Airborne Gunner History



The history of the Canadian Gunners going "Airborne" originated in the summer of 1942 when the Canadian Army sent two Gunners to attend the para course at Fort Benning, USA. In June 1944, the 1st Forward Observation Unit (FOU) RA (Airborne) was formed; its first major airborne operation was the assault across the Rhine in March 1945. Concurrently 2 and 3 FOU were formed with a handful of Canadians in each. In March 1945, 2 FOU took part in Operation VARSITY and then continued with the lead elements on a northeasterly direction through Germany. 3 FOU dropped into southern France for Operation ANVIL and into Greece for Operation MANNA. On 26 July, 1949, B Battery 1 RCHA became the first Canadian Airborne Artillery Battery. It operated from Camp Shilo, Manitoba and remained there in the airborne role until September 1956 when it was disbanded.



1 Airborne Battery (RCA) was established on 8 April 1968 as a light parachute battery to provide indirect fire support to the Canadian Airborne Regiment. It was originally established for 80 personnel all ranks and was equlpped with the 105mm L5 Pack Howitzer and the 81 mm Mortar. The Battery's first unit drop was 10 September 1968 onto DZ "Bushy Head Hill" from two CC115 Buffalo aircraft. E Battery Para's last jump was on 3 September 1993 from three CC130 Hercules aircraft onto DZ "Anzio, ending 25 consecutive years of Airborne Field Gunnery. Over the years, the Battery has changed only in name and personnel. Austerity and improvisation were two words that have had a deep meaning within the Battery. Austere it was not however, in the fall of 1970 when the Battery deployed to Montreal during the FLQ Crisis. The Battery, augmented by Recce Platoon and C Company of 1 Commando, was organized as either the immediate reaction Eagle Force (helicopter), Speed Force (vehicle), Standby Force or Reserve Force; it also performed cordon and search operations in support of Surete du Quebec.



One of the most significant and most talked about incidents in the history of the Airborne Battery came in 1974 during the Battery's UN Tour in Cyprus while under the command of Major D.B. Walton. It was at this time that "Round Two" occurred in the 1974 Cyprus War. On a couple of occasions the Battery came very close to having to defend itself and the Nicosia Airport against attack. One incident came in the face of a threatened attack on Camp Kronenburg which was averted by Major Walton developing a good working relationship with the Turkish battalion commander and establishing in the minds of the Turks the battery's soldiering capabilities and its determination to fulfill its mandate.



In early 1977, after months of speculation, the Battery, was re-designated E-Battery (Para), 2 RCHA, and moved to CFB Petawawa. Major E.B. (Ernie) Beno, later the Commander of the SSF Brigade in Petawawa, was the last CO of 1 Airborne Battery. Early in December 1977, the Battery carried out one of the biggest para drops of guns and equipment in its history. Six Hercules aircraft para dropped six guns, six snowmobiles, 20 toboggans and 72 personnel complete with ammunition, rations, fuel, tents, and defensive stores into CFB Borden. Throughout its time in Petawawa E Battery (Para) has maintained the high standards of soldiering typical of all Canadian paratroopers. The Battery has participated in a variety of operations exercises and jumps throughout the world including Germany Italy, France, England, Norway, and the United States. In its last 24 months, E Battery (Para) jumped the guns four times, has trained in the United States with 18 Airborne Corps and in the United Kingdom with the Parachute Regiment, has fired in Airmobile Operations and for the Division on RV 92. The airborne role is gone. However. the standards, traditions and memories that were created while wearing the maroon beret are not forgotten. E-Battery will fulfill its new tasks and responsibilities with the same fervour and determination that characterized it while supporting Canada's Airborne Forces.



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