The British Armed Forces award a range of Parachutist Badges to those qualified as military parachutists. The version awarded depends largely on the unit or role that the individual fills following qualification.
During World War II with forming of the first British Airborne units parachute training was a 12-day course carried out at the No. 1 Parachute Training School, RAF Ringway. Recruits initially jumped from a converted barrage balloon and finished with five parachute jumps from an aircraft. Anyone failing to complete a parachute jump was returned to his old unit (known as “returned to unit” or “RTU”). At the end of the course, new Paras were presented with their maroon beret and parachute wings and posted to a parachute battalion.
Currently British military personnel must complete the Basic Parachute Course, which is held by No 1 Parachute Training School at RAF Brize Norton, a 9-jump course attended by personnel from all branches of the UK Armed Forces. Troops make each descent from a C-130 or Skyvan aircraft using the Low Level Parachute at heights of 800 ft and 1000 ft. On successful completion of their nine descents, trainees are presented with their ‘wings’ by the Officer Commanding No. 1 Parachute Training School, and return to their units as qualified parachutists.
All Qualified military parachutists serving in the Royal Navy wear the Army pattern parachutist badge, a parachute with wings. In gold on blue on No 1 Uniform and (in miniature) on No 2 Uniform; in white on blue on RN PCS or light blue on khaki drill on MTP. The badge is worn above the trade badge and 6mm below the shoulder seam on right arm.
The British Army has three parachute qualification badges for non Special Forces qualified soldiers:
- Assistant Parachute Jump Instructor;
- Parachute Badge with Wings (also used by the Royal Marines and Royal Navy), and
- Parachute Badge without Wings.
The Parachute Badge with Wings insignia, which depicts an open parachute embroidered in white flanked by a pair of wings embroidered in light blue, is only to be worn by a qualified parachutist who has subsequently been on the posted strength of a unit where he may be ordered in the course of his duties to parachute. Those who do not serve with a parachute unit are permitted to wear the Parachute Badge without Wings, colloquially known as the ‘Lightbulb’.
In September 2020, Captain Rosie Wild, the first female to pass the All Arms Pre Parachute Selection Course (P Company), completed the Basic Parachuting Course and was the first woman in the British Army to earn her wings.