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 Brief History of the SAS Regiment

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PostSubject: Brief History of the SAS Regiment   5th February 2008, 12:19 am



This is a brief insight into the history of the Special Air Service.

It should be noted that in no way is this a complete rendition of the early days.

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was Britain's original Special Force in North Africa, long before the SAS burst on to the scene. With it's unrivalled mastery of the Western Desert, in it's wide ranging and heavily armed trucks, the LRDG even earned the praise of Rommel, the Desert Fox himself, for their skilful reconnaissance, punishing raids and powers of evasion.


The Beginning of the Elite.

In 1941 Capt David Stirling, an officer in the Scots Guards serving with No 8 Commando thought of taking a small highly trained group of men, and making them a mobile raiding force comprising of 4 or 5 soldiers. Although working in teams they would retain their individuality enabaling them to be part of a very elite raiding force. His idea came to fruition when he was granted permission to start with 100 men split into raiding parties. These groups were sent out to infiltrate and attack German supply lines and fuel dumps, a very difficult task with slim odds of success. Never the less it was perceived as a way to hit Romel hard and fast giving an edge to the 8th Army and her allies. Most of the original volunteers were already commando trained but needed to hone special abilities in survival, endurance, camouflage and weapons. Each candidate also had to show the ability to parachute, which was done at the first training camp in Kabrit by jumping from a truck traveling at 30 mph.
As there were no previous standards or requirements to meet, most of the training was perfected by trial and error resulting in a highly efficient and resilient group of “Special Men”. The selected and their methods were then adopted and perfected to the point it became a raw basic requirement for future volunteers.
Later in 1941 the winged dagger, symbolizing the sword Excalibur, with the motto: ‘Who Dares Wins’ was to be worn on the beret. At first the beret was white, and later changed to a sand color to immortalize the color of the sand where the SAS was founded. The SAS’s distinctive wings were originally worn on the right arm and were earned by completing seven parachute jumps. If a man distinguished himself in battle he wore the wings on his left breast.

The first group of Dave Stirling’s Raiders were known as ‘L Detachment’ with a rouse of being accredited to a non- existent Special Air Service Brigade to fool the Germans. Finding himself with an ever speeding watch with time against him Dave Stirling couldn’t afford the 6 months it would have taken to receive the needed supplies for a basic camp. So part of the first task given was to acquire these supplies from the New Zealanders.
It was also proposed that a special bomb should be available for the hit and run tactics the groups were to employ. No ordinary bomb it had to be a two fold method of destruction, an incendiary and explosive device in one.
A specialist Royal Engineers sapper told Stirling it was an impossible task, but after spending two weeks experimenting Sapper Jock Lewis solved the problem. With a mixture of a new material called plastic some used oil and thermite packed together it became known as the Lewis Bomb, and is still taught to the “Special Men”.


The first mission L Detachment was assigned to was in November 1941. A Parachute assault on a German airfield in North Africa, sadly due to very bad weather and high winds the task was very costly for the detachment as only 22 of the 66 survived. There is a speculative and unconfirmed report that the title Twenty Two SAS of present, is in memory of those original 22 survivors. After reevaluation and adopting methods used by the Long Range Desert Group. Dave Stirling's group of avengers learned to cope with the desert and it’s many problems.
Because an ordinary compass proved ineffective in the desert a Sun Compass was eventually invented as were many other survival techniques including making a limited amount of drinking water by fitting a condenser to the vehicle’s radiators, this created a vacuum and allowed steam to cool off resulting in the coolant to be sucked back in for normal vehicle temperature control.

Using an oasis at Jalo the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was used to transport the L Detachment and its supplies to and from their targets.

In December 1941 a raid took place consisting of 12 men over a distance of 350 miles. This time it was a highly successful mission destroying 24 German planes and a fuel dump. It is said that running out of bombs Dave Stirling’s 2i/c Paddy Mayne pulled an instrument panel out of a cockpit with his bare hands? The next day 4 raiders destroyed 37 planes at Agedadia showing the high ups Stirling's ideas of small team raiding parties could be successful . Within the following two weeks 90 planes alone were destroyed. Stirling himself being credited with taking part in a raid at the harbour of Benghazi.

