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Special Air Service

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Special Air Service

Special Air Service
Special Air Service badge
Active 1941–1945 / 1947–present[1][2][3]
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Corps
Role Special operations and reconnaissance
Size 21 SAS Regiment
22 SAS Regiment
23 SAS Regiment[nb 1]
Part of 22 SAS: UKSF
21 & 23 SAS:1 ISR Brigade
Garrison/HQ Regimental: Hereford
21: London[4]
22: Credenhill[4]
23: Birmingham[4]
Nickname The Regiment[7]
Motto Who Dares Wins[8]
Colours Pompadour blue[8]
March Quick: Marche des Parachutistes Belges[8]
Slow: Lili Marlene[8]
Engagements World War II
Malayan Emergency
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Dhofar Rebellion
Aden Emergency
Northern Irish Troubles
Falklands War
Gulf War
NATO intervention in Bosnia
Operation Barras
War In Afghanistan
Iraq War
Operation Ellamy
Colonel-Commandant Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie[9]
Colonel David Stirling
Lieutenant-Colonel Paddy Mayne
Brigadier Mike Calvert
Major-General Anthony Deane-Drummond
General Peter de la Billière
General Michael Rose
Lieutenant-General Cedric Delves

The Special Air Service (SAS) is a unit of the British Army founded in 1941 as a regiment, and later reconstituted as a corps in 1950.[5] Serving as a model for special forces around the world, the unit undertakes a number of roles including covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action and human intelligence gathering.[8][10]

The corps presently comprises 22 Special Air Service Regiment, the regular component, under the operational command of United Kingdom Special Forces, and 21 (Artists) Special Air Service Regiment and 23 Special Air Service Regiment, which are reserve units under the operational command of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade.[11]

The Special Air Service traces its origins to 1941 and the Second World War, and was reformed as part of the Territorial Army in 1947, named the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists Rifles). 22 Special Air Service Regiment, part of the regular army, later gained fame and recognition worldwide after successfully assaulting the Iranian Embassy in London and rescuing hostages during the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege, lifting the regiment from obscurity outside the military establishment.[12]


  • History 1
    • Post war 1.1
    • 22 SAS Regiment 1.2
    • Influence on other special forces 1.3
  • Organisation 2
    • Squadrons 2.1
    • Special projects team 2.2
    • Operational command 2.3
  • Recruitment, selection and training 3
    • SAS Reserve selection 3.1
  • Uniform distinctions 4
  • Battle honours 5
  • Order of precedence 6
  • Memorials 7
  • Alliances 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12


The Special Air Service was a unit of the British Army during the Second World War, formed in July 1941 by David Stirling and originally called "L" Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade—the "L" designation and Air Service name being a tie-in to a British disinformation campaign, trying to deceive the Axis into thinking there was a paratrooper regiment with numerous units operating in the area (the real SAS would 'prove' to the Axis that the fake one existed).[1][13] It was conceived as a commando force to operate behind enemy lines in the North African Campaign[14] and initially consisted of five officers and 60 other ranks.[15] Its first mission, in November 1941, was a parachute drop in support of the Operation Crusader offensive.[13] Due to German resistance and adverse weather conditions, the mission was a disaster: 22 men, a third of the unit, were killed or captured.[16] Its second mission was a success: transported by the Long Range Desert Group, it attacked three airfields in Libya, destroying 60 aircraft without loss.[16] In September 1942 it was renamed 1st SAS, consisting at that time of four British squadrons, one Free French, one Greek, and the Folboat Section.[17]

SAS patrol in North Africa during WW2.

