Special Air Service

From Academic Kids

For other countries' special forces see Australian Special Air Service Regiment and Special Air Service of New Zealand.
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Official Unit Names

21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists' Rifles)

22 Special Air Service Regiment

23 Special Air Service Regiment


The Regiment
21SAS, 22SAS, 23SAS
The sass


"Who Dares Wins" (official)
"Speed Aggression Surprise" (unofficial)


Britain's elite Special Forces unit.


CRW Wing - One troop on 30 minutes standby; one troop on 2 hours standby.
All other squadrons capable of being deployed anywhere in the world within 12 hours.


Counter-terrorism (CT), special projects (SP), counter revolutionary warfare (CRW), close target reconnaissance (CTR), quick reaction force (QRF).


Creation date

Reason for creation

Desert raiding force to weaken German operations in North Africa.

The Special Air Service (SAS) is the principal special forces organisation of the British Army and one of the best recognised military organisations in the world, because of its oustanding success in many world wide operations. Formed in 1941 to conduct raids behind German lines in North Africa, it today serves as a model for similar units fielded by many other countries. The SAS is the smallest and most secretive regiment in the British Army, but attracts a disproportionate amount of media coverage. Its Royal Marines counterpart is the Special Boat Service (SBS).



At present, there are three separate regiments (equivalent organisations to infantry battalions) within the SAS, along with two attached squadrons of the Royal Corps of Signals and a flight of the Army Air Corps which support the SAS and consist of a mixture of SAS and non-SAS trained personnel.

The primary active element of the SAS is 22 SAS Regiment, supported by two Territorial Army regiments, 21 SAS and 23 SAS. All SAS members have to pass a rigorous selection procedure, but due to the part-time nature of the Territorials, the selection process for members of 21 and 23 SAS is stretched over a period of one year. The three units have different roles: the TA SAS regiments specialise in Close Target Reconnaissance (CTR) (i.e. long range reconnaissance), while 22 SAS performs a wider range of tasks also including Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW), Counter Terrorism (CT) and acting as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The relationship between the regiments is close, with members of 22 SAS routinely being attached to the TA SAS regiments. During the 1980s, the Director of the SAS, Brigadier Peter de la Billière, established a rule that an officer or senior NCO in 22 SAS who wished to gain rank had to serve time with the TA SAS.

  • 22 SAS, 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron and 8 Flight AAC are units of the Regular Army.
  • 21 SAS, 23 SAS and 63 (SAS) Signal Squadron are units of the Territorial Army.
21st SAS Regiment (Artists)22nd SAS Regiment23rd SAS Regiment
HQ (Regents Park)HQHQ (Wolverhampton)
A Squadron (Regents Park)A SquadronA Squadron (Invergowrie/Glasgow)
C Squadron (Basingstoke/Cambridge)B SquadronB Squadron (Leeds)
E Squadron (Newport, Monmouthshire)D SquadronC Squadron (Newcastle/Manchester)
G Squadron
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CRW Training

22 SAS also has a Headquarters, Planning and Intelligence Section, Operational Research Section, Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) Wing, and Training Wing.

Each Sabre Squadron is divided into four 16-man Troops with different responsibilities (Air Troop, Boat Troop, Mobility Troop, and Mountain Troop).

The CRW Wing is made up of one squadron, which rotates every 6-9 months. The squadron is split up into two troops:

  • Red Troop (Air and Mountain Troops)
  • Blue Troop (Boat and Mobility Troops)

Each of the two troops is made up of an assault group and a sniper team.

The SAS has been based at Hereford in the west of England for many years. Stirling Lines, named after David Stirling, was initially the home of the Regiment but in 1999 they moved to a former RAF base at Credenhill on the outskirts of Hereford.


The role the SAS plays in modern warfare includes:

  • Intelligence gathering missions behind enemy lines.
  • Long range insertions to destroy multiple targets.
  • Close quarter protection and bodyguarding (BGing) of senior British dignitaries.
  • Taking part in CRW operations when a police unit such as SO19 does not have the capabilities.
  • Conducting missions in areas without official British Government involvement.
  • Training special forces of other nationalities.

