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Practical 2.6



Weapons Training

The 2nd Parachute Battalion consisted of three rifle Companies (A, B and C) a Headquarters (HQ) Company, and a Support Company.  Each of the rifle companies contained three platoons of approximately 30 men, plus two large mortar platoons with four 3-inch mortars each and an anti-tank platoon. The standard issue rifle initially was the Lee-Enfield No III, which was replaced by the Lee-Enfield No. IV Mark 1 on 11th May 1942.

That was the paper organization. In practice, things worked out somewhat differently. The battalion was issued with “reserve” weapons: four Vickers machine guns, which the battalion commander could use to replace the four tubes of one of the mortar platoons. And for the riflemen, the battalion received 300 Sten guns. Most battalion commanders appear to have handed out all of the extra weapons, plus as many more as they could scrounge: the Sten guns and the PIATs to the rifle squads, while the anti-tank platoon became a machine-gun platoon instead or, in some cases, an assault platoon.

Getting the Vickers guns into action was deemed crucial, since the airborne divisions had no machine gun battalion on which they could draw for such support. The Paras seem to have had no shortage of automatic weapons, however, hinting that all of the reserve weapons plus many more were in the field.

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