In January 1943, Stirling was captured in

External links

  • Adams, James (1987). Secret Armies. Hutchinson.  
  • Breuer, William B. (2001). Daring missions of World War II. John Wiley and Sons.  
  • Chant, Christopher (1988). The Handbook of British Regiments. Routledge.  
  • Davis, Brian Leigh (1983). British Army Uniforms and Insignia of World War Two. Arms and Armour Press.  
  • de B. Taillon, J. Paul (2000). The evolution of Special Forces in Counter-Terrorism, The British and American Experiences. Greenwood.  
  • Edgeworth, Anthony; De St. Jorre, John (1981). The Guards. Ridge Press/Crown Publishers.  
  • Griffin, P.D (2006). Encyclopedia of Modern British Army Regiments. Sutton Publishing.  
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory (2009). Who Dares Wins — The SAS and the Iranian Embassy Siege 1980. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Haskew, Michael E (2007). Encyclopaedia of Elite Forces in the Second World War. Pen and Sword.  
  • Molinari, Andrea (2007). Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces 1940–43. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Morgan, Mike (2000). Daggers Drawn: Second World War heroes of the SAS and SBS. Sutton.  
  • Otway, Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H (1990). The Second World War 1939–1945 Army – Airborne Forces. Imperial War Museum.  
  • Scholey, Pete;  
  • Silvestri, Enzo (2008). Thief in the Night.  
  • Stevens, Gordon (2005). The Originals — The Secret History of the Birth of the SAS in Their Own Words. Ebury Press.  
  • Thompson, Leroy (1994). SAS: Great Britain's Elite Special Air Service. Zenith Imprint.  


