On 1st October 1941 Air Headquarters authorised the formation of an Air Landing School at Willingdon Airport New Delhi, to train the newly formed 50th Indian Parachute Brigade.
The School, later called No 3 Parachute Training School trained parachutists and glider-borne troops as well as conducting experiments on their specialised equipments. The only aircraft available were five Valentias, obsolete and unsuitable for parachuting. Training for the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, which was also set up in October, began in earnest.
Courses lasted 14 days for 30 parachutists per course until April 1943 when it doubled to 60. There was a shortage of aircraft, parachute instructors and parachutes. The first instructors arrived from Ringway with 14 static parachute assemblies or ‘Statichutes’ in their personal baggage and set up their primitive equipment in two aircraft hangars.
The first Commanding Officer was Wing Commander JHD Chapple, who was replaced by the nominated commander Wing Commander Benito in March 1942. The staff consisted of eight RAF officers, five army officers, four RAF fabric workers from Ringway, who also acted as Parachute Jump Instructors (PJIs) and a number of Ringway trained army NCOs.
In October 1942 overcrowding at Willingdon air base necessitated a change of the school’s location to Chaklala, near Rawlpindi in the Punjab.
The unit was designated No. 4 METS by the SAS who had formed a training detachment there; the first PJIs arrived from Ringway early in 1942. They were F.S Jim Averis and Sgts Markwell, Welch and MacGregor (nicknamed ‘The Toffs’ by the SAS). These were followed in December by Gerry Turnbull, Jack Gascoigne, Len Munden and Norman Davey. In January 1943 they were further augmented by Sgts. Robbie Robertson, Vic Kent, George Eccles, Bluey Lambirth, ‘Wullie’ Hamilton, Lofty Bowerbanks and Alf Card.
(History of Middle East Parachute Training by F.S. Alf Card)
‘Natch’ Markwell Operational Sortie
Kabrit Course programme
No. 4 Parachute Training School RAF RAMAT DAVID 1943
In 1946 the final move was made to RAF Aqir (now the Tel Nof Airbase), firstly under the command of Flt. Lt. Todhunter, followed by Flt.Lt. John Saxby and subsequently Sqn.Ldr. Bernard Stannard. The School was now known officially as No. 2 PTS.
John Saxby recalls (see also SKYDIVERS):
“- it seems a long time ago when Stannard and I tried out a free fall from 10,000 feet at Aqir in Palestine in 1947 using wrist watches. I was about to hand over command of No 2 PTS and proceed on demobilisation and it seemed a jolly end to my RAF career. Group Captain Geoffrey Wood was the Station Commander and took a bit of persuading. Before I left Stannard and I took a Dakota up to 10,000 feet over the station, Aqir – bloody cold – to let them all see what a drop looked like. Our usual DZ was Yibna some miles away. At 1000 feet as I remember the school instructors did a demonstration jump with Statichutes as usual, and at 10,000 feet Stannard and I baled out wearing standard Pilot Type parachutes. I spent a lot of the previous night trying to be sure that my maths was right – 120mph = feet per second ??? = how long dare I wait ??? We used our wrist watches to time the drop before pulling the release. Knowing no better I adopted the standard exit position and reached TV in that position – surprised to feel myself ‘standing’ in the air with the wind whistling past but no feeling of falling – how naive we were. But then I began to tumble and was sick, remembering to keep my boots out of the way! Finally I saw Stannard’s parachute deploy and decided to rely on his maths and deployed my own”.