The Prince of Wales has recalled getting his legs tangled in the rigging lines before being hauled from the sea during his chaotic first parachute drop.

The Prince, 72, poked fun at himself as he presented new Colours to the Parachute Regiment at Merville Barracks, Colchester.

He was 23 when he made his first drop – from an Hawker Siddeley Andover into Studland Bay, Dorset – while training as a jet pilot during a four-month attachment with the RAF in July 1971.

However, his efforts did not quite go according to plan, which may explain why, on his appointment as Colonel in Chief of the regiment in 1977, he asked to join a parachute training course at RAF Brize Norton the following year.

The Prince told the regiment: “I find it hard to believe that it has been forty-four years since I became your Colonel in Chief and nearly fifty years since I made my first parachute drop – initially upside down with my legs in the rigging lines – into Studland Bay, Dorset, where I was hauled out of the water by the Royal Marines.”

Prince Charles jumps from the Hawker Siddeley Andover aircracft

Credit: PA Archive

The new Regimental Colours will replace those presented to the battalions in Aldershot in 1998. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the once-in-a-generation parade was socially distance, and the 500 guests seated in family bubbles around the parade square. 

The Prince arrived by helicopter before inspecting the old Colours outside the headquarters of 16th Air Assault Brigade. There was a two-gun royal salute before he inspected the ranks, taking time to speak to troops as he went.

Prince Charles looks on during a ceremony to present new Colours at Merville Barracks, Colchester

Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/REUTERS

He then formally presented the new Colours and they were blessed.

“The Colours I present today on behalf of the Queen continue to symbolise your loyalty and distinguished pedigree of which you can all be justifiably proud,” he said.

The Prince also added that they would play a crucial role fighting against the "hybrid threats" currently faced by the UK.

Prince Charles speaks to members of the Red Devils, the Parachute Regiment's parachute display team

Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/Getty Images

“Whilst our commitment in Afghanistan draws to a close, great power rivalry continues to present real security challenges and there are a wide array of hybrid threats we now face, from both state and non-state actors which require you to be more ready, more deployable and persistently engaged abroad,” he said.

“You will all play a crucial role in supporting this increased forward presence through the Global Response Force, held as you often are, at very high readiness alongside the 1st Aviation Brigade, ready to respond to emerging crises and warfighting.”

A flypast of three Tiger Moth planes, two Apache helicopters, and an A400 transporter plane followed, before the Red Devils Parachute Display Team dropped into the parade square with red smoke trailing from their boots.

They presented Prince Charles with a Denison Smock, a type of jacket used by the parachute regiment, that he wore on his first parachute drop in 1971.

After the ceremony, the Prince spoke to more soldiers, veterans and families at an outdoor reception.