  1. ^ a b Molinari, p.22
  2. ^ a b c Shortt & McBride, p.16
  3. ^ a b Shortt & McBride ,p.18
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Rayment, Sean (28 December 2003). "Overstretched SAS calls up part-time troops for Afghanistan". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Brief history of the regiment". Special Air Service Association. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "UK Defence Statistics 2009".  
  7. ^ Ryan, p.216
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Griffin, pp.150–152
  9. ^ Moreton, Cole (11 November 2007). "Lord Guthrie: 'Tony's General' turns defence into an attack". The Independent (London). Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  10. ^ Adams, p.102
  11. ^ a b c Army Briefing Note 120/14, NEWLY FORMED FORCE TROOPS COMMAND SPECIALIST BRIGADES, Quote . It commands all of the Army’s Intelligence, Surveillance and EW assets, and is made up of units specifically from the former 1 MI Bde and 1 Arty Bde, as well as 14 Sig Regt, 21 and 23 SAS(R).
  12. ^ Thompson, p.8
  13. ^ a b Haskew, p.39
  14. ^ Thompson, p.7
  15. ^ Thompson, p.48
  16. ^ a b Haskew, p.40
  17. ^ Molinari, p.25
  18. ^ Haskew, p.42
  19. ^ Morgan, p.15
  20. ^ "Obituary:Lieutenant-Colonel David Danger: SAS radio operator". The Times (London). 31 March 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  21. ^ "Obituary: Major Roy Farran". The Times (London). 6 June 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  22. ^ Haskew, pp.52–54
  23. ^ a b Shortt & McBride, p.15
  24. ^ "Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum Oosterbeek". Airborne Museum Oosterbeek. Retrieved 3 November. 
  25. ^ Schorley, Pete; Forsyth, Frederick (2008). Who Dares Wins: Special Forces Heroes of the SAS. Osprey Publishing, page 50
  26. ^ a b Shortt & McBride, p.17
  27. ^ a b "Obituary — Major Alastair McGregor". The Daily Telegraph (London). 3 October 2002. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  28. ^ Shortt & McBride, p.19
  29. ^ a b Shortt & McBride, p.20
  30. ^ a b Shortt & McBride, p.22
  31. ^ a b c d e f Scholey & Forsyth, p.12
  32. ^ Scholey & Forsyth, p.104
  33. ^ Scholey & Forsyth, p.57
  34. ^ Scholey & Forsyth, p.53
  35. ^ Scholey & Forsyth, p.11
  36. ^ Scholey & Forsyth, p.212
  37. ^ Hawton, Nick (2 April 2004). "Karadzic escapes again as SAS swoops on church". The Times (London). Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  38. ^ Bellamy, Christopher (11 April 1994). "Ground attack is first in Nato history: British SAS troops help US war planes to deliver a timely warning to Serbs that 'safe areas' must be respected, writes Christopher Bellamy in Split". The Independent (London). Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  39. ^ Scholey & Forsyth, p. 265
  40. ^ a b Harnden, Toby (23 March 2010). "Gen Stanley McChrystal pays tribute to courage of British special forces". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  41. ^ Meo, Nick; Evans, Michael; McGrory, Daniel (25 March 2006). "Army's top general attacks Kember for failing to thank SAS rescue team". The Times (London). Retrieved 22 March 2010. 
  42. ^ a b Finlan, Alistair. "The arrested development of UK special forces and the global war on terror". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  43. ^ Harding et al, Thomas (24 August 2011). "Libya: SAS leads hunt for Gaddafi". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  44. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (23 August 2011). "SAS troopers help co-ordinate rebel attacks in Libya". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  45. ^ """Forze speciali in Iraq, caccia ai "Beatles. la Repubblica (in Italian). 25 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  46. ^ Rebecca Perring (25 August 2014). "Parents of murdered US journalist release final letter he sent from captivity". Express. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  47. ^ "Former ISIS hostage identifies Foley executioner".  
  48. ^ Rachel Browne (24 August 2014). "Rapper identified as James Foley's executioner: reports".  
  49. ^ Nicol, Mark (22 November 2014). "SAS quad bike squads kill up to 8 jihadis each day... as allies prepare to wipe IS off the map: Daring raids by UK Special Forces leave 200 enemy dead in just four weeks". Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  50. ^ "Breakfast with Frost, interview". BBC. 30 March 2003. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  51. ^ "'"Insurgents 'right to take on US. BBC. 3 May 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  52. ^ Thompson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (25 July 2009). "Guthrie attacks Gordon Brown over helicopters for Afghanistan troops". The Times (London). Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  53. ^ "Armed Forces:officers".  
  54. ^ , by Lieutenant-Colonel Bernd Horn, Assistant Professor of History, Royal Military College Kingston. Canadian Military History, Volume 10, Number 1. Winter 2001.A Military Enigma: The Canadian Special Air Service Company, 1948–1949
  55. ^ Special Air Service (SAS) CompanyCanadian Soldier:
  56. ^ "Special Air Service Regiment". Digger History. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  57. ^ Abbott, Peter, Modern African Wars (I): Rhodesia 1965–80, Osprey Publishing London, 2001, p.18.
  58. ^ Belgian Government Ministre de la Défense website: SPECIAL FORCES GROUP
  59. ^ Special Forces Group Belgium: History
  60. ^ Belgian Commando Museum
  61. ^ Special Air Service Regimental Association
  62. ^ , website of the Belgian SAS Reenactment GroupThe Belgian SAS in WWII – A Very Short History
  63. ^ Special Air ServiceNational Army Museum:
  64. ^ , Nieuws, forum en geschiedenis over de SAS Para´s, Commando´s en Para-Commando´s1e Bataljon der Parachutisten (1 Para)
  65. ^ "Demi-brigade de parachutistes SAS". Ministere de la Defense. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  66. ^ Delta Force: The Army's Elite Counterterrorist Unit. Editorial Review, VNU Business Media, Inc. 25 May 2000.  
  67. ^ McDonald, Henry (23 December 2001). "Elite Irish troops on standby to keep peace in Afghanistan". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  68. ^ "Prime Ministers Questions, Special Forces". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  69. ^ "Special Forces". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  70. ^ a b c d Fremont-Barnes, p. 62
  71. ^ a b c Ryan, p.40
  72. ^ Ryan, p. 150
  73. ^ Ryan, p. 97
  74. ^ "Regular Reserve".  
  75. ^ "B Sqn 23 SAS". Reserve forces and cadets association. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  76. ^ Fremont-Barnes, p.4
  77. ^ "C Squadron 21 Special Air Service Regiment (V) Artists Rifles". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  78. ^ "D Squadron 23 SAS (R)". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  79. ^ Thompson, p.86
  80. ^ "E Squadron – 21 Special Air Service Regiment". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  81. ^ "G Squadron, 23 Special Air Service Regiment (R)". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  82. ^ Ryan, pp.38–39
  83. ^ a b de B. Taillon, p.38
  84. ^ a b Evans, Michael (5 January 2008). "Special forces win the right to take their secrets to the grave". The Times (London). Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  85. ^ "Why Join the Royal Signals?". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  86. ^ "RAF Odiham". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  87. ^ "Military Aircraft: Helicopters".  
  88. ^ a b c d e Ryan, p.17
  89. ^ Ryan, p.15
  90. ^ "PT booklet (PDF format)".  
  91. ^ Ryan, p.19
  92. ^ Ryan, p.21
  93. ^ Ryan, p.23
  94. ^ Ryan, p.24
  95. ^ Ryan, p.25
  96. ^ a b c d "Special Air Service (Reserve)". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  97. ^ "Profile: The SAS". BBC News. 2 November 2001. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  98. ^ Stevens, p.57
  99. ^ Davis, p.67
  100. ^
  101. ^ Griffin, p. 187
  102. ^ Chant, p.265
  103. ^ "Gulf Battle Honours".  
  104. ^ "Telegraph style book: the Services". The Daily Telegraph (London). 12 April 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  105. ^ Staff (19 May 1980). "World: Britain's SAS.: Who Dares Wins".  
  106. ^ Collins, Tim (22 September 2011). "The making of the SAS, the men who dare".  
  107. ^ T (Popham, Peter (30 May 1996). "SAS confronts its enemy within".  )
  108. ^ Staff. "Special Air Service Regimental Association". Retrieved 15 April 2010. 
  109. ^
  110. ^
  111. ^ a b Mills, T.F. "Special Air Service Regiment". Archived from the original on 11 August 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  1. ^ On 31 July 1947, the 21st regiment, SAS Regiment, (Artists Rifles) (Territorial Army) was formed. This was followed on 16 July 1952, when the 22 SAS Regiment was formed and the 23 Special Air Service Regiment (Territorial Army) was formed in February 1958.[4][5][6]
  2. ^ The Regular reserve is made up of ex-soldiers who have a mobilisation obligation by virtue of their former service in the regular army. For the most part, these reservists constitute a standby rather than ready reserve, and are rarely mobilised except in times of national emergency or incipient war.[74]
  3. ^ The regular elements of United Kingdom Special Forces never recruit directly from the general public,[88]
  4. ^ PFT —a minimum of 50 sit ups in two minutes, and 44 press-ups in two minutes and a 1.5 miles (2.4 km) run in 10 minutes 30 seconds.
    CFT — A march as a squad of 8 miles (13 km) in two hours carrying 25 kilograms (55 lb) of equipment.[90]
  5. ^ Designed by Bob Tait in 1941, it is a flaming sword, although it is often known as a winged dagger[98]