Selection and Training

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Training with double ladder
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HK MP5KA4, the standard CRW weapon

Commanding Officer (CO) Major John Woodhouse introduced SAS Selection in 1952. Before that, troopers had earned their credentials in the field.

SAS Selection and Training is the most demanding military training course in the British Army and is also said to be the most demanding in the world: it reputedly only has a pass rate of 2-10%. It is a six month test of strength, endurance, and resolve over the Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley in Wales, and in the jungle of Brunei. The Namib Desert is also used as a desert training ground.

SAS selection is held twice a year regardless of conditions. A candidate must be male and have been a regular soldier in the British Army or RAF Regiment for at least three years or a member of 21 SAS or 23 SAS (which can be joined directly from civilian life) for at least 18 months. All soldiers who apply must have at least 39 months of military service remaining. A candidate who fails any stage of the selection is 'Returned to [his former] Unit' (RTU'd). Candidates are allowed only two attempts at passing, after which they may never reapply.

Like other sections of the British armed forces, the SAS accepts members from the Commonwealth, with notable representation from Fiji, the former Rhodesia, New Zealand and Australia. The Parachute Regiment, Foot Guards and Household Cavalry provide more recruits than any other regiments. A disproportionately high number of SAS officers have been educated at Eton College, probably because of the Guards connection.

Fitness and Navigation (4 weeks)

The first part of selection is held in the Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley. The weather there can be unpredictable and a couple of soldiers have died during selection, mainly due to hypothermia or exposure. The actual selection starts with the Standard Battle Fitness Test, a 2.5km run in under 13 minutes, and then the same distance run alone in under 11½ minutes. The first week mostly consists of runs in the neighbourhood, up and down hills with a small load in the bergen. Lessons in navigation and map reading are included. Navigation runs in small groups in woodland areas and night tabs follow shortly. The load in the bergen gets heavier and an SA80 rifle with no slings has to be carried. Soldiers have to keep the rifle in their hands as they climb up the slopes and jog down again. In the third week navigation is solo from grid reference to other points on the map. At each rendezvous point (RVP), the soldiers have to indicate where they are before the next grid reference is given. The soldiers are not told how long the run is and where they will end up. In the last week, there is a race against the clock every day, with each task more punishing as the distances and load of the bergen increase. The "Long Drag" is the last ultimate test - about 60km over the mountains in under 20 hours.

Initial Continuation Training (4 weeks)

This consists of detailed and realistic training in weapons handling, demolitions and small patrol tactics. Those who are not already parachute qualified are also trained in this skill. On completion of SAS parachute training, soldiers are awarded SAS Wings, worn at the top of the right sleeve.

Jungle Training (6 weeks)

Soldiers are divided into patrols of four and are watched over day and night by Directing Staff (DS). Soldiers must stand to for one hour at dawn and one hour at dusk every day without fail and must also keep their knife with them at all times. After lessons in navigation, boat handling, and jungle and contact drills there is a final test, where all things that have been learned must be applied correctly.

Combat Survival (4 weeks)

There is another month of training in survival skills, living off the land and using escape and evasion (E & E) tactics. There are lessons and lectures in interrogation techniques from people who have been Prisoners of War (POWs). The last few days is the E & E stage. In groups the soldiers are dressed in greatcoats to slow them down and have to evade capture from the Hunter Force, which is usually comprised of Parachute Regiment or Gurkha soldiers. When captured, every soldier has to withstand tactical questioning (TQ). The soldiers are blindfolded, put in stress positions, subjected to white noise, dehydrated and given no food. The soldiers are only allowed to respond to questions with:

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Number
  • Date of birth
  • "I'm sorry I cannot answer that question"

In practice, soldiers are also allowed to tell their captors their blood type and previous medical history. If they break during TQ then they are RTU'd.

