A Brief History: The 1st British Airborne Division

A Brief History: The 1st British Airborne Division

During the Second World War, The 1st Airborne Division was established. It was an airborne infantry division of the British Army. In 1941, the division was formed as the 1st Parachute Brigade and assigned to the newly formed British Airborne Forces.

The brigade saw action during the Operation Torch landings in November 1942 and took part in the Battle of Tunisia in early 1943.

In April 1943, the brigade was expanded to form the 1st Airborne Division with the addition of the 4th Parachute Brigade and the 1st Airlanding Brigade. The Division saw action during the Italian Campaign, landing at Taranto in September 1943 and taking part in the Battles of Monte Cassino and Anzio in early 1944. The Division was then withdrawn to England to prepare for the Allied invasion of Normandy.

The Normandy Landings

The Division landed by glider and parachute on 6 June 1944 as part of the D-Day landings. The Division fought in the Battle of Normandy, advancing from the Orne River bridgehead to the River Seine by the end of August 1944. 

The Battle of Arnhem and The Aftermath

The Division then took part in the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944, an unsuccessful attempt to capture the bridge over the Rhine. The Division was withdrawn to England in October 1944 and did not see action again until the 1945 Allied invasion of Germany, landing by glider in the River Rhine crossing on 24 March 1945. The Division took part in the advance into Germany, playing a role in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 

Despite the setback at Arnhem, the 1st Airborne Division continued to serve with distinction for the remainder of the war. The Division took part in the Battle of the Bulge and the Allied advance into Germany. The Division was disbanded at the war's end, but many of its units were reformed into other airborne units of the British Army.

Remembering the Fallen

The 1st Airborne Division was one of the most celebrated divisions of the British Army during the Second World War. The Division was formed in 1941 and saw action in a number of major campaigns, including the famous Operation Market Garden at Arnhem in 1944.

The 1st Airborne Division was a superior fighting force, and its exploits during the Second World War will never be forgotten.


The British 1st Airborne Division was one of World War II's most renowned and battle-hardened divisions. The Division saw action in some of the most iconic battles of the War, including the Battle of Arnhem, and played a vital role in the eventual Allied victory. The Division's parachute and glider-borne troops were among the best-trained and most experienced in the world, and their courage and tenacity in the face of adversity were legendary. The British 1st Airborne Division will always be remembered as one of World War II's most remarkable fighting formations.

Photo Credit: Color by Paul Reynolds