See also

 Australia: Special Air Service Regiment[111]
 New Zealand: Special Air Service[111]


The local church St Martins [109] has part of its graveyard set aside as an SAS memorial. Over twenty SAS soldiers are buried there, complete with similar SAS headstones stating their name, regiment etc. There is also a wall of remembrance displaying memorial plaques to some who could not be buried, including the 20 men who lost their lives in the Chinook crash during the Falklands Campaign on 19 May 1982.[110]

The other main memorial is the SAS and Airborne Forces memorial in the cloisters at Westminster Abbey. The SAS Brigade Memorial at Sennecey-le-Grand in France commemorates the wartime dead of the Belgian, British, and French SAS and recently a memorial plaque was added to the David Stirling Memorial in Scotland. There are other smaller memorials "scattered throughout Europe and in the Far East".[108]

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea ...

The names of those members of the SAS who have died on duty were inscribed on the regimental clock tower at Stirling lines.[105] However, this was rebuilt at the new barracks at Credenhill. Those whose names are inscribed are said by surviving members to have "failed to beat the clock".[106] Inscribed on the base of the clock is a verse from The Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker:[107]


Preceded by
Line Infantry and Rifles
British Army Order of Precedence[104] Succeeded by
Army Air Corps

Order of precedence

In the British Army, battle honours are awarded to regiments that have seen active service in a significant engagement or campaign, generally with a victorious outcome.[101] The Special Air Service Regiment has been awarded the following battle honours:[102][103]

Battle honours

Normal barracks headdress is the sand-coloured beret,[8] its cap badge is a downward pointing Excalibur, wreathed in flames (often incorrectly referred to as a winged dagger) worked into the cloth of a Crusader shield with the motto Who Dares Wins.[97][nb 5] SAS pattern parachute wings, designed by Lieutenant Jock Lewes and based on the stylised sacred Ibis wings of Isis of Egyptian iconography depicted in the décor of Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, are worn on the right shoulder.[99] Its ceremonial No 1 dress uniform is distinguished by a light blue stripe on the trousers. Its stable belt is a shade of blue similar to the blue stripe on the No 1 dress uniform.[8] In the field, many SAS members favour a jacket with three front pockets, with the smaller third pocket carrying the legendary SAS knife.[100]

