intelligence into believing that it was a new unit. However as the Brigade was being formed, many of the original members of the Battalion, a very diverse range of people from no fewer than 23 different Regiments, were lost because some had served for upwards of 7 years in India and so were long overdue for repatriation to Britain. Replacements were drawn from a number of units stationed in the Middle East, including a group of Life Guards troops and 20 Rhodesians.

 

The men that remained of the original 151st Battalion had been used to wearing bush hats in India, and they had developed a fondness for them as they were very presentable and could be easily stored inside their parachute smocks while jumping. Some of these men did not take to the new maroon beret that was imposed upon them as, according to one man "We had never worn berets and thought red a funny colour for a soldier".

 

Despite the Battalion's age and the battle experience of some of its men, it had never before been used in action. However the fighting it saw in Italy (see 4th Para Brigade) was a useful, if tame experience compared to what awaited them at Arnhem.

 

The 156th Battalion was disbanded in September 1944, almost immediately after its withdrawal from Arnhem. The 68 men who were evacuated served to replenish the battered battalions of the 1st Para Brigade.

 

Commanders of the 151st Parachute Battalion

 

1941

Lieutenant-Colonel Martin A. Lindsay

1942

Major R. Micky C. Thomas

1942

Lieutenant-Colonel M. C. R. Hose

 

Commanders of the 156th Parachute Battalion

 

1942

Lieutenant-Colonel M. C. R. Hose

1943-1944

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard de B. Des Voeux