Passing Selection

After passing Selection, soldiers lose any previous rank and become troopers (equivalent to private in many other regiments and corps). They have to work their way up again from the lowest rank, but revert to their original rank (with appropriate promotions for length of service) if they ever leave the SAS. Officers, who must hold a minimum rank of captain, do not lose their rank but may only serve a three-year tour with the SAS. Officers are allowed to do a second three-year tour providing they pass selection again.

Specialist Training

Specialist training includes:

  • First Aid, to a fairly high level, with stints in busy hospitals, including a week in a mortuary
  • Signals
  • HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening)
  • HAHO (High Altitude, High Opening)
  • Sniping - all SAS snipers are trained by the Royal Marines at the Sniper course at CTCRM (Commando Training Centre Royal Marines)
  • Languages
  • Vehicle Operating Skills
  • CRW Training
  • Explosive Method of Entry (EMOE)


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Window assault training

Upon acceptance into the regiment, troopers have to abide by strict rules, such as not telling anyone other than close family that they are a member of the SAS. Anonymity is also provided whilst serving in the SAS. Troopers also may not give names and information to any police authority whilst co-operating. Troopers have the right to a 24-hour 'warm down' after any firefight and do not have to give evidence to the police during this period. If a medal is given to a member of the SAS, such as the Military Cross (MC), the soldier is listed in the media as being in their parent regiment and not the SAS. If an SAS trooper is killed in action (KIA), and if it can be avoided, the information is not made public, and if it is unavoidable then the parent regiment is again listed and not the SAS. After leaving the SAS, ex-members may not give details of unofficial or 'black bag' operations. Ex-members of the regiment often use pseudonyms such as Andy McNab. The British Government makes no official announcements concerning the SAS and when reports are given there is no mention of the SAS. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has a standing policy of not discussing the SAS or its operations.

Air Troop

The main objective of the SAS Air Troops is to parachute out of an aeroplane at 25,000 feet and land deep behind enemy lines. In the SAS, the men of the Air Troops are known as "Ice Cream Boys", due to their tans and the sunglasses they often wear, as they are required to train where the weather is fine (preferring clear skies for parachute training).

Air Troops have two ways of infiltration: HALO and HAHO. HALO jumps take place at about 25,000 feet. The trooper free falls until about 2,000 feet above the ground and only then opens his 'chute. This allows him to land close to a target, but the plane will never be seen or heard. Both of these types of parachuting are very dangerous. Parachuting with heavy loads can make the thin silk of the parachutes collapse quite easily in the thin air.

Air Troop troopers must wear large aircrew helmets ("bonedomes") when jumping from high altitudes. An oxygen mask is hooked onto it to provides the trooper with air while he is parachuting. The trooper also wears goggles. His equipment is carried between his legs and is lowered on a cord just prior to landing on the ground. The trooper's weapon is carried under one of his arms, ready to fire. He also wears an altimeter on his wrist and heavy clothes to protect him from the cold. A reserve 'chute is usually carried in the front.


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SAS parachute wings
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SAS blue stable belt with silver belt buckle
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SAS sand coloured beret

The SAS, like every other British regiment, has its own distinctive unit insignia.

  • Sand coloured beret (sometimes called the beige beret; the SAS do not wear the peaked cap)
  • Cap badge - the badge is actually meant to be Excalibur in flames, not a winged dagger as it is usually called, but the misinterpretation is now universally accepted
  • SAS parachute wings (different from those used by the rest of the Army)
  • Silver regimental collar pins (collar dogs)
  • Royal blue stable belt
  • Silver belt buckle with engraved regimental badge

World War II

The SAS was founded by then Lieutenant David Stirling during World War II. It was originally created to conduct raids and sabotage far behind enemy lines in the desert, and operated in conjunction with the existing Long Range Desert Group. Stirling (formerly of No.8 Commando) looked for recruits with rugged individualism and initiative and recruited specialists from Layforce and other units. The name "Special Air Service" was already in use as a deception.

