RAF Ringway &
1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade
The RAF Ringway Central Landing School opened on 21 June 1940 and in November 1940 it took the first Polish Jumpers (4th Cadre Rifle Brigade). RAF Ringway is very close to where present day Manchester International Airport is.
RAF Ringway was known in it's day as CLS (Central Landing School) by the RAF. Initially 9 Physical Training Instructors were used to train the men. These were accompanied by 14 from the RAF Physical Education branch.
Once the parachutists of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade had done their physical training at Largo House they were then sent to RAF Ringway in groups of 50 every 2 weeks. The course at RAF Ringway took 4 weeks to complete.
It was not just the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade that were at RAF Ringway. Many nationalities were there including the British Commandos, Indian troops and Ghurkas. To overcome the language barrier informative films were played with voiceovers by interpreters.
Winston Churchill's Role With RAF Ringway
On June 22 1940, Winston Churchill wrote a memo to General Sir Hastings Ismail, head of the Military Wing of the War Cabinet Secretariat. In it he stated that 5,000 new parachute troops were required and these were to be Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Norwegians and French.
In time (1942 to be precise), the matter of the Polish soldiers formerly held captive by the Russians, who were now in the Middle East would come to light and these would also undertake training at Largo House and then RAF Ringway. The Polish soldiers would make up the numbers because the level of recruits to date was very far short of the desired 5,000 paratroopers.
Training At RAF Ringway
The training at RAF Ringway was eight jumps, two from a basket, five from a plane (A Dakota) and one by night from a balloon. Many leg and knee injuries happened here also.
Some that trained at RAF Ringway also went on to train at other sites such as Milton Hall (Peterborough),
The Suspended Air Balloon
The jumps took place from a suspended air balloon at first followed by three jumps from an aeroplane furing the day and then 2 jumps at night time.
Initial jumps were done by parachute trainees from a suspended air balloon (looks rather like a re-purposed barrage balloon!).
As you can see there was a gantry below the balloon that had a hatch. The parachutist would stand with a leg on either side of the hole and on the command "Go!" or "Skok!" would jump through the hole feet first.
Most recruits will admit they were terrified, but nerves were not an option, General Sosabowski wanted fearless men and being a coward was not an option.
Below is a video called "Now It Can Be Told" the story about SOE (Special Operations Executive) training in WW2 in Britain. The video is set to start playing at the point that training in a hanger at RAF Ringway is undertaken and then clearly shows the above balloon being used in jump training over Tatton Park.
Many ankles and legs were broken during landing, and this was after extensive training too. Thankfully, this chap seems okay!
Exercises At RAF Ringway
As well as learning to parachute and land, members of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade at RAF Ringway were also taught strategic defense manoeuvres and suchlike:
The video below is a great insight into the training at RAF Ringway. Although it is the British Paratroopers shown in the video, it shows the exact same regime the Polish Paratroopers would have been put through. Great shots of the hanger training, the balloon training and final jump from an aeroplane. A lot of this video is shot at RAF Ringway and in Tatton Park.
Completion Of Training & Qualifying
On completion of the course, the trainees of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade were awarded a silver diving eagle qualification badge which was numbered on the reverse side and etched with the words “Tobie ojczyzno” (For you my Country).
Those that did a battle jump had this badge with an addition, a gold wreath in the Eagles claws.
6636 standard badges were issued and 1678 battle badges. From this we can deduce that 8314 paratroopers qualified at Largo House. (Plus those that didn’t qualify).
Only 356 of the parachutists were actually parachuted into Poland for the "Warsaw Uprising".