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Rhodesian Air Force
Parachute Training School

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Formation:

The Parachute Training School was formed on 5th October 1961.

Commanding Officers

Sqn Ldr Ron Smith (RAF)
WO Maitland W. October 1961
Sqn Ldr M. J. "Boet" Swart January 1964
Sqn Ldr D. De Kock
Sqn Ldr F. Hales

A Brief History

With the Formation of the Special Air Services in Rhodesia there was a need to provide a training facility for parachute training. This need was met by the Rhodesian Air Force Parachute Training School.

In the beginning the Parachute Training School was commanded by Squadron Leader Ron Smith of the Royal Air Force. The first instructors were a group of Sergeants, also from the Royal; Air Force.

The first demonstration jumps for the SAS were made by the Safety Equipment workers who packed the parachutes for the troops. these included W.O. Butterworth a man in his fifties.

On the 15th January 1963 M. J (Boet) Swart was transferred from the Rhodesian army. He qualified as a parachute jump instructor in June and was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader in January 1964 when he became the the commander of the school. In September 1966 he was also appointed survival training instructor.

1964

January 1964 Sqn Ldr M. J. “Boet” Swart became OC PTS.

1966

On the 12th June 1966 the first static line descents using RLI members was made at Delports Farm just east of New Sarum.

1967

By the beginning of 1967 the school was using the new TAP 665 parachute (French design) that had been received in November 1966. This parachute proved to be superior to the "X" type used previously.

On the 31st March 1967 Flight Sergeant Frank Hales carried out the first free-fall parachute descent at the school. He jumped from a Dakota aircraft flying at 15,000 feet. This was the start of trials conducted by the army into free-fall parachuting. The training and dispatching was carried out by the staff of the Parachute Training School under the watchful eye of Frank Hales. Descents were made between 9,000 and 15,000 feet.

During 1967 two basic parachute training courses took place to bring the SAS up to full strength. During the latter part of 1967 a number of American T10 parachutes were acquired for evaluation by the school. The trials proved successful and it was decided to re-equip with the American parachutes.

1970

6th May 1970 the Parachute Training School logged its 10,000th jump from a Dakota aircraft over New Sarum when Tony Hughes (aged 26) jumped at 1,000feet above New Sarum. It was his 155th jump. He was the youngest staff instructor at the Parachute School The pilot of the flight was Squadron Leader George Alexander who had also been the pilot who flew the aircraft that dropped the first paratrooper over Rhodesia. And had been responsible for training other pilots in the skills of para-dropping. Of the 10,00 jumps only one man had refused to jump. The accident occurrence rate was 1.39% The parachute school at the time was staffed by 6 Qualified instructors and 2 trainee instructors.

The role of this unit was further increased when in the mid 1970s it was decided to train the men of the Rhodesian Light Infantry as airborne troops. With the successful use of these airborne troops on operations it was decided to extend this training to the men of the Rhodesia African Rifles. This training further increased the effectiveness of the Rhodesian Forces.

1971

15th September members of the SAS carried out a water jump into Lake Kariba. The Dakota was flown by Flight Lieutenant Peter (Pom) Bater

16th September the first free fall drop was made from a South African Cessna 185 flown by Lieutenant van Rensberg. During October and November 1971 intensive free-fall parachuting training was carried out at Cranborne. Night free-fall jumps were formed part of this training.

1974

In March 1974 the first free fall training at night for instructors was carried out. The No. 3 Squadron pilot was Flight Lieutenant Barry Roberts.

The Parachute training school had a new mascot called Barbear in honour of Flight Lieutenant David Barbour a VR pilot serving on No. 3 Squadron.

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