Their first mission, parachuting behind enemy lines in support of General Sir Claude Auchinleck's attack in November 1941, was a disaster. Only 22 out of 62 troopers reached the rendezvous. Stirling still managed to organise another attack against the German airfields at Aqedabia, Site and Agheila, this time transported by the LRDG. They destroyed 61 enemy aircraft without a single casualty. 1st SAS earned regimental status and Stirling's brother Bill began to organise a second regiment, 2 SAS.

During the desert war the SAS performed many successful and daring long range insertion missions and destroyed aircraft and fuel depots. Their success contributed towards Hitler issuing his Kommandobefehl order to execute all captured Commandos. When the Germans stepped up security, the SAS switched to hit-and-run tactics. They used jeeps armed with Vickers K machine guns and used tracer ammunition to ignite fuel and aircraft. They took part in Operation Torch.

David Stirling was captured by the Italians in January 1943 and he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in Colditz Castle. His brother Bill Stirling and 'Paddy' Blair Mayne took command of the SAS.

The SAS were used in the invasion of Italy. At the toe of Italy they took the first prisoners of the campaign before heading deeper into Italy. At one point four groups were active deep behind enemy lines laying waste to airfields, attacking convoys and derailing trains. Towards the end of the campaign Italian guerrillas and escaped Russian prisoners were enlisted into an "Allied SAS Battalion" which struck at Kesselring's main lines of communications. In 1945 Major Farran made one of the most effective raids of the war. His force raided the German Fifth Corps headquarters burning the buildings to the ground and killing the General and some of his staff.

Prior to the Normandy Invasion, SAS men were inserted into France as 4-man teams to help maquisards of the French Resistance. In a reversal of their by now customary tactics, they often travelled during the day, when Allied fighter bombers drove enemy traffic off the roads and then ambushed enemy troops moving in convoy under the cover of darkness. In Operation Houndsmith, 144 SAS men parachuted with jeeps and supplies into Dijon, France. During and after D-Day they continued their raids against fuel depots, communications centres and railways. They did suffer casualties—at one stage the Germans executed 24 SAS soldiers and a US Army Air Force pilot. At the end of the war, the SAS hunted down SS and Gestapo officers. By that time the SAS had been expanded to five regiments, including two French and one Belgian.

Post-war: 1940s to 1970s

After the war, the British War Office did not entirely disband the SAS regiments, but the French and Belgians returned to their own countries. The British SAS was no longer a regular army unit but Territorial Army Unit 21 SAS Regiment still existed. However, in April 1948, the Malay Races Liberation Army began an insurrection which transformed into the Malayan Emergency. Two years later Brigadier Mike Calvert practically re-created the SAS as a commando unit reminiscent of jungle troops like Chindits. Territorial Unit 21 SAS was redeployed from the Korean War and sent to Malaya. Many other members were recruited from the original SAS, other units, Rhodesia, and even army prisons. The intended unit name "Malay Scouts" was scrapped for the reborn SAS.

Training new recruits took time. They learned tracking skills from Iban soldiers from Borneo. They began to patrol in teams of 2 or 4 men. Less than sanitary conditions forced them to learn first aid. They also learned local languages and respect for the local customs and culture. Patrol periods in the jungle were progressively extended to three months. Soldiers unsuitable for jungle warfare were RTUed (Returned to Unit). At that stage some troopers were armed with pump-action shotguns. They also earned the respect of some of the indigenes by helping them. By the end of 1955 there were 5 SAS squadrons in Malaya. They stayed in mopping up operations until the end of 1958.

Strings of other missions followed. The SAS fought anti-sultan rebels in Jebel Akhdar, Oman in 1958-1959. They fought Indonesian-supported "guerillas" during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak in 1963-1966. They also tried to pacify the situation in Aden in 1964-1967 before the withdrawal of British troops. They fought against another insurrection in Dhofar, Oman in 1970-1977.

Most of these deployments were clandestine. Membership, missions, and the whole existence of SAS became a secret. The Regiment's role was expanded to bodyguard training, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. They also began to work in civilian clothes on missions unless they could use uniforms of some other unit as a ruse. The British Secretary of State for Defence still does not discuss the SAS or its operations.