In June 1942 Dave Stirling managed to plunder a number of jeeps and other vehicles fitted with Vickers K machineguns and .50mm Browning‘s. He then raided a German airfield at Sidi Haneish with 18 jeeps and 64 guns taking out or destroying a large number of airplanes.
A Quote to the Brass was “It was damned effective it was a stunning success“ Although a reported six men and there equipment were lost in the attack.
Over time with the reports of success The SAS grew adopting The Greek Sacred Squadron (Artisan’s) and the Special Boat Section of the Royal Marines was added into the command.
Also in 1942 The Special Air Service was Officially presented with Regimental status. Shortly after and contrary to Dave Stirlings original ideas the SAS took part in a large raid on Benghazi and Tobruk. It turned out to be one of the worst disasters to the Regiment. Not only was it an objective too big for the SAS’s special skills. It had also been compromised as the enemy new they were coming. Perhaps it should better be recorded as a suicide mission which proved to be a costly attempt by people who didn’t understand the purpose of the SAS or how and when they should be used.
In 1943 Dave Stirling was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp. It is said he escaped and was recaptured at least four time causing the Germans to imprison him at the notorious Colditz Castle until the end of the war. A lucky man if you concider the fifty officers who were murdered in the great escape for their repeated escape attempts and the high number of Stirling's own men who disappeared from German hands without a trace.
After his Capture Stirlings brother William and Paddy Mayne took over 1 SAS. Paddy Mayne redesignated his group to the Special Raiding Force. While Bill Stirling formed 2 SAS leaving the SBS to become the Special Boat Service under command of Earl Geroge Jellicoe.

During the short life of the SAS the Regiment was measured by the massive destruction of over 400 enemy airplanes and numerous fuel dumps in N Africa. The SAS also saw action behind the lines in Germany, Sicily, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, Norway and the rest of Europe.

After WWII 1st and 2nd SAS were disbanded, but the name recognition and high levels of training and skills were retained by:
3 SAS (French) were amalgamated into 2 Regiment Chasseur Parachutists
4 SAS (French) were amalgamated into 3 Regiment Chasseur Parachutists
5 SAS (Belgian) were amalgamated into the Belgian army becoming 1st Battalion Belgian Para Commando’s.


.
Looking back the early 1950's was a dangerous time around the world, There was the Korean police action! The Malayan Emergency, and the Cold War including the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Now I know the answer, but I will leave it to you to choose from the list below of how and why the SAS were reformed! Of cause your own theories will be just as interesting to read and speculate over!! And no doubt the thousands claiming to have been on the Iranian Embassy roof at Princes Gate will argue for years on this one!!!

1. 1 and 2 SAS were rename and became 1 and 2 Parachute Regiment and were based in Aldershot and Hongkong.

2. Some reports claim with the onset of the Suez Crisis Dave Sterling foresaw a possible Russian involvement in the middle eastern desserts. With no trained forces to protect British interests, he successfully pulled the strings to reform the Special Air Service and their skills learned in the deserts of N Africa during WWII.

3. Another report claims that Lt Col Mike Calvert who was based in Hong Kong at the beginning of the Malayan conflict was tasked with evaluating the communist influence. The result being the formation of the Malayan Scouts and titled A,B and C Squadrons who operated against Communist terrorists in the Malay jungle. In 1953 the Malayan Scouts were renamed the Special Air Service.

4. And yet another report says, the SAS never were disbanded. They created the story to protect themselves against the public perception, of Britain having and using a Mercenary force paid for by the tax payer. During the time of "Suspended Animation" they moved to Bradbury lines at Hereford, later to be called Sterling lines in honor of David Sterling. Over a two to three year period they perfected there training techniques and developed methods of insurgence like the HALO and the ram air parachute. Because the world was changing fast with a continuous threat of a Nuclear winter and a Russian dominance the British wanted to be ready for any possible events.



Foot Note.

It should also be noted that the Special Air Sevice was the first of its kind in the world.

Even the American Special Forces Delta Force is modelled on the SAS and was created in the early 1960s by Col Charles Beckwith, a member of the US Army Special Forces who had served as an exchange officer with the British Special Service (22 SAS Regim
ent).




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