If you looked to the skies this Sunday you may have seen the Red Devils team carry out their display 15, 000 feet over Hardwick Hall. The Red Devils, the official display team of the Parachute Regiment and the British Army, were part of the celebrations for the Paratrooper’s 70th Anniversary Parade on 13 May.
The decision to form the 1st Parachute Brigade was made in August of 1941 and the last Parachute Battalion to be formed at Hardwick was in January 1942. The British Army leased 53 acres of the estate from the Duke of Devonshire and established a camp and training areas, complete with assault courses and a parachute jump tower, on the site. During these years Hardwick became the centre for parachute training for the airborne forces.
As you can imagine, the training of the entire Commonwealth’s parachutists was a huge undertaking, and the park near Stainsby Mill was given over to housing the troops and the services they needed in a huge village made entirely of Nissen huts.
After the war, the army and RAF moved out of Hardwick, but the Nissen hut village continued to be used by Polish refugees until they could be relocated. Because it was a temporary camp, no trace of the Nissen huts survive, but strong links between Hardwick and the paratrooper regiments remain to this day.
The festivities on Sunday also included a flyby from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota Aircraft, one of the most numerous transport aircraft in service during the Second World War. On the ground, military vehicles were on display and the Royal British Legion Riders Branch were out in force on their motor cycles. The Sheffield Military Band provided live music throughout the event and a platoon of paratrooper recruits from Catterick formed a parade through the grounds at Hardwick, watched by the chief guests; the former Airborne Men and Women who trained at Hardwick Camp from 1941-1946.