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Special Air Service (SAS)

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Special Air Service (SAS)
Special Air Service (SAS) in Sierra Leone, May 12 2000.
[Photo: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley.]

Unit Profile

The Special Air Service is the United Kingdom's all round Special Force Unit. It was founded during World War II by David Stirling. The unit was initially created as a desert raiding force to weaken the German North African logistic network as well as the German Luftwaffe. After the war the unit became part of the British Territorial Army but in the wake of the Cold War re-established again.

They have been engaged in most major British armed conflicts since the Malayan emergency in 1952.

During this period the unit was increased rapidly including the foundation of C Squadrom made up from volunteers from Rhodesia. After Malaya they then returned to Southern Rhodesia, and were based in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) until the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. They then moved to Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia.

They then took part in numerous training exercises with their parent unit in Aden until UDI was declared in 1965. They then changed their name to the Rhodesian Special Air Service Regiment. After the Mugabe government took power, the Rhodesian SAS ceased to exist, but 'C' Squadron is still registered on the British SAS Order of Battle (Orbat).

The Regiment's counter-terrorism role began also in the 1950's. However the regular SAS did not obtain special financing to develop this capability until the 1970's after the Munich Tragedy in 1972. The unit became well known after their assault on the hijacked Iranian embassy in 1982.

Mission

  • Primary mission: Unconventional Warfare;
  • Secondary mission: Long range reconnaissance, internal security duties.

Raised and Disbanded

  • Raised: July 1941 L Detachment Special Air Service Brigade;
  • Redesignated: September 28th 1942: 1st Special Air Service Regiment;
  • Redesignated: January 1943: 1st Special Air Service Regiment;
  • Redesignated: March 1944: Special Air Service Brigade;
  • Disbanded: October 8th 1945;
  • Raised: 1947 21 Special Air Service;
  • Raised: 1952 22 Special Air Service;
  • Raised: 1959 23 Special Air Service.

Units

  • L Detachment Special Air Service
  • Brigade Headquarters
  • P-Phantom Squad
  • 1 Special Air Service
  • 2 Special Air Service
  • 3 Special Air Service (French 2eme Regiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes)
  • 4 Special Air Service (French 3eme Regiments de Chasseurs Parachutistes)
  • 5 Special Air Service (Belgium Independent Para-Commando Company)
  • 21 Special Air Service Regiment
  • 22 Special Air service Regiment
  • 23 Special Air Service Regiment
  • 63 Special Air Service Signals Squadron

Headquarters

  • 1 SAS: Kabrit, Suez Canal Zone, Egypt (1941-43)
  • 2 SAS: Phillipeville, Algeria then Noci, near Taranto, Italy (1943)
  • Brigade HQ: Moor Park Golf Course, near Ricksmanworth, Hertfordshire (1944); regimental HQ's in the South East and East of United Kingdom.
  • Hereford, United Kingdom (1954-1999)
  • Credenhill, United Kingdom (1999)

History

Origin

While recovering in the Alexandrian military hospital Lieutenant David Stirling from the near fatal parachuting injury that had left him temporarily blind and paralysed. He conceived of a unit that could be inserted behind enemy lines by parachute or submarine, and would strike at vulnerable enemy line-of-communication targets such as airbases and fuel dumps, making up for by surprise the small number of men involved. Stirling managed to get into GHQ Cairo without a pass, and whilst trying to dodge the security ended up in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff Middle East Forces, General Ritchie. Taking advantage of the situation Stirling presented his hand-written memo to Ritchie. Ritchie read the memo and said it was something he was looking for, and would pass it to the Commander-in-Chief General Auchinleck for his consideration. The newly appointed Auchinleck liked the idea, as it was a modest proposal with excellent prospects if it succeeded and few casualties if it failed. He authorised the creation of L Detachment Special Air Service Brigade, and Stirling was promoted to Captain.

