Fundraiser Jon Bridel documents his commemorative jumps in Arnhem 2015

JUMP ONE – RENKUM – TO COMMEMORATE THE BRITISH PARACHUTE REGIMENT DROP AT ARNHEM ON 17 SEPTEMBER 1944

On the Friday, I was in the first jump of 20 in two vintage Antonov AN2’s, the World’s largest bi-plane. The flight was about 20 minutes from the base to the DZ. We lobbed out at 13:00 at 1,200 feet over a small Drop Zone (DZ) at Renkum and it was approximately a minute from exit to landing. As we came in the wind was gusting 20 mph. I saw a friend below me so took avoiding action. I then turned into wind and landed going backwards due to the wind but luckily had no injury and managed to avoid the trees and the nasty angled bank. I struggled to get up and flatten my parachute in the strong winds without Capewelling. I took off my authentic helmet (which was kindly lent to me by a friend whose father had served as an officer in the SAS many years ago) and put on the maroon beret. The two aircraft buzzed the DZ. I then took out my vintage brass and copper hunting horn and blew it out of respect for Lt Col Johnny Frost who commanded the Regiment at Arnhem Bridge. In the photo below one of our colleagues is in the tree to the left and the cornfield is behind. I landed in front of the tree behind me.

Jon Bridel

On Saturday Dr Henry G and I attended the official remembrance ceremony and parade at Ginkel Heath and briefly saw our fellow Pompey Para, Arthur Bailey. Henry and I then participated in the Race to Arnhem in over 100 WW2 vehicles wearing our uniforms. A Dutch friend who had served in their Special Forces had kindly invited Henry and I onto his jeep which was proudly flying the Union Jack and Pegasus Flag. The police stopped all the traffic so we could get from the Renkum DZ, which was now very quiet, to Arnhem Bridge. We ended up in an escort of 80 WW2 motor bikes with our jeep number two. As always the Dutch were out in their thousands to greet us and we threw sweets at the little ones – the puzzled looks on their little faces as we drove by was priceless. Union Jacks and Pegasus Flags were flying from houses, blocks of flats and offices. As we saw WW2 veterans we saluted them. We then drove to the Hartenstein Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek where we saluted and met several more WW2 veterans.

JUMP TWO – DRIEL – TO COMMEMORATE THE POLISH FIRST INDEPENDENT PARACHUTE BRIGADE DROP AT ARNHEM 21 SEPTEMBER 1944

Twenty of us signed up for the Driel DZ on the Sunday. This is a jump over the River Rhine onto a small DZ on the south of the river. Most of the original DZ is now built on. It was clear most of us had little sleep as our brains buzzed all night preparing for the jump. We met for the briefing early and it was confirmed the weather was much better this time. After all the usual checked and getting kitted out, off we went in the two Antonovs. Our Antonov had been used by the Polish military. At 12:00 I jumped number two at 1,200 feet with a Polish friend of course as number one. The chute opened well but my toggles decided to play hide and seek amongst the straps so I spent a couple of seconds grapping them. I saw the red smoke and headed towards the DZ floating past my colleagues, found a good spot, turned into wind and landed.  We put on our berets and had a celebration drink of Polish “Old Krupnik” which went down very well. We then headed off to the Polish War Memorial and the General Sosabowski Monument in the town to pay our respects before relaxing at a local cafe with a nice beer. In the photo below I am the second parachute on the left.

Jon Bridel (2)

A massive well done to all those who jumped and special thanks to Roy for organising everything, all the ground crew and Alan and Ian (both of whom have been doing the James Bond film parachute stunts since the 1980’s) for being such exceptional jump masters.

That night Henry drove me to Oosterbeek, Arnhem where we met at our Dutch friend’s house for dinner with his family and friends. He explained how his grandparents who were in the Dutch resistance had been captured blowing up a bridge. They were to be executed when the Parachute Regiment turned up and freed them. If they had not been saved, our friend would not have been born. Before dinner, we had a minute’s silence to remember those who fought at Arnhem. He showed us a German helmet with a 303 bullet hole that had been found in their garden: we were having dinner in the original battle zone.

It is a great feeling remembering and supporting our brave veterans and showing our appreciation to them by our actions. I hope to raise £6,000 this year to raise much needed funds to support veterans of all conflicts and their families. Please visit the link below if you would like to make a donation:

www.virginmoneygiving.com/Jon.Bridel.Military.Parachuting

Serving Para is raising funds on UK drag car racing scene

Serving Para Clarke has taken the SUPPORT OUR PARAS name on to the drag car racing scene.  With some much needed upgrades to ensure it can reach the speeds needed on the circuit, the car, called ‘Never Forgotten’, will be raising funds and promoting the charity when it races.

The car’s race number, 453, is a tribute to the number of British soldiers lost in Afghanistan and Clarke hopes the car will become known as a tribute to the fallen.

Clarke Hillyard 'Never Forgotten'The car made its debut outing recently at the end of the UK drag racing season and the car proved to be a popular talking point, with many people asking about the charity as well.  Clarke managed 4 passes and also got a new personal best at 12.7 on the ¼ mile track.  The car will be put through its paces during testing over the next few months, ready to race again when the season begins next year.

Big thanks to Clarke for choosing to give something back and we wish him all the best when the season begins again next year!

