The 3rd Battalion, formed in October 1941 under the command of Lt-Colonel Lathbury, did not have any of the distinctive regional or regimental characteristics that the other two battalions of the 1st Para Brigade boasted, neither in its initial formation or its later reinforcements.

 

North Africa

 

With the Brigade called to Tunisia in late 1942, the 3rd Battalion, now commanded by Lt-Colonel Pine-Coffin, was the first of its battalions to be sent into battle. Less A Company, the 3rd Battalion was charged with seizing the airfield at Bone, but due to the inexperience of the American pilots who would fly them, the mission had to be flown in daylight. At exactly 08:30 on the 12th November, B, C, and HQ Companies together with the Mortar Platoon were accurately dropped on and around the airfield. Casualties had been light, with one man dead and 13 injured, some of whom had broken their legs upon landing on the hard ground. The battalion was deployed in defensive positions around the airfield, and were soon attacked by some Stuka dive bombers. However their position remained strong, and later in the day they were reinforced by No.6 Commando, who had landed at Bone from the sea, and also a squadron of Spitfires arrived to provide the defenders with air cover. The 3rd Battalion remained here until the 15th November, when they were withdrawn west to St Charles and reunited with A Company and the remainder of the battalion.

 

The 3rd Battalion then rejoined the 1st Para Brigade and served alongside them for the duration of their stay in North Africa. For further details and for the subsequent operations in Sicily and Italy, see 1st Para Brigade.

 

Arnhem

 

In the period leading up to Arnhem, the 3rd Battalion was billeted in Spalding, with two companies sited in a hutted camp on the grammar school playing field, and the remainder of the battalion lodged in civilian accommodation nearby.

 

With Lt-Colonel Fitch dead and the majority of its number captured, only 28 men of the 3rd Battalion crossed the Rhine as the 1st Airborne withdrew from the Oosterbeek Perimeter. Eventually brought back up to a respectable strength, the battalion, together with the rest of the Brigade, was sent to Denmark immediately after the war to oversee the surrender of the occupying German troops in the country. In 1947, the battalion was deployed in a policing role in Palestine. While there, the 3rd Para Brigade was disbanded and this led to a number of the battalions being amalgamated with others. The 3rd Battalion merged with the 2nd and became the 2nd/3rd Parachute Battalion. In July 1948, this battalion was disbanded. Its modern day equivalent, 3 PARA, was formed in the same month out of the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion.

 

Commanders of the 3rd Parachute Battalion

 

1941-1942

Lieutenant-Colonel Gerald W. Lathbury

1942-1943

Lieutenant-Colonel R. Geoffrey Pine-Coffin

1943-1944

Lieutenant-Colonel E. C. Yeldham

1944

Lieutenant-Colonel John A. C. Fitch

1944-1945

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard T. H. Lonsdale

1945-1946

Lieutenant-Colonel W. P. D. Brandish

1946-1947

Lieutenant-Colonel G. P. Rickford

 

Commander of the 2nd/3rd Parachute Battalion

 

1946-1948

Lieutenant-Colonel T. H. Birkbeck