L Detachment Special Air Service

L Detachment Special Air Service Brigade was named after a fictious paratroop formation that the British were trying to persuade the Germans was in North Africa. There was already a K detachment, and the 'L' may have been named after Layforce, the Commando taskforce sent to North Africa that Stirling had been part of. The unit reported directly the Auchinleck as it didn't have a parent unit - Stirling had been careful to avoid the controlling clutches of G(R) (S.O.E in the Middle East) and the Director of Combined Operations to maintain his independence. He set about recruiting men and officers from Layforce, mainly former No.8 Commandos as this had been Stirling's original unit. Jock Lewes and Paddy Mayne were two officers Stirling made a special effort in recruiting, and both would feature prominently in the SAS's history. Training for the new unit was tough and included explosives, navigation, parachuting and night movement. Expert handling of all Allied and Axis weaponry was expected and trained for. Troopers were also expected to be in good physical condition. When in base Stirling expected Guardsmen-like behaviour and turnout from his troops. Aggression was to be reserved for the enemy. The unit's famous insignia, the flaming sword of Excalibur, commonly mistaken as a winged dagger, was adopted after the training period. The famous beige berets were introduced after a disastrous white beret was tried. Insignia like this for such a small unit would have normally been unheard of in the British Army, but General Auchinleck approved them when he met Stirling wearing the beret and insignia at Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo.

