Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Red Devils: the trailblazers of the Parachute Regiment in World War Two

First, a caveat. My father was not a paratrooper, but he was a member of 6th Airborne Division (he served in 53rd (Worcester Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, the division's artillery regiment) from 1944 until the end of the war in Europe. As a result, I have read quite a large number books about airborne forces (including the 6th Airborne Division's war diary at the National Archives) and any new book on the subject has got to be good if it is going to hold my attention to the end.

Mark Urban’s latest book – RED DEVILS: THE TRAILBLAZERS OF THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR TWO: AN AUTHORIZED HISTORY – certainly kept me engrossed, and I read it over the course of a few days whilst I was on my recent cruise.

So, what makes Mark’s book so good that I am going to buy a printed edition to put on my bookshelf to supplement my Kindle edition? The answer is very simple; it deals with the stories of the sort of men who became the first paratroops.

Almost all the other books I have read about the British airborne forces during World War Two have covered the training, organisation, and operations of the paratroops in great detail, but little about the men who became airborne soldiers. Mark’s book fills that gap and puts meat on the bones of my previous reading, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Mark does this by concentrating – but not exclusively – on the stories of men who joined the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in its earliest days. He includes the stories of:

  • John Frost, who led the troops involved in the Bruneval raid and who commanded 2nd Parachute Battalion during the North African, Sicily, and Italian campaigns as well as at Arnhem.
  • Geoffrey Pine-Coffin, who was second-in-command of 3rd Parachute Battalion during the North African campaign before returning to England to command 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion during D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and the drive across Germany.
  • Mike Lewis, who trained as a paratrooper before joining the Army Film Unit. He helped to film event at Arnhem as well as the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

I thoroughly recommend this book, which is written in a style that was easy to read whilst not exhibiting any dumbing down. It is certainly not one of the numerous pot-boilers that purport to tell the story of the Parachute Regiment, and for that I am extremely grateful and felt that I got my money's worth.

RED DEVILS: THE TRAILBLAZERS OF THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR TWO: AN AUTHORIZED HISTORY was written by Mark Urban and published in 2022 by Penguin Books Ltd. (ISBN: 978 0241 55817 1).


  1. Thanks for the review Bob. I've enjoyed his other books so this will get added to my Xmas list, as ever since reading 'A Bridge Too Far' I've been fascinated by the Paras.

    1. Steve J.,

      What I liked about the book was the fact that it didn’t portrayed the paras as some sort of supermen but as ordinary men who did extraordinary things … and that sometimes things - however well planned - went wrong.

      Read and enjoy,


  2. Echoing Steve J., a very helpful review. Sounds exciting read. Carl

    1. Carl,

      Cheers! I hope that you enjoy reading it.

      All the best,



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