Stage and screen star Bernard Cribbins relives time as paratrooper in Colchester Garrison visit

Sergeant Jim Kilbride, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, showing Bernard Cribbins around Merv

Sergeant Jim Kilbride, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, showing Bernard Cribbins around Merville Barrack's Dakota gate guardian, the same aircraft from which Mr Cribbins jumped during his days as a paratrooper. Picture: Cpl Andy Reddy. - Credit: Archant

Film star Bernard Cribbins relived his days as a paratrooper during a visit to Colchester Garrison.

Bernard Cribbins while serving as a paratrooper. Credit: Airborne Assault Museum, Duxford

Bernard Cribbins while serving as a paratrooper. Credit: Airborne Assault Museum, Duxford - Credit: Airborne Assault Museum, Duxford

Mr Cribbins, who has played and voiced a variety of roles from The Railway Children and Dr Who to The Wombles, toured Merville Barracks – home to the 2nd and 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment to see what has changed since he did National Service with the regiment.

The actor did his service with 3 Para between 1947-49, serving in Palestine and Germany, and a training report described him as “a good performer”, a label which he took forward into a stage and screen career.

During yesterday’s visit, climbed aboard the barrack’s Dakota – the aircraft from which he would have jumped from during parachute training – and meet the current crop of 3 PARA soldiers to see the weaponry and equipment they use.

The actor, 87, presented £17,500 to the Regiment’s official charity, Support Our Paras, which was raised through a fly-fishing event. The event had been organised by Iain Liddell, chief executive of logistics firm Uniserve and Peter Cockwill, of Albury Game Angling.

Bernard Cribbins visits Colchester Garrison. Picture: Cpl Andy Reddy

Bernard Cribbins visits Colchester Garrison. Picture: Cpl Andy Reddy - Credit: Archant


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Mr Cribbins said: “Once a paratrooper, always a paratrooper. It is something you chose to do and that means you have made a choice to become something special.

“I had been acting in repertory theatre before I joined the Army and that gave me discipline, but the Paras really cemented it in me. The discipline to make sure you play the part other people are relying on you to do is the same in the Paras and acting.

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“It’s been wonderful to come and visit The Parachute Regiment again.

“I’m equally delighted to present money to Support Our Paras to fund the excellent work the charity does. The credit for raising the money belongs to Iain and Peter and we are hoping to run another fundraising event soon.”

from left, Peter Cockwill, of Albury Game Angling; Bernard Cribbins; Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Radbou

from left, Peter Cockwill, of Albury Game Angling; Bernard Cribbins; Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Radbourne, Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of The Parachute Regiment; and Iain Liddell, chief executive of logistics firm Uniserve. Picture: Cpl Andy Reddy - Credit: Archant

During his time in the Para, Mr Cribbins helped to pull bombs and ammunition from a store before it exploded in a fire.

He was also part of a guard of honour for Field Marshal Montgomery – but was forced to leave the service early, at FM Montgomery’s insistence, after the soldier to his right accidentally ran his bayonet through Mr Cribbins’ hand.

Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Radbourne, Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of The Parachute Regiment, said: “It has been a pleasure to host Bernard Cribbins and show him how The Parachute Regiment has changed in the last 70 years, while also maintaining our proud heritage and traditions.

“The hard work been put into raising such a fantastic sum of money for Support Our Paras is hugely appreciated and demonstrates the close and supportive bonds there are between all ex-paratroopers.

“We would like to think that Mr Cribbins’ time with The Parachute Regiment gave him the determination, discipline and humility that he needed to go on and forge a varied and successful career in show business.”

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