The Regiment's counter-terrorism role began in the 1950s, indeed they were reformed for deployment in the Malayan Emergency against the mainly ethnic Chinese MPABA (Malayan Peoples Anti British Army) led by Chin Peng. However the regular SAS did not obtain special financing to develop this capability until the 1970s.

In Northern Ireland the SAS was involved from the early days in what became known as ‘The Troubles’ which started in 1969. Indeed in the early days of The Troubles they operated openly in uniform wearing the SAS sand coloured beret with the SAS cloth winged dagger cap badge. They were involved in several incidents in which unarmed IRA members (including a woman) were killed, most notably at Loughgall and Gibraltar (some argue that this is mitigated by the IRA killing of off-duty British soldiers and RUC men). Since the official reason for British army deployment in Northern Ireland was to provide support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, killings by the SAS generated some controversy. In 1977, Captain Robert Nairac, an undercover SAS officer, was abducted, tortured then beaten to death in Armagh by a low-level IRA operative and his friends who had begun to suspect him after overhearing him in a bar.

In the Northern Ireland Troubles the SAS were given priority in the intelligence pecking order and supplied the most credible or ‘hard’ intelligence. This gave the SAS occasional opportunities in a CRO (Counter Revolutionary Operations) campaign to act proactively and aggressively by laying ambushes and placing COPs (Covert Observation Posts). SAS actions were almost always directed against the IRA, with some against the smaller INLA. Many SAS men, although forbidden to follow suspects into the Republic of Ireland, nevertheless did so. Some were caught and arrested by Irish police. Controversially, they were rarely charged with firearms offences, but returned to the British authorities (although a Dublin court once fined 8 SAS men £100 each). In March 1976, Seán MacKenna, an IRA commander, was abducted from his home in the Republic by the SAS and handed over to a British army patrol once across the border.

Lesser quality intelligence was supplied to infantry COP teams (Covert Observation Post) who because of the tenuous quality of this intelligence were unlikely to get a contact (armed encounter) with the Players (British forces colloquialism for Terrorists), even though these COP teams operated in very similar ways to SAS teams. It was common for SAS trained soldiers to serve with 14 Intelligence Company (known colloquially as 14 Int or often simply as The Det because its members were volunteers who were detached from other units). A specialist unit set up specifically for Northern Ireland, 14 Int is an all arms unit. That means they recruit from all branches of the armed services, including women. They served in The Province in an intelligence gathering role, mainly operating in plain clothes. 14 Int liased closely with the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) Special Branch and other SF (Security Force) formations.

22 SAS's reputation, or rather mystique, grew to the extent that during the Balcombe Street siege, the IRA surrendered once the SAS deployment was publicised. This was a pragmatic move on their part, given the SAS's reputation for killing Irish republicans, armed or unarmed. The regiment were brought sharply to the public's attention during the Iranian embassy siege in London on April 30 1980. The live televising of Operation Nimrod brought the SAS much publicity.

Military operations from the 1980s onwards

During the Falklands War 1982, SAS teams worked, with their SBS counterparts, in many operations before the main force landings at San Carlos and after the landings ahead of the FEBA (Forward Edge of Battle Area - the front line). These included operations in South Georgia, guiding Harrier attacks on Port Stanley airport to destroy Argentine helicopters, and the destruction of eleven Pucará attack aircraft on Pebble Island. During the war, 22 SAS under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Rose were the only land unit that had their own satellite communications back to the UK.

In the Gulf War, the SAS's role was similar to their forerunners in World War Two: they deployed deep into Iraqi territory to gather intelligence and destroy mobile Scud missile launchers. They did the job with anything from explosives to jackhammers.

The most famous mission of the war, known as Bravo Two Zero, was popularised by books written by two participants in the mission. Their accounts describe an eight-man SAS patrol cut off deep in Iraq during a scud-busting raid. Discovered by the Iraqis, they supposedly fought their way to the border over a distance of 120 miles, killing 250 Iraqi soldiers along the way. Four were captured after running out of ammunition, three were KIA, and one managed to escape to Syria. These accounts have received severe criticism from a former member of the SAS [1] (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0304365548/026-5416790-7473204).