Uniform distinctions

On successful completion of this training, ranks are badged as SAS(R) and deemed operationally deployable.[96] They enter a probationary period during which they complete final training including a Basic Parachute Course and a Communications Course to be fit for mobilisation.[96]

This is followed by Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) Training on tactics, techniques and procedures. This is progressive with the emphasis on individuals assimilating new skills while under physical and mental pressure.[96]

  • Physically and mentally robust
  • Self-confident
  • Self-disciplined
  • Able to work alone
  • Able to assimilate information and new skills[96]

The Reserve regiments of the SAS are no longer part of UKSF[11] their members undergo a different selection process, as a part-time programme over a longer period, designed to select volunteers with the right qualities. It is emphasised that to stand any chance of success volunteers must be physically fit at the start of the course. The qualities required are:

SAS Reserve selection

Typically, 15–20% of candidates make it through the hill phase selection process. From the approximately 200 candidates, most will drop out within the first few days, and by the end about 30 will remain. Those who complete all phases of selection are rewarded with a transfer to an operational squadron.[95]

Following the hill phase is the jungle phase, taking place in Belize, Brunei, or Malaysia.[91] Candidates are taught navigation, patrol formation and movement, and jungle survival skills.[92] Candidates returning to Hereford finish training in battle plans and foreign weapons and take part in combat survival exercises,[93] the final one being the week-long escape and evasion. Candidates are formed into patrols and, carrying nothing more than a tin can filled with survival equipment, are dressed in old Second World War uniforms and told to head for a point by first light. The final selection test is arguably the most gruelling: resistance to interrogation (RTI), lasting for 36 hours.[94]

All members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces can be considered for special forces selection,[nb 3] but historically the majority of candidates have an airborne forces background.[89] All instructors are full members of the Special Air Service. Selections are held twice yearly, in summer and winter,[88] in Sennybridge in the Brecon Beacons. Selection lasts for five weeks and normally starts with about 200 potential candidates.[88] On arrival candidates first complete a Personal Fitness Test (PFT) and an Annual Fitness Test (AFT).[nb 4] They then march cross country against the clock, increasing the distances covered each day, culminating in what is known as Endurance: a 40 miles (64 km) march with full equipment scaling and descending Pen y Fan in 20 hours.[88] By the end of the hill phase candidates must be able to run 4 miles (6.4 km) in 30 minutes and swim two miles (3.2 km) in 90 minutes.[88]

snow and frost covered mountain peak
Pen y Fan 2,907 feet (886 m) above sea-level. The location for the Fan dance.

Recruitment, selection and training

22 Special Air Service is under the operational command of the Director Special Forces (DSF), a major-general grade post. Previously ranked as a brigadier, the DSF was promoted from brigadier to major-general in recognition of the significant expansion of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF).[84] UKSF originally consisted of the regular and the reserve units of the SAS and the Special Boat Service, then joined by two new units: the Special Forces Support Group and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.[84] They are supported by the 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment and the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing, part of which (658 Squadron Army Air Corps) is based in Hereford with the SAS.[85][86][87] In 2014 the SAS Reserve units came under the operational command of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade.[11]

Operational command

The first documented action abroad by the CRW wing was assisting the West German counter-terrorism group GSG 9 at Mogadishu.[31] In 1980 the SAS were involved in a hostage rescue during the Iranian Embassy Siege.

Once the wing had been established, each squadron rotated on a continual basis through counter–terrorist training including hostage rescue, siege breaking, and live firing exercises—it has been reported that during CRW training each soldier expends as many as 100,000 pistol rounds. Squadrons refresh their training every 16 months, on average. The CRW's first deployment was during the Balcombe Street Siege. The Metropolitan Police had trapped a PIRA unit; it surrendered when it heard on the BBC that the SAS were being sent in.[83]

The special projects team is the official name for the Special Air Service anti–hijacking counter–terrorism team.[70] It is trained in Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and sniper techniques and specialises in hostage rescue in buildings or on public transport.[82] The team was formed in 1975 after Prime Minister Edward Heath asked the Ministry of Defence to prepare for any possible terrorist attack similar to the massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics and ordered that the SAS Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) wing be raised.[83]

