The Squadron was flown in three RAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft from Ascension Island, and parachuted onto a Drop Zone at Yongro, near Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. The drop was part of a series of military demonstrations that were carried out by the British military to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to the Sierra Leone Government and to reassure the people of Sierra Leone.
These demonstrations of military capability were intended to send a clear message to the Rebel United Front and their Liberian backers, who were threatening the stability of the country, that British Forces could arrive at any time and place and conduct aggressive military operations if required.
The drop was planned as intelligence had uncovered that a meeting was planned between an RUF leader and his Liberian backers to discuss illegal diamond trading. The drop was therefore well publicised and was watched by the President of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Kabbah his Minister of Defence and Chief of Police as well as many journalists. As a consequence, there was widespread media coverage at the time and as a result the meeting between the RUF and the Liberians did not happen.
After landing, the Gunners of II Squadron carried out some joint activities with UNAMSIL military personnel from the deployed United Nations mission in Sierra Leone and also carried out public demonstrations of the General Purpose Machine Gun and Mortars together with some jungle patrols.
Operation Silkman was the last phase of the British military action to support the Government of Sierra Leone the successful campaign against the Rebel United Front. The parachute drop followed on from a large scale amphibious assault demonstration that the British military had carried out the previous November. Op Silkman ended the following year with the Sierra Leone Government and their military in control of the country.
The parachute drop was the first British mass-parachute airborne operation since Suez in 1956.
An oil painting by Keith Woodcock was commissioned showing the descent and hangs in II Squadron’s History Room at RAF Brize Norton.