'What makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood!' – inside the Paratroopers

'What makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood!' – inside the Paratroopers

January 10, 2019

The young man stops to be sick, and Corporal Danny Morris bellows: “Do it on the move! Keep going!  Keep going! This way, get here now! Get here now!”

The wannabe soldier is on the Parachute Regiment's elite 28-week training course.

The most brutal in the British Army, it transforms raw recruits into elite soldiers trained to kill.

It includes a 60ft aerial assault course, carrying a 180lb metal stretcher for five miles and the feared log race – a two mile trek carrying a 60kg telegraph pole.

Now just over half way through the course and as the physical training intensifies, this stage is known as ‘Beat Up’ for good reason.

Seconds later, another recruit collapses on the ground in exhaustion. His eyes glaze over as he takes desperate gasps of breath. He's suffering a panic attack.

These eye-opening moments are captured by cameras for a new three-part documentary The Paras: Men Of War.

One of the most elite military units in the world, the Paras are the UK's airborne shock troops who are required to fly into enemy territory and capture strategic positions.

Lieutenant Lovegrove explains: “We will be the first troops out of the door if there is a conflict. To that end we need to be ready for it.”

"There are only two options – you either succeed, or you don't come home"

The ITV series follows 41 fresh-faced recruits as they embark on the gruelling training course.

The recruits line the station platform, nervously awaiting their inspection. For many, this is their first time away from home.

Corporal Ollie Seal menacingly asks one: “Why do you look so scared?”

But 17-year-old Matt Latham has good reason to be terrified.

With the average first time pass rate standing at just 38 per cent, it’s possibly one of the toughest job interviews ever.

Lieutenant Lovegrove tells The Sun: "It’s very, very difficult and it’s difficult for all the right reasons.

“It takes someone who is very physically and mentally robust and willing to do things that potentially other soldiers are not. It’s a mind-set.

"You have to be committed to the team and the mission. We need to be able to fight, potentially surrounded, and on our own for up to 96 hours."

As commander of the platoon, he is under immense pressure to ensure only the very best soldiers pass.

He says: "It's my job to make sure I provide the individuals who can be put in that situation and they will not fail because there are only two options once there – you either succeed or you don’t come home."

"He wants to kill and behead British soldiers – are you going to let that happen?"

The first stage of the training begins as soon as they arrive Catterick Garrison in North Yorks, where they are immediately stripped of their civilian identities.

Sergeant Ryan North tells them: "You are now Joe’s.”

Joe stands for Joined On Enlistment and all of them will be called Joe for as long as they remain on the course.

Sgt North continues: “It doesn’t matter what background you’ve come from, whether you’ve been the lowest of the low or you’ve been well educated. It does not matter. You are all equal as men."

All of the men training the recruits have all been to war and are the best Corporals in the Parachute Regiment.

Sergeant North, who was seriously injured in a roadside bomb that killed two of his colleagues while on a tour of Iraq in 2006, tells them their “vain” “reality TV” inspired hairstyles have no place in the Paras.

He yells: “Some of yous are looking like One Direction at the moment, yeah. Every man here will have a haircut tonight.

"We’re all brothers, we’re all part of the same thing, you’re gonna lose that hair, you’re all gonna be in one boat."

The recruits battle freezing temperatures as they master basic soldiering skills. At night, the temperature drops to -10 degrees.

At 31, Alex Parry is the oldest and becomes something of a mentor to the younger recruits, who give him the nickname “granddad”.

He joined the Army aged 17 and did a tour of Afghanistan, but left after just four years when he became disillusioned with military life.

Alex explains: “I’d be freezing cold on position and friends would send me photos of themselves on holiday in Kavos, I thought, ‘Am I really living?’

“I thought the grass was greener, but it wasn’t to be perfectly honest with you. I couldn’t hold down a job and got myself into trouble with the police.”

After the birth of his two-year-old daughter, he decided to turn his life around and apply to rejoin the Army.

Next, they must learn to attack and fight at close quarters with a bayonet – dubbed “one of the most aggressive parts of training”.

Corporal Seal explains: “If you haven’t got 100 per cent aggression and you don’t wanna go in and do that job, then you’ll get killed cause you’ve gotta think on the other end of that, there’s another person with 100 percent aggression.

“So, your aggression has gotta out match his aggression and you’ve gotta be able to take it to him.

“He’s gonna kill you or you’re gonna kill him, simple as. It’s down the middle, black and white.

“So, the more aggression you’ve got, that’s gonna aid you in taking his life."

Corporal Seal barks at the recruits: “Paratroopers are designed to kill Joe, this is your job, this is what you’ve chosen to do.

“You wanna close in towards the enemy and bayonet ‘em in the face.

"He wants to kill and behead British soldiers. Are you gonna let that happen?

The wannabe soldiers shout back in unison: “No Corporal!”

"What makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood!"

In a bid to draw out the much needed aggression fellow instructor Corporal Phil Donkin begins the famous Army chant shouted during bayonet drills.

He bellows: “What makes the grass grow?” The recruits shout: “Blood, blood, blood!”

Corporal Donkin asks: “What’s the bayonet for?”

And the recruits bark back: “Kill, kill, kill!”

Lieutenant Lovegrove says: “A lot of people consider the Paras to be a bit of a cult. We have absolute belief in ourselves and each other.”

This complete conviction will almost certainly be called upon as, if there is no possible way to see the enemy, a para must be willing to draw them out.

Lieutenant Lovegrove explains: “The final possible solution is to ask the para to stand up and run to try and draw out the fire of the enemy.

“That is why we need to train them the way we do here, so that they will do that for the good of the other people in the platoon.”

Unfortunately some of the recruits have a long way to go.

Watching one hapless youngster try to stab a dummy with his bayonet, Corporal Donkin despairingly: “You couldn’t scare a f*****g Girl Guide! A bit of f*****g aggression! You’re about to kill the enemy!”

Many don’t even make it to ‘Beat up’ and Lieutenant Lovegrove draws a large cross in black marker pen across their photo.

Bloodied recruits attacked by their friends: "You do not stop punching until I tell you to stop."

For those who do, there is an even tougher challenge to come – the final week-long selection.

The platoon builds a shrine in honour of this rite of passage with the Paras maroon berets laid out as motivation.

Parry is pushed to his physical and mental limits but makes it through. He reveals: “My daughter’s my rock, my motivation.

Though by far the most brutal is the notorious "milling" test. The recruits are required to wear gloves but the similarity to boxing ends there as they cannot block or avoid incoming punches.

The recruits are lined up head to head in the sports hall as Corporal Ronnie Harris barks: “You do not stop punching until you are told to stop."

At the ringside, Major James Monk tells them he wants to see “one minute of controlled aggression”.

Battered, bloodied and bruised it is little wonder just 13 of the 41 recruits in the platoon pass and get to wear the coveted maroon beret.

The Paras: Men Of War is on ITV on Thursday (Jan 10) at 9pm

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