Special projects team

22 Special Air Service Regiment 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) 23 Special Air Service Regiment
'A' Squadron (Hereford)[4] 'A' Squadron (Regent's Park)[4] 'B' Squadron (Leeds)[75]
'B' Squadron[76] 'C' Squadron (Bramley Camp)[77] 'D' Squadron (Scotland)[78]
'D' Squadron

G' Squadron [79]

'E' Squadron (Wales)[80] 'G' Squadron (Manchester)[81]

In 1980 R Squadron (which has since been renamed L Detachment) was formed; its members are all ex-regular SAS regiment soldiers who have a commitment to reserve service.[70][nb 2]

22 SAS Regiment has four operational squadrons: A, B, D and G. Each squadron consists of approximately 60 men commanded by a major, divided into four troops (each troop being commanded by a captain) and a small headquarters section.[40][70] Troops usually consist of 15 men,[42] and each patrol within a troop consists of four men, with each man possessing a particular skill: signals, demolition, medic or linguist in addition to basic skills learned during the course of his training.[70] The four troops specialise in four different areas:


Little publicly verifiable information exists on the SAS, as the United Kingdom Government does not usually comment on special forces matters due to the nature of their work.[68][69] The Special Air Service comprises three units: one Regular and two reserve Army Reserve (AR) units. The regular army unit is 22 SAS Regiment and reserve units are 21 SAS Regiment (Artists) and 23 SAS Regiment.[6]


Non-Commonwealth countries have also formed units based on the SAS. The Belgian Army's Special Forces Group, which wears the same capbadge as the British SAS, traces its ancestry partly from the 5th Special Air Service of the Second World War.[58][59][60][61][62][63][64] The French 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (1er RPIMa) can trace its origins to the Second World War 3rd and 4th SAS, adopting its "who dares wins" motto.[65] The American unit, Delta Force, was formed by Colonel Charles Alvin Beckwith, who served with 22 SAS as an exchange officer, and recognised the need for a similar type of unit in the United States Army.[66] The Israeli Sayeret Matkal has also been modelled after the SAS, sharing its motto. Ireland's Army Ranger Wing (ARW) has also modelled its training on that of the SAS, as well as Delta Force (who in turn have been influenced by the SAS). The Irish ARW train with the SAS.[67]

Following the post-war reconstitution of the Special Air Service, other countries in the Commonwealth recognised their need for similar units. The Canadian Special Air Service Company was formed in 1947, being disbanded in 1949.[54][55] The New Zealand Special Air Service squadron was formed in 1954 to serve with the British SAS in Malaya.[29] Australia formed the 1st SAS Company in July 1957, which became a full regiment of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in August 1964.[56] On its return from Malaya, the C (Rhodesian) Squadron formed the basis for creation of the Rhodesian Special Air Service in 1961.[30] It retained the name "C Squadron (Rhodesian) Special Air Service" within the Rhodesian Security Forces until 1978, when it became 1 (Rhodesian) Special Air Service Regiment.[57]

Influence on other special forces

In recent years SAS officers have risen to the highest ranks in the British Army. General Peter de la Billière was the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in the 1990 Gulf War.[50] General Michael Rose became commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994.[51] In 1997 General Charles Guthrie became Chief of the Defence Staff the head of the British Armed Forces.[52] Lieutenant-General Cedric Delves was appointed Commander of the Field Army and Deputy Commander in Chief NATO Regional Headquarters Allied Forces North in 2002–2003.[53]

A significant force of the Special Air Service was deployed to Northern Iraq in late August 2014, and according to former MI6 chief Richard Barrett will be sent to Syria, tasked with trying to track down the Islamic State terrorist group the Beatles using a range of high-tech equipment and with potentially freeing their hostages.[45][46][47][48] In October 2014, SAS began executing raids against ISIS supply lines in western Iraq, using helicopters to drop light vehicles manned by sniper squads. SAS claims to have killed up to eight ISIS fighters per day since the raids began.[49]

Various British newspapers have speculated on the SAS involvement in Operation Ellamy and the 2011 Libyan civil war, the Daily Telegraph reports that "defence sources have confirmed that the SAS has been in Libya for several weeks, and played a key role in coordinating the fall of Tripoli."[43] While The Guardian reports "They have been acting as forward air controllers – directing pilots to targets – and communicating with NATO operational commanders. They have also been advising rebels on tactics."[44]

