Special Air Service
SAS Motto: Who Dares Wins
SAS Headquarters: The SAS has moved to Credenhill, a former RAF base. The move has been in the works for some time.
To give a detailed account of the history of the British SAS during
World War II would take a book. However due to the fact that we can't provide
the space for a detailed account of there actions, we can give a brief
history of the unit and it role during World War II.
The British SAS (Special Air Service) is one of the world's premier special forces teams. The history of the SAS dates back to WWII, when Captain David Stirling developed the concept while recuperating from a parachute accident. David Stirling attempted to propose his idea to the CO. The guards at the gate wouldn't let him into the building, so Stirling jumped the fence and proceeded to walk into the office.The SAS was initially created as a desert raiding force to weaken Rommel's North African logistics network as well as hinder aircraft operations. Their first successful raid happened in December of 1941, when two groups destroyed 61 aircraft at two airfields.When the force ran out of explosives, SAS soldiers began to use their personal weapons to shoot out the controls. One man, Paddy Mayne, proceeded to rip out the controls with his hands.Another raid was launched soon after; this time twenty seven airplanes were destroyed.
The SAS operated in Europe as well; in one operation (codenamed Houndsmith),144 men were parachuted with jeeps and supplies into an area close to Dijon, France. All told, the SAS inflicted 7,733 German casualties in Europe. 4,784 prisoners were captured and 700 vehicles were destroyed or captured. 164 railways were cut, seven trains were destroyed and thirty-three were derailed. The SAS was also used to "mop up" German war criminals. They hunted down head SS and Gestapo agents and brought them before the War Crimes Tribune.
David Stirling was knighted in 1990. He died a few months later at the
age of 74. He was awarded the OBE and DSO for actions during WWII. He was
nicknamed the "Phantom Major" by his peers. During World War II ,Sir David
Stirling was captured by the Germans. Although Hitler had ordered all "special
forces" (OSS and SAS) to be executed, David Stirling escaped executions
by not saying anything about himself. He was held in various prisons. He
proceeded to escape four times, each time being caught. He never gave up
though. He was finally moved to Colditz for the rest of the war. His brother,
William Stirling, took over his command while David was held prisoner.
Once proficient with that the new troopers will learn methods of infiltration. One of the main forms of transportation is still the Klepper folding kayak. The Klepper was designed during WWII for use by the SAS and Royal Marine Commandos. It has been in service ever since and will probably remain that way for a long time. They will also learn how to handle certain types of boats. Fast patrol boats have a fiberglass hull with an inflatable lip over the top to increase it bouancy and allow for better maneuverability. Rigid Raider boats have also been around for a long time. These are large boats often used to help carry larger amounts of people or cargo to the shore. Also in use is the Gemini inflatable boat. It is used primarily for sending small groups of soldiers onto a shore undetected.
Locking out of submarines is also taught. This is a very dangerous thing to do. At certain depths the pressure could kill him, if the cold,lack of oxygen, or dark doesn't get to him first. While the SAS would probably not be called upon to assault an oil rig or take down a ship, these are still practiced. When performing these operations, the men usually wear dry suits so that they don't come down with hypothermia. The point man in the group will normally carry the MP5 SD to take out any sentry who may be standing guard. Long rope type ladders (commonly referred to as Jacob's Ladders) are attached to a ship or oil rig using a telescopic pole. The assault team will then use the ladders to gain entry. Snipers are usually put on smaller boats near the target(usually smaller ships to hide among regular sea traffic), or they may be left in the boats to provide security, or they can even be flown in quickly via helicopter as the assault begins. Assaults like these will usually be carried out by members of the SBS.
Demolitions is also a big part of diving. The soldiers must be able to stop a ship or blow up a bridge. Navigations underwater is also taught. All navigation is done using a compass. Being lost underwater, in hostile territory is not a good day. The men also practice heliborne entry into the water. a helicopter some 50 feet above the water will go into the hover and the men will simply jump out . Parachute drops in the water are also very common. The soldiers have to seal their weapons to avoid them getting a jam. This is normally done with either a "dry bag" or using a condom to roll down over the barrel. This has proven to be an effective way of stopping the weapon from jamming.
