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Special Boat Service (SBS)

motto: Not by Strength, By Guile.

Special Boat Service (SBS)
Two SBS operators in a klepper Canoe.
[Photo: source unknown.]
Special Boat Service (SBS) - badge
  • Unit Profile
  • History
  • Operations
  • Organization
  • Equipment
  • Training
  • Photos
  • Video
  • References

Unit Profile

The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the Royal Navy's and Royal Marines’ Special Forces unit, and is primarily organised to conduct waterborne operations.

The unit was raised in 1946 as the Special Boat Squadron. It became part of the School of Combined Operations under the command of Blondie Hasler. Another two squadrons were formed from British troops in West Germany in 1951. Two volunteer squadrons were later added. In 1979 5 SBS became part of the Comacchio Company, which protected North Sea oil rigs. In 1987 the unit was reorganised and allowed to grow. The SBS became part of the UK Special Forces group alongside the Special Air Service and 14 Intelligence Company. The name was changed into the Special Boat Service.

The SBS’s role is not confined to seaborne and maritime special operations – their responsibilities do not end at the tide line. SBS training concentrates on swimming, demolitions, diving, infiltrating ships at sea and oil platforms, and parachuting. Klepper canoes are a regular issue. They can also use parachute and high-speed rope deployments from helicopters.

The SBS is not an independent unit but part of the Royal Marines. To be eligible for SBS selection, a candidate must have served for at least two years in the Marines and then pass a rigorous selection course. Thos who pass the selection course then undergo swimmer canoeist training. They serve for three years before they return to the Marines.

Their selection used to include survival test in the wilds of Scotland and gruelling underwater exercises in cold water with poor visibility. In the 1990's the unit started combining the selection with the armies Special Air Service. In the diving phase they swim underwater for miles in the dark and mud. It included tests of map reading skills, underwater demolitions and maritime anti-terrorism training.


  • Primary mission: Seaborne and maritime special operations;
  • Secondary mission: Unconventional and Counter Revolutionary Warfare.

Raised and Disbanded

  • raised: 1946.


  • C squadron;
  • M squadron;
  • S squadron;
  • X squadron;
  • squadron (R);
  • Squadron (R).


  • Hamworthy Barracks, Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom.

Video: British SBS - Beach Recce Ex

Members of the British Special Boat Service (SBS) during a beach reconnaissance exercise with the Royal Marines - Brunei April 97.

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