This book is full of untold short stories of men who created a legend, the legend of the British airborne forces during the Second World War.
Impressed by the performance of the German paratroopers in Belgium and the Netherlands in 1940, and on Crete in 1941, Winston Churchill ordered the creation of a British Airborne force of no less than 5,000 parachutists. Their task was to land behind enemy lines and take and hold or destroy key objectives while ground troops advanced toward them. The result was the 1st and 6th Airborne divisions, and this is their story, as told by the men themselves.
Covering everything from the initial training at Hardwick Hall and Ringway through their first operations in North Africa and Italy, to D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine, this is a compelling account of the war fought by the paratroopers and their comrades in the glider units.
Roger Payne survived the dreaded Selection for the Parachute Regiment in the early 1960s, serving in 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment and as an instructor at the Parachute Regiment Depot before accepting a position in the Australian army, where he served for 22 years. He holds the Order of Australia (OAM).
Roger Payne OAM is telling the stories of soldiers that would otherwise be lost to history. The military veteran has penned a book of 250 short stories from soldiers who served in the British Airborne Forces during World War II. “It’s not the history of the parachute regiment, it is the history of these men,” Mr Payne said. “I’m telling stories that would never have been told otherwise.”
The East Maitland retiree served in the British Parachute Regiment for nine years before he moved to Australia and served as a senior officer in the army for 22 years. The book, Paras – Voices of the British Airborne Forces in the Second World War, is his third, written to cope with post traumatic distress disorder.
“It’s given me something to do, the research alone,” Mr Payne said. Some of the three-page stories are horrific, others miraculous.
Mr Payne described how one man was saved by pennies. The man’s major told him to collect all the pennies he owned and weld them together to place in his smock. When he parachuted down, the Germans shot him in the chest, but he was saved by the pennies that took the full force of the bullets.
With very few living WWII soldiers still living, Mr Payne spent countless hours researching online.