An assembly of equipment consisting of canopy, lines and harness that enables the wearer to exit a balloon or aircraft and avoid plummetting to the ground at a significant rate of knots. The parachute is thus de rigeur for getting the fuck out of Dodge after Jerry had riddled one's Lancaster with 20mm.
Parachuting was also a short-lived, inefficient method of troop insertion practised in the middle of the 20th Century, which frequently ended in tears due to paratroopers' attempts to take on tanks with STEN guns (see Arnhem).
Although jumping out of an aircraft is a relatively simple task and is a popular pastime amongst the extreme sports idiots, Little Old Ladies celebrating their century and people raising money for mongs, all those who wear the Maroon Beret (less the females/non-para trained members of 16 Air Assault Brigade, of course) will tell you that it is a mystical experience, achievable only by an elite brotherhood of superhuman, super fit, brave - you get the general idea.
Most others, however, acknowledge that the parachute as an act of war is anachronistic in the extreme and that the helicopter now has precedence as an air manoeuvre method of insertion - and most importantly, extraction). In any case, the kudos is not really about the act of throwing oneself from an aircraft and dangling from a parachute - as anyone is capable of that - but rather what happens at the other end... oh and passing P Company.
Parachuting is notionally carried out by the Parachute Regiment, whose headdress was designed by a bird to match her curtains, and also by various corps hangers-on who clearly have something to prove. The regiment is lucky in that it has had a good crop of generals (including General Jackson, formerly known as a bit of a hard man, although his mantle is now somewhat tarnished due to his plastic surgery and Hoon brown-nosing) who have done very well by them, having secured continued existence in gucci roles for all parachute battalions at the expense of the rest of the Infantry.
The Parachute Regiment can be likened to Cavalry, in that the mode of transport from which they take their name has nothing to do with current operational practices - being more a sporting/historical pastime. Incidentally, the best way to really annoy a 'Para' is to ask when the last British operational parachute jump was done, and by whom.
Currently due to defence budget fiddling, no-one is getting to jump and thus 'Paras' are finding new uses for the silk-like material of their 'chutes. See 3 Para Mortar Platoon's new ranges of lingerie and evening wear.
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