When a new soldier is assigned to a Mobility Troop, they must master all the skills of an experienced mechanic. They must also learn how to fix a problem while under stress. A lot of Mobility Troop are ex-REME. Their are many types of vehicles in use by the SAS today. Probably the most well known is the "Pink Panther" or "Pinky", so called because the color of it is almost a pink color. These are modified Land Rover 110s. They can be armed with a mixture of weapons, such as the Browning .50 Machine gun, Mk-19 40mm grenade launcher, twin or single GPMGs, and the Milan Anti-Tank Weapon. Mobility Troop also has the Land Rover 90s. These are smaller versions of the 110, but lack weapon mounts. Also in limited use is the LSV, or Light Strike Vehicle. It is a two seat dune buggy with a mount for a .50 machine gun or Mk-19 40mm grenade launcher. Also available is the Honda 350cc Quad. It is small and can be held easily in a helicopter or small boat. Last but certainly not least is the Honda 250cc motorbike. It is quiet and can be used for forward reconnaissance. During Desert Storm, the motorbikes proved to be invaluable. One "outrider" was on a patrol with a few other bikes deep behind enemy lines. When they the Iraqis spotted the bikes they took off and the SAS went after them. The outriders pulled in front of the trucks and made them stop. When the rest of the soldiers enganged the trucks two outriders got caught in the cross fire. One died.
Air Troop has two favored ways of infiltration. These are HALO (high altitude, low opening) or HAHO (high altitude, high opening). HALO jumps take place at about 25,000 feet usually. The soldier will jump out and free fall till about 2,000 feet and open his chute. This allows the parachutist to land close to a target yet the plane will never be seen or heard. Both of these types of parachuting are very dangerous. Parachuting with heavy loads, the thin silk parachutes can collapse quite easily in the thin air.
Air Troop personnel must wear large, pilot type helmets when jumping from high altitudes. An oxygen mask is hooked onto it. This provides the soldier with air while he is parachuting. The trooper must also wear goggles so he can see. His equipment is carried between is legs and is lowered on a cord just prior to landing on the ground. His weapon will be carried under one of his arms, ready to fire. The soldier will also wear an altimeter on his wrist and heavy clothes to protect him from the cold. A reserve chute is usually carried in the front.
After the war, the SAS saw action in Oman, Aden, Malaya, Borneo, and to some extent, Vietnam (apparently in U.S., Australian, or New Zealand uniforms).These operations were mainly of the counterinsurgency type. They have also been deployed in Ulster against the IRA, with some twenty-five IRA members being killed by the SAS in the eleven years between 1976 and 1987.
The Falklands War
They also saw extensive action in the Falklands war. Teams infiltrated various points for reconnaissance missions. An Argentine submarine was attacked in Cumberland bay. RN Harriers were guided in at Port Stanley after a team spotted Argentine helicopters being redeployed. An airfield at Pebble island was raided; eleven aircraft were destroyed at the cost of one SAS member being injured.
The Falklands was also the new testing ground for Stinger Missile. The Stinger is a hand held surface to air missile. During the Falklands, the Stinger saw limited use with the SAS. The SAS now carries the weapon in it's arsenal. The Stinger was used to shoot down low flying Argentinean jets. Although one report claims a soldier also shot one out of the sky with a GPMG. The Stinger case however is proven. The Stinger was bought from 1st SFOD-D at the very beginning of the war.
Although much of the conflict went off without a hitch, a few tradgies did occur. An SBS patrol happened to walk into an SAS patrol, which was dug in. The SAS noticed Argentinean webbing (which the SBS was wearing) and proceeded to fire on them. When the firing stopped, an SBS Marine lay dead. Also while moving members of the SAS from one ship to another tragedy struck. A helicopter carrying the SAS soldiers ditched off the Falklands coast, killing 18 SAS men.
The Iranian Embassy Siege
Their most famous operation was the assault of the Iranian embassy in May of 1980. Iranian Terrorist opposing Kohmeni's rule seized the embassy and twenty-six hostages. An eight man team rappelled from the roof while a four man team reached a balcony from adjoining buildings. Another team reportedly blew a whole in a previously weakened plaster wall. Only one terrorist had survived; he had hid within a group of female hostages who were protecting him.
The Gulf War
During the Gulf War, SAS teams were inserted deep within Iraq to search
for mobile Scud launchers. They would locate the launchers and then call
in air strikes or dispatch the missiles themselves. Within nine days of
the war's beginning, Scud launches from the SAS' area of responsibility
had completely stopped.
