Once upon a time Hardwick Estate was used as a base to train Paratroopers during the Second World War. I heard a tale that it was thanks to a conversation between Winston Churchill and the Duke of Devonshire where Churchill mentions his ambition to create a unit of paratroopers. The duke promptly offered up Hardwick and so in 1941 the Estate became home to the 1st Parachute Brigade. How true that story is I’m not sure, but it’s a funny little tale so I thought I would share anyway.
Every year to commemorate the service of the troops that lived and trained here there is a ‘Para-Parade’ through the Estate. Men who actually trained here and new members of the same same regiment marched from the North Orchard through to the Stable Yard. This year was an extra special celebration due to it being the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.
However, before the parade can begin they have to wait for the signal, a fly-over from a Douglas C-47 Dakota Military Transport Aircraft! I was very excited about this and got to go up on the roof to see it and take some photos. The Dakota planes were used from from 1941 to transport troops and supplies, and for brave paratroopers to jump from. It wasn’t quite as noisy as I had expected but really thrilling to see it flying right above our heads.
As well as the Paras old and new we had re-enactors in the Stable Yard, and they brought along lots of interesting toys. I had to go out and have a bit of a nosy and of course take a few piccies. If I was ever tempted away from Medieval re-enactment I would love to try WWII so I really enjoyed chatting with the re-enactors and finding out about what the men experienced while they did their training on the estate, and after they jumped!
All the kit displayed below was carried by one paratrooper, who was expected to be able to complete a 7 mile hike whilst carrying all this in less than 1 hour 30 mins! Working at Hardwick I am the fittest I have ever been but I’m not sure I could manage 30 steps with all that strapped to me! I was quite amused to see that among the essentials there was a shaving kit included, as well as Oxo cubes and chocolate! (something I’ve always personally considered an essential)
It was a really exciting weekend, helped by the beautiful weather and I was so glad to be there to join in all the fun!