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c. 1978

Prince Charles (and his brother) become paratroopers

Without taking the Para course, Prince Charles said he wouldn't “even dream of wearing the red beret”

Prince Charles chats to fellow soldiers after completing his parachute training as Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment, at R.A.F. South Cerney. | Location: South Cerney, Gloucestershire, England, UK. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

It’s happened to us all — you’re asked to do something that, frankly, is a little outside your experience, but saying no is not an option. What to do? In the case of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, you step-up — or rather, you step-off.

Being Prince of Wales — indeed, being any member of the British Royal Family — means that you receive a significant number of honorary ranks and roles throughout the armed services. And in 1977, Charles was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of The Parachute Regiment — aka The Paras.

In actual fact, Charles did have experience when it came to descending from aircraft at speed. He had served a four-month attachment with the Royal Air Force in 1971, at the age of 23.

Training as a jet pilot, it was then that he made his first parachute drop. Following that, Charles went into the navy and qualified as a helicopter pilot. He left the navy in 1976.

But he took his proffered role with the Paras particularly seriously, and felt that unless he had taken the Para course, he could not, as he said “look them in the eye”.

So, accordingly, he requested to take part in the regiment’s Parachute Training Course. He did so, attending Parachute Course 841a at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, together with his brother Andrew.

The course lasted a fortnight, from April 17-28, 1978.  When Andrew did his first parachute drop, jumping from a Hercules, he got his parachute lines crossed but landed safely, and afterwards commented, “I’m going off to do another one now.”

Without the course, said Charles, he wouldn’t “even dream of wearing the red beret”.

1978
Prince Charles (left) and his 18 year old brother Prince Andrew hang in parachute harnesses after jumping from aircraft mock-ups
PA Images / Getty Images
1978
Andrew prepares himself for a practice parachute jump in a harness at the ground training hangar
Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis / Getty Images
1978
Charles with his parachute
PA Images / Getty Images
1978
Prince Andrew prepares to ascend
PA Images / Getty Images
1978
Prince Andrew takes a jump
PA Images / Getty Images
1978
Andrew descends
PA Images / Getty Images
1978
Charles having completed his training
Fox Photos / Getty Images
1978
Charles at the South Cerney, Gloucestershire dropping zone where he made two jumps in one day as part of his course
PA Images / Getty Images
1978
Prince Charles chats to fellow soldiers after completing his parachute training
Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis / Getty Images
1978
Prince Andrew, centre, proudly shows his companions the results of his two-week parachute training course
PA Images / Getty Images

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