On January 22, 1991, an 8 man team (codenamed Bravo Two Zero) was dropped deep behind Iraqi lines.The team was compromised the day after it was inserted and tried to escape west to Syria; 100 miles away . The team became split up. They endured the worst weather the region had experience in 30 years . Of the original eight-man team three were killed and four were captured. One man managed to make it across the Syrian border and to safety, a journey of 180 miles, on foot. Four members managed to steal a car and drive to within eight miles of the border. Hitting a military checkpoint, they left the car (as well as the dead guard) and ran for the border. In the mad flight to the border three SAS soldiers were killed. Two men were killed during fire fights, one was providing cover fire for other members of the patrol.The other one was killed while trying to steal a car from a couple of Iraqi soldiers. One member died from hypothermia.One man managed to get within 2-3 miles but the remaining four SAS member were captured and tortured. In their flight it is reported that this eight-man team killed around 250 soldiers before they were killed or captured.
SAS patrols penetrated deep inside of Iraq, at one point a "mobile" fighting column from A Squadron was just 18 kilometers outside of Baghdad. The SAS played an important role in Iraq; they prevented Israelis from entering the war.
In February of 1998 a Squadron of SAS soldiers were sent to the Gulf again, when Saddam Hussien threatened another war. The main role for the SAS during this operations was to rescue downed pilots, however it was speculated that they were also tasked with reconnaissance.
In October 1987, the SAS were called up again to stop a problem in their own country. However this operation would include no guns. The SAS were called in to Peterhead Prison in Scotland. Prisoners had taken over the prison and needed to be subdued. The SAS was the only unit at the time with the means to carry out such a mission.
The team pumped a mixture of smoke and tear gas into the building. Once that was completed, an assault team made entry. They entered the building through a hole in the ceiling that the prisoners had made. Instead of MP-5s, the SAS Team was armed with long staves(batons). The Team approached the hole to be greeted by a prisoner. Usuing a flash-bang, the team quickly subdued the prisoner. Another problem needed to be taken care of. A prison guard was also being held by the prisoners. The team found the officer and quickly hurried him out of the building toward more waiting SAS soldiers.
The prison assault showed everyone that the SAS was capable of using their best judgment for each situation. It showed the public that guns are not always needed to achieve a victory.
On March 16th, 1998 a 4-man SAS patrol was sent to a southern part of
Albania to rescue an aid worker named Robert Welch.The SAS team located
Welch and quickly bundled him away. The men arrived via Land Rovers
and proceeded to the coast line. Once at the coast the patrol was greeted
by two helicopters. One was a support helicopter and the other carried
a security force. The security force wasted no time in setting up perimeter
to secure the boarding. The Land Rover was driven straight into the belly
of the huge Chinook helicopter. The operation went off without a hitch.
One of the first things people think about when they hear "SAS"(besides soldiers in black kit storming a building)is Selection. Selection is designed to break people. Only about 10 out of 125 will make it. For any soldier Selection is the ultimate test of endurance and mental strain. Selection is broken down into 3 phases.
The first part is the Special Forces Briefing Course. This is a joint three day class to show potential SAS and SBS recruits what is expected of them. Class room lectures and physical training take place. You MUST pass this course to be allowed onto Selection. They are shown films and are given the chance to get some insight into Selection. For certain reasons this is not considered(by SpecWar Net)to be one of the THREE MAIN phases of Selection. This should be combined with the first part.
The First three weeks of Selection is held mostly in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains in Wales. Soldiers are expected to increase their weight in their bergens (rucks) and distances will also become greater. If a soldier fails a test more then twice is RTUed(Returned To Unit). The soldier is allowed to repeat the course again if he is willing. One of the most notorious parts is the "Fan Dance". This is a march over the Brecons. It should take about 4 hours to complete. Another part and probably the most famous, is the Long Drag. It is held on the last day of the three weeks. It is about 40 miles over the Brecons. The soldier willl now be carrying a 55 pound bergen (if it is under weight a DS will make sure you get the proper weight). Remember this doesn't include water and food! The passing times range from 20 to 24 hours to complete this course. Although TA members get a little slack (about 30 min.). If the weather is good try to get in under 20 hours.
It is important to remember that your bergen weight includes water or food. Bergen weights will vary through out the course. It will range from 30 pounds to 70 pounds, with an average of about 50 to 55 pounds. Blisters are common, and they should be taken care of quickly. By this point maybe about 40 men are left.
Jungle Phase is the next hurdle. SAS and SBS soldiers will be integrated into patrols. You will learn to travel, live, and fight in the jungle. The jungle will have different affects on people. Some will enjoy it, others will hate it. Disease is also another thing to worry about. Everything has to be taken care of (cuts, blisters, and eating equipment)to prevent sickness which may get you kicked off the course. "It is good advice to get yourself into the jungle before you attend Selection", says Barry Davies (18 year veteran of the SAS) in his new book Joining the SAS. In the jungle you will learn to fight and use demolitions. Also the art of making a camp is also taught. Rain is almost non-stop, so equipment must be looked after.
