Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Suprise At Hardwick Hall

Hardwick Hall is a stately home that is within walking distance of my house. I know this for a fact having done so several times in the past in what I will refer to as my youth. If you Google it you are bound to come up with references to being an Elizabethan House, having been built for Bess of Hardwick (Elizabeth Talbot Countess of Shrewsbury) and one of the Great Houses that Mary Queen of Scotts was held prisoner. Well two out of the three facts is true enough, Mary was actually held for a time at Chatsworth House not so many miles away by Elizabeth's soon to be ex-husband.

But that is not the reason of this post, one link to Hardwick hall that you may well struggle to find is the fact that the fledgling arm to the army that of the Parachute Regiment called Hardwick it's home and training grounds for the first stages of the Paratroops lengthy training. During refits, expansion and replacements Hardwick took in it's recruits and turned them from infantry to something more. Today was the Parachute Regiments 70th Anniversary and to mark the event Hardwick had been chosen to host the event. 10am was the planned start and my sister (a Ranger there) advised to get there early as it was going to be busy. Cath was not feeling so great and I think liked the idea of getting rid of the three of us so I took Alice and Joseph (7 and 5) and they were golden.

Red Devil Coming to get me.
The first item on the program was a display by The Red Devils Freefall Team, eight of them were to jump from a small plane and land in the grounds. The full team is 25 man strong and is split into two, so to be able to perform two jumps around the world at the same time. They jumped from behind the hall and came back and round navigating the hall, it's walls and the trees all to land in a fairly tight area. It was a great spectacle to be sure and really excited the kids.

The Iconic Red Smoke.
It was great to be able to chat with these guys who made themselves very available. Before joining the display team they have to have made a minimum of 200 jumps and will remain with the display team for three years before being transferred back to their original Battalions.

Safe and Sound.
Next up was the forming up of past and present members of the Parachute Regiment ready for the dedication service. Once formed up a single Dakota made a number of passes over us at a low altitude and nice and slow. I really could have done with Cath's camera and as such the pics are not fantastic but I will live with that.

Yes it really was that low.
For the correct feel.

Then a Service that was marred by a steady wind and a PA System that as always failed to work. Still it was moving stuff and when they marched past me I was not ashamed to have the odd tear in my eyes. To see some of the original member's, other veterans and most poignant current active soldiers really made you feel humble.

As you can see a really good turn out.
The Current Crop.
Three more members were on crutches when they marched onto the field and a few more in trainers who did not partake in the march past. I assume all these are in various stages of recovering from training accidents.

When all Else Fails.
In an attempt to get the message across all avenues were tried, even this was not loud enough to reach most of us.

Two wreaths were laid at this plaque one of the few permanent reminders of the existence of this chapter of Hardwicks history. I really think they fail to promote what is a important part of both this area's history but also our Nations. This is not the first event held at Hardwick for the Paratroop Regiment but with almost no advertising and no promotion the event seemed to be supported by anything but local people. Indeed it almost felt like a gatecrasher at someones private function as the vast majority seemed to be sporting Para pins or other Regiments.

Between the car park and the hall was a small number of vehicles and equipment from the Second World War and after, I will post a separate post at a latter date with the pics from this. A great half day with the kids were they asked the right questions and I did the best to answer in a way that they could both understand and realise that they owed these people a great deal. Alice walking up to a very old man and telling him "Thanks for doing all you did for me" was a moment that both the gentleman and myself will treasure, so maybe I did good.

EDIT. More information can be found on Hardwick Halls own Blog here. Shame I can not add it to my blog roll but any history related posts I will post a link.


  1. Wow.. very cool.. and powerful stuff there with the ending. Am hoping to be able to show such things to my son one day as well.
    Cheers for this

  2. Sounds like a great day out! I bet the guy your daughter spoke to was a little chocked up, bless her.

  3. Yes I was so proud of them, given the amount of standing around we did they behaved well. We always get comments about their maners as they are quick with please and thankyou. Lucky to have them.

    Yes he was , as was I and a fair few others who were standing within ear shot.

  4. A great blog and some great photo's.

    My name is Mark Holding, Treasurer of the Nottingham Branch of the Parachute Regimental Association and I took part in yesterdays parade. For future reference there is a memorial event each year during May. If anyone would like to attend the next event you can keep an eye out on our website page and look under the events link. Dave Mellors of the Chesterfield branch, and Regional secretary for the Yorkshire region of the Parachute Regimental Association organizers the event each year. You can check out our website at:

    This event was very special for all of us this year. It falls within the birth year of the forming of the Parachute Regiment, and we are still lucky to have a few of our founder members that we can still talk to about their experiences at the Hall and their time on active service during WW2 and after. They set a very high bench mark in all they did, and former Para's like my self who served from just after the Falklands campaign knew we had a lot to live up to. I have heard it said before by Para's that came after WW2 "Could we have done what they did?" All I can say is that for the reputation of the Parachute Regiment, and all of the airborne forces since, an event known as P-Company, a test designed to test a soldiers determination and stamina under extreme arduous conditions has stood the test of time. Since WW2 our soldiers have fought at places like the Suez crisis, The Falklands War, Sierra Leon, Iraq and Afghanistan, and have always achieved what they have been asked to do. The Para's of yesterday are just as proud as the Para's of today.

    Untrinque Paratus

    (Ready for Anything)

  5. Mark, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post and supplying the information. It was a great day for me personally but made better by the fact it really has sunk into my kinds minds, they are still asking questions and whilst they have yet to understand the full significance they do know those men are special. Both took pictures in to school the following day to show to the teachers etc.

    I will keep an eye out for next years event. As mentioned I live really close to Hardwick (just over the boarder in Nottinghamshire) and only knew of the event as my sister has recently started working there. I will post on bothmy blogs next year and be sure to take a better cammera as that one was working at it's max!

    If yo have further information you wish to pass on for publication don't hesitate to get in touch, my e-mail is and this blog is for wargamers and history fans and as such would be of great interest.

    May I also say a personal thank you for the service you have done both to our Country but also to me a citizen of said Nation.


  6. Thank's Ian, I will keep your details. Just for reference our next big event for the year is being held at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. It is the opening of our new Airborne Forces Memorial dedicated to all those that have and still served in the Airborne Forces. The date for your calendar should be. Wait for it! Friday the 13th. Yes. 13th of July. The unveiling will be at 11 AM, and our Colonel in chief HRH Wales will be unveiling it. We are expecting probably four or five times the numbers that were at Hardwick at the weekend. The memorial has been in the making for the past two or three years at a cost of £250,000 and will show a Pegasus with Bellerophon and Paratrooper in bronze. The size is full scale, plus 20%. You can find out more at and look under Memorial Appeal.

    All the best.


  7. Ian,

    Great to read your post about the Para Parade at Hardwick last weekend. We completely agree with you that it's a shame not to highlight the story of the paratroopers at Hardwick. We're currently introducing new interpretation across the property and the story of the paratroopers who lived and trained at Hardwick will be brought to life as part of this project.

    Unfortunatley, due to security issues, we refrained from releasing information about the parade prior to the event. You can read about it on our blog though at

    All the best,

    National Trust Hardwick

  8. Thanks for the reply and it's great that you plan to expand on the information available regarding the role Hardwick had in the formation of the Para's, one can say unique.

    Whilst I did on the day think about the effects of any kind of demonstration or terreist attack I never even thought about the need to keep it low key. This is more than a shame but I can understand the need, just a little sad though.

    I will indeed check out your blog and will follow not just the Para conection but other feeds as well.