Allegedly some troopers (officially ex-members of the Regiment) fought in the Vietnam War and helped Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. There was also official SAS training of Mujahideen in Scotland in the 1980s, with particular emphasis on shooting down Russian helicopters. Some ex-members have also become mercenaries or Private military contractors.

They were also involved in the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan. When Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners tried to escape in Afghanistan, the SAS was reportedly called in. They also rescued two CIA men who were trapped behind enemy lines. Operation Trent employed half the Regiment in a successful attack on a $85,000,000 opium storage plant in Helmand province, which doubled as an Al-Qaeda local command centre.

The SAS in popular culture

The SAS has since the mid-1970s built up an almost mythical reputation.

It is the prime ingredient for a regular fare of heroic exploits of almost superhuman dimensions in the British tabloid press. This press obsession increased enormously following the dramatic 1980 hostage rescue at the Iranian Embassy siege in London, which was seen live on television.

The enigma, misinformation and myth surrounding the SAS has been exacerbated by government secrecy in all matters related to the Regiment aided by a good deal of government propaganda relating to the SAS, much released in behind the scenes press briefings resulting in press speculation about the Regiment's deployments.

The SAS was greatly popularised among young people all over the world in the extremely popular online game Counter-Strike. The SAS were added as part of the Counter-Terrorism units a player could chose to play as during the game's development.

Adding to all this there is a constant stream of fictional depictions of the SAS Regiment and of former SAS soldiers.

Blurring the line between fiction and fact are a number of supposedly factual accounts which, some allege, are in reality highly dramatised accounts based very loosely on actual events. Perhaps the two most well known examples being two books written under pseudonyms by two ex-SAS soldiers who served together on a patrol into Iraq in the first Gulf war of 1991:

Both of these works have subsequently been criticised by authoritative sources (including the Regimental Sergeant Major of 22 SAS at the time of the first Gulf war, Peter Ratcliffe DCM) as being highly embellished dramatisations of actual events with only a tenuous relation to reality.

Despite the alleged embellishments, these books sold very well and consequently started a me-too publishing bonanza by ex SAS soldiers cashing in on this clear public appetite. The British government has since moved to prevent this in future by insisting that all who serve with the Regiment sign an agreement not to publish details of their service with the Regiment.

As a result of the plethora of exaggeration, myth and plain falsehood put out as fact in relation to the British SAS and its methods of operation, anything written about the SAS should perhaps be treated with a very healthy dose of skepticism.

There is even the surprisingly common phenomenon of individuals attempting to bask in the reflected glory of the SAS by claiming to have served with the Regiment, when in reality they have had little or even no connection whatsoever with the SAS. This 'wannabe' phenomenon also occurs in relation to other special force units, both British and foreign.

This is all perhaps indicative of aspects of the human condition and psychology and tells us something about the birth of myth and legend.

In 2002 and 2003, BBC Television further exploited the success of the SAS with a series of programmes which showcased ordinary members of the public being subjected to training routines and survival exercises normally undergone by prospective members of the organisation for selection purposes, as well as a documentary featuring former SAS members explaining general combat and survival tactics.

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Troopers storm the embassy

Some books about the SAS include:

  • The Phantom Major by Virginia Cowles (out of print) reconstructs the formation and early years of the SAS from accounts by Stirling and other members of the unit, written in the 1950s.
  • SAS: Borneo Story by James Albany (now out of print) semi official account of the SAS in the 1960s conflict with Indonesia
  • Eye of the Storm by Peter Ratcliffe DCM, who served with the Regiment for 25 years and became its Regimental Sergeant Major
  • SAS Operation Oman by Colonel Tony Jeapes, former SAS Commanding Officer during the Oman campaign of the early to mid 1970s
  • Who Dares Wins (The Special Air Service-1950 to the Gulf War) by Tony Geraghty, who has written much about the history of the SAS and its operations clearly with the help of current and ex-SAS members.
  • Where Soldiers Fear To Tread by Ranulph Fiennes (out of print) 1975. ISDN 0340147547 A fascinating and often deeply moving personal account of the author's experiences on active service with the SAS in Oman in the late '60s and early '70s.
  • He Who Dares (apa Soldier I SAS) by Michael Paul Kennedy (out of print) Autobiographical account of service in the SAS, including accounts of the battle of Mirbat and the author's role in the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London.