The Gulf War, in which A, B and D squadrons deployed, was the largest SAS mobilisation since the Second World War, also notable for the failure of the Bravo Two Zero mission.[39] In Sierra Leone it took part in Operation Barras, a hostage rescue operation, to extract members of the Royal Irish Regiment.[31] In the Iraq War, it formed part of Task Force Black and Task Force Knight, with A Squadron 22 SAS being singled out for exceptional service by General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander of NATO forces: during a six-month tour it carried out 175 combat missions.[40] In 2006, members of the SAS were involved in the operation to free peace activists Norman Kember, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden. The three men had been held hostage in Iraq for 118 days during the Christian Peacemaker hostage crisis.[41] Operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan[42] involved soldiers from 21 and 23 SAS Regiments.[4]

Since serving in Malaya, men from the regular army 22 SAS Regiment have taken part in covert reconnaissance and surveillance by patrols and some larger scale raiding missions in Borneo.[31] An operation against communist guerillas included the Battle of Mirbat in the Oman.[32] They have also taken part in operations in the Aden Emergency,[33] Northern Ireland,[34] and Gambia.[31] Their Special projects team assisted the West German counter-terrorism group GSG 9 at Mogadishu.[31] The SAS counter terrorist wing famously took part in a hostage rescue operation during the Iranian Embassy Siege in London.[35] During the Falklands War B squadron were prepared for Operation Mikado before it was subsequently cancelled whilst D and G squadrons were deployed and participated in the raid on Pebble Island.[36] Operation Flavius was a controversial operation in Gibraltar against the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA).[31] 22 SAS also directed NATO aircraft onto Serb positions and hunted war criminals in Bosnia.[37][38]

22 SAS Regiment

In 1950, a 21 SAS squadron was raised to fight in the Korean War. After three months of training in England, it was informed that the squadron would no longer be required in Korea and so it instead volunteered to fight in the Malayan Emergency.[27] Upon arrival in Malaya, it came under the command of Mike Calvert who was forming a new unit called the Malayan Scouts (SAS).[27] Calvert had already formed one squadron from 100 volunteers in the Far East, which became A Squadron—the 21 SAS squadron then became B Squadron; and after a recruitment visit to Rhodesia by Calvert, C Squadron was formed from 1,000 Rhodesian volunteers.[28] The Rhodesians returned home after three years service and were replaced by a New Zealand squadron.[29] By this time, the need for a regular army SAS regiment had been recognised; 22 SAS Regiment was formally added to the army list in 1952 and has been based at Hereford since 1960.[8] In 1959 the third regiment, 23 SAS Regiment, was formed by renaming the Reserve Reconnaissance Unit, which had succeeded MI9 and whose members were experts in escape and evasion.[30]

man in British Army uniform, carrying a parachute helmet and wearing a beret, other men can just be seen in the dark background
21 SAS soldier after a night parachute drop exercise in Denmark, 1955

At the end of the war the British Government saw no further need for the force and disbanded it on 8 October 1945.[2] The following year it was decided there was a need for a long-term deep-penetration commando unit, and a new SAS regiment was to be raised as part of the Territorial Army.[26] Ultimately, the Artists Rifles, raised in 1860 and headquartered at Dukes Road, Euston, took on the SAS mantle as 21st SAS Regiment (V) on 1 January 1947.[3][26]

Post war

[25] 31 captured SAS commandos were summarily executed by the Germans.Operation Loyton, 34 captured SAS commandos were summarily executed by the Germans. In October 1944, in the aftermath of Operation Bulbasket 18 October 1942, the members of the unit face the additional danger that they would be summarily executed if ever captured by the Germans. In July 1944, following Commando Order As a result of Hitler's issuing of the [24][23]).Operation Archway), and eventually into Germany (Operation Pegasus and carried out operations supporting the Allied advance through Belgium, the Netherlands ([2] It was tasked with parachute operations behind the German lines in France[23].Belgian 5th SAS and the French 3rd and 4th SAS In 1944 the SAS Brigade was formed from the British 1st and 2nd SAS, the [22] until the end of the war.Dodecanese and Aegean Islands The Special Boat Squadron fought in the [21][20].Small Scale Raiding Force The Special Raiding Squadron fought in Sicily and Italy along with the 2nd SAS, which had been formed in North Africa in 1943 in part by the renaming of the [19]

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