By the end of the Jungle Phase, only about 20 men will be left. It is time to move on to Escape and Evasion and TQ( or Tactical Questioning). E&E is taught my members of the SAS and SBS. The soldiers learn how to catch food and live off the land. Former POWs (or Prisoners Of War)also talk to the classes. They tell them about their situations and how they made it. Escaping is also taught. The Course ends with a final exercise. The men are paired up with other students (no SAS or SBS personel are put together)from other branches and units, such as pilots from the RAF and RN and other units. The men are given only old WWII jackets and some ripped pants, and boots that are barely being held together. They are then turned loose in a large wooded area. The men must check in with various check points. The soldiers are on the run usually for about 3 days. A "hunter force" is always in pursuit. These forces are usually from other Army units, such as the Paras, Gurkhas, or Green Jackets. They are tasked with hunting down the recruits. By the end ALL the recruits are captured. Now they face TQ. TQ is usually considered an easy part Selection. They must stick to the "Big 4" and say nothing else except, "I'm sorry I can't answer that question sir/mam." Women are sometimes brought in, and the men are forced to strip. The women then makes jokes about the man's body parts. It is not usually seen as hard by the SAS although, usually one or two men fail.
After completion the remaining class will go it's separate ways. Royal
Marines are given the chance to say whether they want to go onto the SBS
and even more training and Selection or whether they would like to stay
on with the SAS. For the SAS men, this is a great moment, when they receive
the beret and famous "Winged Dagger" beret badge. Training is far from
over though. For the SBS men they will go on to Poole where they will learn
the trade of their unit. But that is another
TA SAS and R Squadron
In 1947 the Artists Rifles was combined with 21 SAS to form 21 SAS (Artists) Vounteers.The 2 and one in 21 stood for 1 and 2 SAS (in reversed order). In 1959 23 SAS was born, a unit made up of the former MI-9 escape experts of World War II. The two Territorial Army SAS Regiments are still 21 and 23 SAS. These Regiments train to the limits like their sister unit, 22 SAS. They are made up of Territorial volunteers. A civilian can attempt to join the ranks of either 21 or 23 SAS. The two Regiments war time role is long range recon. Each squadron also has a member of 22 SAS attached to it. In early 1990's the TA SAS sent some of it's men to Bosnia to act as peacekeepers to help relieve the SAS of such tasks. This was done so 22 SAS could continue with missions, such as hunting down war criminals and performing reconnaissance(1). The team was a mixed group of volunteers from 21 and 23 SAS.
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21 SAS is based in London. It does however have squadrons spread over much of England including: Dulwich, Hitchin, Bramley, and Newport. 23 SAS is based in Birmingham with other squadrons in Manchester,Leeds, Newcastle, Dundee, and Glasgow. The two regiments were cut from 5 squadrons a piece to only three in 1994.
Selection for the TA SAS is held over a nine month period, in which candidates are expected to keep in top physical shape. Selection is only held on the weekends and one night a week. Although it is held only on weekends, TA SAS Selection is still extremely hard. Every candidate must first pass a Pre-Selection. This includes a timed run and ruck marches over the hills. The students will go to the Brecons to get a taste of Selection. As Selection continues, SAS students are expected to increase their times over the hills and deal with the additional weight. At the end of the course is the infamous "Long Drag". Long Drag is the longest single ruck march through the Brecons. It is a 60 kilometer march through some of the worlds hardest terrain. Every SAS soldier must pass this. It usually takes about 20 hours to complete although it is said TA SAS candidates get a little slack on that, maybe 30 minutes. At the end every student must also pass escape and evasion and TQ (or Tactical Questioning). At the end of Selection each soldier is sent to RAF Brize Norton for parachute training. One this is done the soldier is allowed to wear the coveted tan beret and winged dagger patch. At the end of Selection, maybe 10% of have passed. On two occasions recruits have been found dead in the Brecons. Regulars from 22 SAS used to see the TA SAS Regiments as a bunch of "weekend warriors", however after General Sir Peter De La Billiere served as Commandant of the SAS he made it a rule that an officer or Senior NCO wishing to gain rank had to serve with the TA SAS. This increased the relationship between the Regiments and laid the ground work for quite a bit of respect among them as well.
