Press Centre

The Paras: Men Of War

  • Episode: 

    1 of 3

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Thu 10 Jan 2019
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 02 2019 : Sat 05 Jan - Fri 11 Jan
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Friday 28 December 2018.
The Paras: Men Of War
Series overview
“The moment I’m given that rifle and on that plane jumping out into a war-torn country… I’m not going to be able to call my mum and ask her to give me a hug. It’s about just growing a pair and getting the job done.” - Private Jack Kojo-Braima
This brand-new three part landmark documentary series features unprecedented and unfiltered access to the elite Parachute Regiment, after its doors were opened to a UK network broadcaster’s cameras for the first time in a generation.
Filmed over 12 months, the series goes into all aspects of this closed world which turns raw recruits into elite soldiers trained to kill. Young men, many still in their late teenage years, are pushed to the extremes of their endurance and learn vital skills on the brutal 28-week recruitment course aiming to gain their coveted maroon beret. Only a few of those who join up make it to the end.
With access to the regiment for the first time since the early 1980s, The Paras: Men Of War offers a unique perspective and unflinching account of what it takes to make the grade, as well as providing an intimate insight into the characters of the young men and the officers charged with transforming them into battle ready paratroopers, who are the first in to any conflict.
Throughout the series they talk openly about their experiences both in training and in combat - and reflect on the challenges they face, providing a view into the mindset of the soldiers and the reality of the unique culture of the Paras. The series also follows the recruits who make it into the regiment, filming them up close and personal on their first major assignments as they prepare for new military threats.   
Episode 1
In the first programme, 41 recruits start training at Catterick barracks. Lieutenant Dan Lovegrove explains it can be a tough start for many: “The first day in training is like a massive shock of capture. You have no idea what’s going on, they’ll probably instantly regret their decision but I suppose that’s almost how we want them to be.”
The training staff shave their heads and tell them they are to lose their civilian names and to be called ‘Joe’ (which stands for Joined On Enlistment). One recruit, Private Jack Kojo-Braima, known as Kojo, is away from home for the first time at the age of 17, and says he finds the course refreshing - at first: “Shaving my head, being called ‘Joe’, having that fresh new start and building yourself into becoming this new person, that is way better than what you were in civvy street because I can tell you now, if I was to pass out, I’ll be a completely different person. I’d just look at my old self and say, ‘Yeah, I’m done with you, you can go back in the closet and then I can be showing off this new person I am.’”
After 10 days, the platoon leaves the barracks for the first time to begin the very basics of being a paratrooper, going into the field to get into the mindset of a soldier. Corporal Ronnie Harris tells them: “Creeping up on the enemy knowing they’ve been shooting at you and your friends, and you’re gonna pull the grenade straight into him. That grenade is gonna blow up, it’ll blow him to pieces and then you’re gonna come over the top and start shooting him. It’s the best feeling in the world, Joe... That is what you should wanna be doing.”
The recruits go on their first night exercise and need to avoid being captured by the staff in minus 10 temperatures. Recruit Private Chad Allmark says: “You get so cold you almost go warm. So, because you’re shivering so much… the wind just blows and cuts through your face.”
Just as important as soldiering is personal discipline, as Kojo is reminded when he is found with a water bottle that is not full. Cpl Ollie Seal says to him: “What do you mean, ‘They told me it was full?’ It’s your f***ing water bottle, get your weapon above your head. Don’t f***ing mince, get there! Stop f***ing mincing Joe! Get sprinting!”
Lt Lovegrove explains why the recruits are given a tough ride by the staff. He says: “We cannot be their best friend through training. We almost encourage this mentality of us and them, between Joe and the training team because it binds them together as a group, and then they have this sort of enemy.”
Private York Avery, an 18-year-old recruit from South Africa, who says his own father told him he had three options - the South African Army, the French Foreign Legion, or the British Army - says the staff remind him of his upbringing. He says: “They are sort of like your parents because you do something wrong, they’ll teach you a lesson. You do something right, they will reward you… They’re there every step of the way, even if it seems like they’re f***ing ****holes.”
Some struggle more than others with the rigours of the course - including Kojo, who is called in by Lt Lovegrove to focus his attention. When Kojo fails to strip down a rifle in good time, his place on the course comes under jeopardy. He says: “I just can’t believe how I’m messing it up. I got so nervous, I was in the moment and I just can’t believe I f***ed that up... I just don’t want it to fail, because if I fail I have nothing to go to. That’s me done, finished.”
Meanwhile the recruits are taken on exercises in extreme weather including heavy snow. So to raise their spirits, York is asked to sing for them. Sgt Ryan North says: “I realise you’ve had a long night and morale might be a bit low. Okay, what we’ve got in the platoon is a rising star, yeah, a returning X-Factor South Africa finalist, yeah, in Private Avery. So what Private Avery’s gonna do, he has quite good vocal chords he’s gonna sing to you, like you used to do in the trenches in the world wars.”
When the platoon embarks on a 10-mile TAB - or Tactical Advance to Battle - York begins to struggle with a numb hand after falling over. He says: “It’s scary. You don’t know what to think when you put your hand up. Are they, ‘Look at this guy, he’s weak? Why is he putting his hand up? What sufficient reason does he have?’ I just have a sore knee. I can’t feel my left hand. That’s nothing.”
The next step for the recruits is to learn how to hunt down and kill the enemy. But after going out on exercise for three nights, at minus five degrees with minimal sleep and with a critical kit inspection at the end, some must face the reality of being in the Paras - asking themselves whether they want to carry on, or the possibility of being asked to leave if they fail.