Operations

December 14th 1941 Raid Agheilia Airfield
December 21st 1941 Raid Agedabia Airfield
March 8th 1942 Raid Barce and Berka Airfields
March 25th 1942 Raid Benina Airfield
June 13th 1942 Raid Benina and Berka Airfields
July 7th 1942 Raid Bagoush, El Daba and Fuka Airfields
July 12th 1942 Raid Fuka Airfield
July 26th 1942 Raid Sidi Haneish Airfield
July 12th 1943 Operation Chestnut Raids supporting Sicily invasion
July 1943 Operation Narcissus Capture of lighthouse, Sicily
September 3rd 1943 Operation Baytown Capture of the Italian port of Bagnara
September 7th 1943 Operation Speedwell Raids in Northern Italy
October 2nd - 6th 1943 Operation Begonia/Jonquil Rescue and evacuation of POW's, Italy
October 27th 1943 Operation Candytuft Raid on railroad targets, East Italy
1944 Operation Driftwood Raid of railroad targets, Italy
January 7th 1944 Operation Maple Abortive SAS attempt to support Anzio landings
January 30th 1944 Operation Baobab Support Anzio landings
June 6th 1944 Operation Titanic Diversion attacks in support of Operation Overlord
June 6th 1944 - July 3rd 1944 Operation Bullbasket Raids on railroad targets, delaying German reinforcements in France
June 6th 1944 Operation Dingson Raids in Brittany, France
June 6th 1944 - June 9th 1944 Operation Samwest Raids in Brittany, France
June 6th 1944 - June 21st 1944 Operation Houndsworth Raids on railroad targets West of Dijon, France
June 6th 1944 - August 15th 1944 Operation Gain Raids on communication lines, Southwest of Paris, France
June 7th 1944 Operation Cooney Raids on railroad targets, France
June 1944 Operation Nelson Abortive operation in the Orleans Gap
June 23rd 1944 - July 18th 1944 Operation Lost Raids in Brittany France. Over 2,000 German casualties claimed.
July 1944 Operation Gaff Attempt to kill Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, France
July 1944 Operation Defoe Patrols in Normandy, France
July 8th 1944 - August 11th 1944 Operation Hast Intelligence mission in Northern France
July 16th 1944 - August 11th 1944 Operation Dickens Raids on railroad targets near Nantes, France
August 1944 Operation Dunhill Raid in support of the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, France
August 1944 Operation Noah Raids on retreating Germans, Belgium
August 11th 1944 - August 24th 1944 Operation Marshall Raids in Northern France
August 12th 1944 - October 9th 1944 Operation Loyton Intelligence mission in Northern France
August 13th 1944 - August 19th 1944 Operation Snelgrove Arming and training of the French Maquis in Southern France
August 13th 1944 - August 19th 1944 Operation Barker Support of the US army in its advance through France
August 13th 1944 - September 24th 1944 Operation Harrod Disruption German movement in Central France
August 13th 1944 - September 26th 1944 Operation Kipling Disruptive operations that lead to the surrender of 3,000 German troops
August 15th 1944 - September 9th 1944 Operation Jockworth Disruption German troops in Southeast France
August 16th 1944 - September 13th 1944 Operation Noah Intelligence mission in French Ardennes
August 19th 1944 - September 11th 1944 Operation Newton Disruptive operations  against German troops in Central France
August 19th 1944 - September 19th 1944 Operation Wallace Raids near Dijon, France
August 26th 1944 - September 3rd 1944 Operation Wolsey Intelligence mission in Northeast France
August 28th 1944 - September 1st 1944 Operation Benson Intelligence mission in Northeast France
August 29th 1944 - September 14th 1944 Operation Spenser Raids on German installations and troops in Northern France
September 2nd 1944 - September 15th 1944 Operation Brutus Intelligence mission in Belgium Ardennes
September 6th 1944 - September 11th 1944 Operation Caliban Disrupting communication lines in Northeast Belgium
September 15th 1944 - October 3rd 1944 Operation Pistol Raids on railroad targets in Eastern France
September 16th 1944 - March 14th 1945 Operation Fabian Intelligence mission in Arnhem area, the Netherlands
September 27th 1944 - March 17th 1945 Operation Gobbo Intelligence mission in Drenthe, the Netherlands
December 24th 1944 - January 25th 1945 Operation Franklin Support of US Army during the German Ardennes offensive
December 27th 1944 - February 14th 1945 Operation Galia Intelligence mission in Northern Italy
December 27th 1944 - January 15th 1945 Operation Regent Disrupting raids German Ardennes offensive
January 1945 Operation Canuck Operation in Northern Italy
February 1945 Operation Cold Comfort/Zombie Failed raid on railroad targets near Verona, Italy
March 1945 - May 1945 Operation Archway Support British 21st Army Group into Germany
March 4th 1945 - April 24th 1945 Operation Tombola Major operations around Bologna, Italy
April 1945 Operation Amherst Airborne raid in North of the Netherlands
April 3rd 1945 - April 18th 1945 Operation Keystone Operations near Ijsselmeer, The Netherlands
April 3rd 1945 - April 18th 1945 Operation Larkswood Raids in Northern Germany
April 6th 1945 - May 6th 1945 Operation Howard Raids in Northeast Geramny
May 1945 Operation Apostle Disarming German garrison Norway
1950 -1960 Malayan Incident Campaign against communist guerrillas
November 1958 - January 1959 Jebel Akhdar campaign in Northern Oman
June 1964 - 1966 Operation Claret Jungle patrols against Indonesian Forces and rebels in Borneo
1964 - November 1967 Operations against tribesman in Radfan area and guerrillas in port of Aden, Aden
1970 - 1976 Operations against communist guerrillas, Oman
1972 Wet jump with SBS members to search the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth II for a bomb
May 1977 Advisors in a simultaneous train and school hostage rescue by the BBE in the Netherlands
October 1977 Advisors in an aircraft hostage rescue by Germany's GSG-9 in Mogadishu, Somalia
1980 Intelligence mission in Afghanistan
Intelligence missions in Beirut
May 5th 1980 Operation Nimrod SAS operators rescue of hostages in the Iranian embassy in London, United Kingdom
July 1981 Help to restore President Jawara's power, Gambia
April - June 1982 Falkland War
1985 Thailand, One officer and six other ranks train Cambodian resistance groups to fight the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.
May 8th 1987 Eight members of the East Trone Brigade of the IRA are ambushed during an assault on Loughall Police station
October 2nd 1987   SAS operators rescue kidnapped prison officer in Scottish Peterhead prison
March 6th 1988 Operation Flavius Operation against the IRA in Gibraltar
1989 Advisors in anti drug operations in Columbia
January - February 1991 Operation Desert Storm Iraq
May 1991 Rescue of the Ethiopian Royal family
1993 Advisors in Waco Siege, United States
1997 Advisors in hostage rescue Japanese Embassy, Peru
1997 Rescue of Albanian orphanage rescue workers, Albania
1997 - 2000 Search and arrest of Yugoslavian War criminals
March 1998 Evacuation of Robert Welch
1999 - 2000 Operation Agricola IV Kosovo
1999 Arrest of war criminal General Stanislav Galic in Bosnia-Herzegovina
2000 Sierra Leone
2001 Intelligence mission in Macedonia
2001 - 2002 Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan
August 2002 Intelligence mission border Zimbabwe and South Africa
2003 - 2004 Operation Iraqi Freedom Iraq