Although the wartime role of the TA SAS is long range reconnaissance, TA SAS soldiers have been known to train in CQB as well.23 SAS is also tasked with CSAR. The soldiers are taught about foreign weapons and explosives. They are also given extensive medical and communications training. These last to skills are essential for LRR patrols to master, since they would usually be operating deep behind enemy lines with little or no support. TA soldiers have recently been allowed to go to Jungle Warfare school in Belize, a school which is thought to also except TA SAS soldiers. Training in winter warfare is also taught to TA SAS soldiers; either in Norway or in the highlands of Scotland. The TA SAS used to send its troops to the International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School in Weingarten, Germany. However it is believed that this school is now closed.
The basic weapon carried by TA SAS soldiers is the British SA-80 and the LSW version of the same weapon. The SA-80 is know for not being very reliable. For this reason 22 SAS does not employ this weapon often. The Sterling sub-machine gun was also issued. However this weapon has been taken out of the inventory. It is thought the MP-5 might be in limited use with the TA SAS Regiments. The Browning 9mm handgun is also used as a back-up weapon and in CQB. The American M-16 w/ or w/out M-203 40 mm grenade launcher is also believed to be in limited use.
R Squadron is a little known part of 22 SAS. It is made up of former members of the SAS or British Army. Selection takes place on the Brecon Beascons and is run just like normal Selection. The recruits attend all the same schools and meet most of the same requirements as the Regulars in 22 SAS. During the Gulf War 15 men from R Squadron were called to action to help boost the ranks of A and D Squadron. They took part in the Long Range Patrols behind Iraqi lines. One R Squadron member was killed in Belize during a training operation in the 1980's (will find exact date). R Squadron is believed to take the best former Army Recruits from the TA SAS although this hasn't been confirmed as of yet. R Squadron has now been renamed "L" Detachment after David Stirlings original SAS unit.
(1)Conner,Ken, Ghost Force:The Secret History of
the SAS, Orion, London, 1998 ISBN #: 0 75282 697 2
These biographies include some of the "founding fathers", while others are of people who deserve their story told.
Colonel Sir David Stirling, OBE, DSO
In 1941, David Stirling was injured in a parachute accident. He was bed ridden in Cario, Egypt. While laying in bed, the young officer came up with the idea of a small unit to strike the enemy fast. Using his knowledge of Commando operations, he decided to come up with a new unit. The Commandos had operated in large numbers. Stirling wanted a unit that would operate in 4-5 man teams. Still on crutches he went to propose the idea to senior officers. The guards stopped Stirling and turned him away (this happened a second time as well). Stirling simply walked around to the side of the chain fence and jumped over. Once inside the Senior Officers were so impressed with Stirling they listened to his ideas.
Stirling called his new unit L Detachment Special Air Service. The SAS was born working along side of the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group). The groups mounted raids against German targets with great success. Stirling was captured in 1943. Although Hitler had made it known that any Special Forces soldiers captured were to be executed (and many had been), Stirling never let on who he was. He did what every soldiers feels is his duty when caught, he tried to escape. In fact he did escape four times, but was caught each time. Finally he was placed in Colditz. He was later released after the war.
Stirling has been said to be the "most under-decorated soldier of the war". This is very true, as the "Phatom Major" was responsible for making the SAS what it is today. He was knighted in 1990, but unfortunately died only months later at his home in Scotland.
HQ: Duke of York's Barracks, London
21 SAS Regiment(TA), 23 SAS Regiment(TA), 63 SAS Sig. Sqd.(TA) *
22 SAS Regiment
Training Wing Sabre Squadrons CRW Wing Ops Research Demo Wing 264 SAS Signals
A Squadron B Squadron C Squadron** D Squadron G Squadron R Squadron***
Mountain Troop Boat Troop Mobility Troop Air Troop (each Troop has 15 men)
4-man Patrol 4-man Patrol 4-man Patrol 4-man Patrol
Demo Specialist Medical Specialist Signals Specialist Language Specialist
* These are TA or Terrirtorial Army Regiments
and civilians can join.
This information is NOT classified and can be obtained through many sources. This page is not endorsed nor does it represent that of the MoD, British Army, or the Special Air Service(SAS). The views expressed on this page are the views of the people at SpecWarNet only. This page simply describes the SAS as known to the public and the people at SpecWarNet. This page also serves as a short history of this fine fighting unit. Any topic which was thought to still be classified has been avoided on this page as to stay away from operational security and not to threaten the lives of any SAS soldier serving or retired. For that reason many details about the SAS and the Northern Ireland conflict have not been mentioned.Thank you.