SAS operations

  • Archway March 1945 SAS reconnaissance in support of the crossing of the Rhine.
  • Baobab January 1944 SAS raid on rail targets serving Anzio Italy.
  • Begonia/Jonquil October 1943 SAS rescue of POWs in Italy.
  • Bravo One Zero January 1991, Iraq
  • Bravo Two Zero January 1991, Iraq
  • Bravo Three Zero January 1991, Iraq
  • Candytuft October 1943 SAS raid on railroad targets in Italy.
  • Canuck January 1945 SAS operation in Northern Italy.
  • Chestnut July 1943 SAS raids supporting Sicily invasion.
  • Claret June 1964 series of SAS patrols into Indonesia.
  • Cold Comfort/Zombie February 1945 failed SAS raid on railroad targets near Verona.
  • Colossus February 1941 first airborne raid, raid on Italian aqueduct, origin of the term 'SAS' (but not the organisation).
  • Condor May 2002 operation in Afghanistan.
  • Defoe July 1944 SAS patrols in Normandy.
  • Driftwood 1944 SAS raid of railroad targets in Italy
  • Dunhill August 1944 SAS raid in support of the breakout from the Normandy beachhead.
  • Flavius March 1988 SAS operation against the IRA in Gibraltar.
  • Gaff July 1944 SAS attempt to kill Erwin Rommel.
  • Keyhole 1982 operations on South Georgia Island.
  • Keystone April 1945 SAS operation near Ijsselmeer.
  • Loyton August 1944 SAS operations neas the Belford Gap.
  • Narcissus July 1943 SAS capture of lighthouse in Sicily.
  • Nelson Planned June 1944 SAS operation in the Orleans Gap.
  • Newton August 1944 SAS attacks on German rear areas.
  • Nimrod April 1980 SAS rescue of hostages in the Iranian embassy in London.
  • Noah August 1944 SAS attack on retreating Germans in Belgium.
  • Savannah March 1941 attempt to kill German pilots and aircrew by pre SAS French paratroops.
  • Tombola March 1945 major SAS operation around Bologna

Other Special Forces based on the SAS

New Zealand and Australia have their own SAS units. Rhodesia also used to have one before it became Zimbabwe.

The United States Army Special Operations Forces Operational Detachment Delta, also known as Delta Force or SFOD, was originally based on the SAS. Its founder, "Chargin'" Charlie Beckwith, having served on exchange with the SAS in the early 1960s, caught the "SAS bug" and, recognising a void in the US Army, devoted a large part of the remainder of his career to the raising and establishment of a US unit formed on "SAS lines" with SAS capabilites. Delta sub-units still use British/Commonwealth terminology, such as Squadron instead of Company and Troop instead of Platoon. Books by soldiers purporting to be ex Delta "operators" have suggested that Delta may have moved away from its SAS origins.

The German Army special forces unit, the KSK, is also closely patterned on the SAS.


  • Warner, Philip (1983): The SAS. The Official History. Sphere. ISBN 0722189109
  • Connor, Ken (1998): Ghost Force - The Secret History of the SAS. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. ISBN 0297840800 [unofficial history]
  • McNab, Andy (1994) : Bravo Two Zero Corgi Adult . ISBN 0552141275
  • McNab, Andy (1996) : Immediate Action Corgi Adult. ISBN 055214276X
  • Ryan, Chris (1996): The One That Got Away Arrow. ISBN 0099460157

See also

he:SAS ja:Special Air Service pl:Special Air Service


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