Organization

July 1941

  • L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade

January 1942

  • L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade
  • Premier Compagnie de Chasseur Parachutistes
  • Special Boat Section

March 1942

  • L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade
  • Premier Compagnie de Chasseur Parachutistes
  • Special Boat Section
  • Helios Lokos (Greek "Sacred Squadron")

June 1942

  • L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade
  • Premier Compagnie de Chasseur Parachutistes
  • Special Boat Section
  • Helios Lokos (Greek "Sacred Squadron")
  • Special Interrogation Group

October 1942

  • 1st Special Air Service Regiment
  • Premier Compagnie de Chasseur Parachutistes
  • Special Boat Section
  • Helios Lokos (Greek "Sacred Squadron")

November 1942

  • 1st Special Air Service Regiment
  • 2nd Special Air Service Regiment (formed from Commando 62 to be activated May 1942)
  • Premier Compagnie de Chasseur Parachutistes
  • Special Boat Section
  • Helios Lokos (Greek "Sacred Squadron")

April 1943

  • Special Raiding Squadron
  • Special Boat Squadron
  • 2nd Special Air Service Regiment (to be activated May 1942)

January 1944

  • Special Air Service Brigade
    • 1 S.A.S.
    • 2 S.A.S.
    • 3 S.A.S. (December 31st 1943, 3eme Bon d'Infantrie de l'Air) (July 1st 1944, 3eme Regiments de Chausseurs Parachutistes)
    • 4 S.A.S. (December 31st 1943, 3eme Bon d'Infantrie de l'Air) (July 1st 1944, 4eme Regiments de Chausseurs Parachutistes)
    • 5 S.A.S. (Independent Belgium Squadron)
    • F Squad (Phantom)
    • Special Boat Squadron

Territorial Army 21 Special Air Service Regiment

1946

  • 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) (Volunteers)

1967

  • HQ at Chelsea, London
  • A and B Squadrons at Chelsea, London
  • C Squadron at Hitchin
  • D Squadron at Portsmouth

1994

  • A Squadron at Chelsea, London
  • B Squadron at Raglan Barracks, Newport
  • C Squadron at Portsmouth

22 Special Air Service Regiment

  • Headquarters Planning and Intelligence
  • Operations Research Wing
  • Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing (Special Projects Team)
  • Training Wing
  • 264 Special Air Service signals Squadron
  • Attached Specialists Units
  • Sabre Squadrons
    • A Squadron
      • Squadron Headquarters
      • Air Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Boat Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mobility Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mountain Troop ( four, four men patrols)
    • B Squadron
      • Squadron Headquarters
      • Air Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Boat Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mobility Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mountain Troop ( four, four men patrols)
    • D Squadron
      • Squadron Headquarters
      • Air Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Boat Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mobility Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mountain Troop ( four, four men patrols)
    • G Squadron
      • Squadron Headquarters
      • Air Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Boat Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mobility Troop ( four, four men patrols)
      • Mountain Troop ( four, four men patrols)
    • R Squadron (reserve)

Territorial Army 23 Special Air Service Regiment

1967

  • HQ in Birmingham
  • A Squadron at Solihull
  • B Squadron at Leeds
  • C Squadron at Rotherham
  • D Squadron at Invergowrie

1 April 1975

  • A Squadron relocated to Port Glasgow

1994

  • D Squadron at Ivergowrie with detachment at Port Glasgow
  • B Squadron at Sandyford, Newcastle
  • G Squadron at Manchester

1 July 1999

  • D Squadron redesignated A Squadron
  • New B Squadron at Leeds
  • B Squadron and G Squadron merged to form C Squadron

Video: SAS Survival Secrets (Episode 1/7 - Part 1/6)

References


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