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”.