Colonel-in-Chief visits The Parachute Regiment Depot

The Parachute Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Wales KG, KT, PC, GCB, AK, QSO, ADC(P), visited The Parachute Regiment Depot on 10th September 2015.

Despite a tight schedule The Prince of Wales made time to have a photograph taken with all the training teams before being treated to a Trainasium demonstration by the young recruits. Accompanied by The Regimental Colonel, Lt Col Radbourne, The Prince of Wales also took the time to talk to members from all three Battalions, as well as a selection of recruits, where he was pleased to hear that many in the audience had come in from leave especially.

Wigley Golf Day Raises Funds for our PARAS

The Wigley Group recently hosted a charity golf day in Daventry raising more than £16,000 for the charity.

Over 150 guests attended Staverton Park De Vere for The Wigley Group’s annual golf open and gala dinner in aid of SUPPORT OUR PARAS.  The event was attended by major sports stars including multi world boxing champion Ricky Hatton MBE, who delivered a special address, as well as snooker world champion Stuart Bingham and sports promotor Barry Hearn.

Other VIPs included Jake Wood, also known as Max Branning from EastEnders, boxing stars Micky Cantwell and Spencer Oliver and darts players Wayne Mardle, Steve Beaton and Colin Lloyd.

John McDonald, former Paratrooper and TV sports announcer, hosted the event and guests also heard from injured members of the Parachute Regiment who shared their stories about how the Support Our Paras charity had helped them.

Sports memorabilia including football shirts signed by former Brazilian football player Pelé and former Argentine football player Diego Maradona were auctioned at the event.

Robert Wigley, managing director of The Wigley Group a property, risk and facilities management company based in Coventry, said: “It is the third time we have hosted the event and it has only grown from strength to strength.

“It was an action-packed day with 22 teams teeing off in the morning and then over 150 guests joining us for the evening gala dinner.

“Ricky Hatton was a fantastic guest speaker and entertained us all during a speech about his career and the challenges that followed.

“Guests also had the opportunity to take pictures with the multi-world boxing champion and current world snooker champion Stuart Bingham.

“Current and former members of the Parachute Regiment as well as the Support Our Paras racing team were also in attendance and interacted with guests throughout the event.

“We were overwhelmed by the support and generosity of all those that attended and are delighted to be able to hand over £16, 567 to Support Our Paras which has already helped so many injured paratroopers and their families overcome difficult challenges.”

Paras Racing

Paras Racing hit by double trouble

Support Our Paras Racing and Derek Palmer endured what could best be described as a “character building” weekend in the latest round of the British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill.

Forced to retire in races one and three, and shunted off-track in races one and two, Palmer and his team were left frustrated and reflecting on what might have been.

“This is the first weekend that the pace of the car has been very, very good,” Palmer — whose TENA Men-backed Infiniti Q50 is prepared by injured ex-servicemen from the Parachute Regiment, with all team profits being donated to Support Our Paras, the official Regiment charity — explained.

“The car felt very strong right through the whole weekend. The pace was there, but the frustrating thing was we just couldn’t translate it into a result.

“The boys did an absolutely fantastic job all weekend, and they deserved far more than what we got. The balance of the car was good, and it felt strong; and but for the actions of a couple of other drivers, we’d have delivered some really strong results.”

In the day’s opening race at the 1.27-mile circuit in Fife, Palmer had eased himself up to 19th from 24th on the grid before he was spun on lap nine of the scheduled 24 following contact from the side by the Toyota of Stewart Lines.

The impact pitched Palmer, the 28-year-old Zurich-based Scot from Lesmahagow, into the gravel, and though he managed to rejoin the track he was immediately forced to retire as his car had suffered rear left suspension damage.

In race two, Palmer was denied a potential top 15 result when, again, he was pitched off the track when the Toyota of Robb Holland hit him from behind exiting the Hairpin.

Paras racingThe impact propelled Palmer’s car on to the soggy sloping grassy infield. Beached and unable to gain any traction, the Scot ultimately dropped a lap while marshals pushed his car back on to the track.

“The impact from Robb ruined my race,” Palmer, who eventually finished third-fastest BTCC rookie and 21st overall, explained. “I got beached in the boggy grass on the infield, the car was slithering and sliding about all over the place and I couldn’t get any traction.

“Thankfully the marshals came and pushed me back on to the track, but by that time I’d gone a lap down.

“I’d made a good start, made up about three places and was tucked up right on the rear bumper of Jack Goff, who had Tom Ingram right in front of him.

“I knew they were two good, fast, sensible guys to have in front of me and I knew we’d make progress through the field. The fact Tom went on to finish 13th and Jack 14th shows how far up we potentially could have finished.

“And to rub salt into the wound, it’s not helped by the fact Rob went on to finish 16th!”

To round off a miserable weekend for the team, racing on its home circuit in the BTCC for the first time, Palmer was forced to retire after 15 laps of the final race when his car suffered a broken driveshaft.

“Naturally it’s been disappointing, but in motorsport sometimes you get race weekends like this,” Palmer admitted.

“The main thing is we dust ourselves down and come back out fighting ready to deliver on-track when we head to Rockingham in a fortnight.”

Photos: Copyright Jakob Ebrey

The Parachute Regiment Charity