A group of 18 nurses and healthcare assistants from Colchester Hospital’s critical care unit took on the skydive to raise vital funds for their ward and the Support Our Paras charity.

Maria Wallis, one of the jumpers taking on the challenge, said the experience was like “nothing she’d ever done before”.

“Everyone had the best day, and the weather was perfect,” said Maria.

The 42-year-old nurse from Wivenhoe added: “The skies were really clear – we were very lucky. It was a beautiful view, and we could see the curvature of the earth.”

It was a long day for the team, who set off on their journey from Colchester to Netheravon Airfield, Wiltshire, at 4am last Friday.

On arrival they met their instructors – none other than the British Army’s parachute display team The Red Devils, who completed essential training with the nurses before flying them in groups of six to 13,000 feet.

After reaching the right altitude, each team member completed a 45-second freefall while strapped to their Red Devils instructor, followed by a four-to-five-minute parachute descent.

Asked if she’d do it again, the answer was simple for Maria: “Absolutely.

“I’d have gone straight back up the minute my feet touched the ground if I could.”

The challenge was inspired by Keith Cameron, better known as Ned.

The retired paratrooper started working as a healthcare assistant at the hospital during the Covid pandemic and insisted if his colleagues were going to do the jump, they had to do it with the best in the business.

So far, the team has raised around £4,000 for the two causes.

The funds raised for Support Our Paras will help the charity to look after veterans, serving soldiers, and families within the airborne community, while the critical care unit will benefit from new equipment.

To add to their total, visit JustGiving.

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