Special Air Service: Wikis


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Special Air Service
Winged sword badge
with motto Who Dares Wins [1]
Active July 1941[2]– 8 October 1945[3]
1 January 1947[4]– Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Special Forces
Role Special operations
Counter Terrorism
Size one regular and two territorial army regiments
Part of UK Special Forces
Garrison/HQ RHQ: Credenhill, Herefordshire
22 SAS: Credenhill, Herefordshire
21 SAS: London
23 SAS: Birmingham
Motto Who Dares Wins[1]
March Quick: Marche des Parachutistes Belges
Slow: Lili Marlene[1]
Engagements Second World War
Malayan Emergency
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Dhofar Rebellion
Northern Irish Troubles
Falklands War
Iraq War
Operation Barras
War In Afghanistan
Gulf War
Colonel-Commandant General Charles Guthrie[5]
David Stirling
Paddy Mayne
Mike Calvert
Peter de la Billière
Michael Rose
SAS pattern parachute wings SASWings.png

The Special Air Service or SAS is a special forces regiment of the British Army,[1] that has served as a model for the special forces of other countries.[6] The SAS alongside the Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) form the United Kingdom Special Forces.

The SAS can trace its origins to the Second World War but gained fame and recognition world wide after the Iranian Embassy Storming in 1980, which was broadcast live around the world. Prior to that few outside of the military special operations community even knew the regiment existed.[7]

The SAS is divided into two distinct parts: the regular army: 22 Special Air Service Regiment, and the territorial army: 21 Special Air Service Regiment and 23 Special Air Service Regiment. The three regiments are tasked with various objectives. In war, they are to conduct reconnaissance, deep strike and other secret missions. In peacetime, they are generally tasked with a counter terrorist (CT) and a Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) role.



The SAS was a unit of the British Army during World War II formed in July 1941 by David Stirling,[2] as a commando force operating behind enemy lines during the war in North Africa.[8] Initially consisting of five officers and 60 other ranks.[9] In September 1942 the SAS consisted of four British squadrons with a Free French Squadron, a Greek Sacred Squadron and the Folboat Section attached.[10]

By 1944 the SAS had expanded and was a recognised brigade, which consisted of the British 1st and 2nd SAS, the French 3rd and 4th SAS and the Belgian 5th SAS.[3]

At the end of the war the British Government could see no need for a such a force and it was disbanded on 8 October 1945.[3] In 1946 it was decided that there was a need for a long term deep penetration commando unit and a SAS regiment was to be raised as part of the Territorial Army.[11] The title chosen for the new regiment was 21st SAS Regiment (V) and the regiment chosen to take on the SAS mantle was an old distinguished regiment the Artists Rifles which had been raised in 1860.[11] The new regiment came into existence on 1 January 1947 and took over the Artists Rifles headquarters at Dukes Road, Euston.[4]

A close-up of six men in three Jeep's. A heavily armed patrol of 'L' Detachment SAS. The crews of the Jeep's are all wearing 'Arab-style' headdress, as copied from the Long Range Desert Group. Jerricans can be seen mounted around the vehicles
SAS in North Africa during the Second World War.

Requested to send a squadron to serve in the Korean War by General Douglas McArthur Z Squadron was formed.[4] The squadron never reached Korea as it was diverted to Malaya, when it was identified there was a task for an SAS unit in the Malayan Emergency. Redesignated M Squadron it was assigned duties with the Malayan Scouts (SAS) under the command of Brigadier Mike Calvert.[4] The need for a regular SAS regiment was recognised and 22 SAS Regiment was formally added to the army list in 1952 and has been based at Hereford since 1960.[1]


The Ministry of Defence does not comment on special forces matters, therefore little verifiable information exists in the public domain.[12]

The Special Air Service comprises of three units, one Regular and two reserve Territorial Army (TA). The regular army unit is 22 SAS Regiment and territorial army units are 21 SAS Regiment (Artists) and 23 SAS Regiment.[13]

Each regiment comprises a number of squadrons and within 22 SAS there is also a Headquarters, Planning, and Intelligence Section, Operational Research Section, Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing, and the Training Wing.


'Sabre' Squadrons in the SAS are organised as four specialised troops, although personnel are broadly skilled in all areas following 'Selection' and 'Continuation' training.

Troops usually consist of 16 men,[14] and specialise in four different areas. Air troop soldiers learn free fall parachuting and HALO jump techniques.[15] Boat troop soldiers learn specialist maritime skills; using kayaks and Rigid-hulled inflatable boats.[15] Mobility troop soldiers specialise in using vehicles and are trained in an advanced level of motor mechanics to fix any problem with their vehicles.[16] and Mountain troop soldiers study Arctic combat and survival, using specialist equipment such as skis, snowshoes and mountain climbing techniques.[15]

22 Special Air Service Regiment 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) 23 Special Air Service Regiment
'HQ' Squadron (Hereford)[17] 'HQ' Squadron (London)[17] 'HQ' Squadron (Birmingham)[17]
'A' Squadron[18] 'A' Squadron (Regent's Park) 'B' Squadron (Leeds)[19]
'B' Squadron[20] 'C' Squadron (Bramley)[21] 'G' Squadron (Manchester)[22]
'D' Squadron[23] 'E' Squadron (Wales)[24] 'D' Squadron (Scotland)[25]
'G' Squadron[23]

Counter terrorist

SAS counter terrorist teams are specialists in Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and sniper techniques. Training focuses on hostage rescue in buildings or on public transport.[26] Standard equipment used consists of stun grenades, respirators, body armour, shotguns, Heckler & Koch MP5, L96 Snipers rifle and a SIG Sauer pistol.[27] In 1980 the SAS were involved in a hostage rescue during the Iranian Embassy Siege. Five of the six terrorists involved were killed one survived by passing himself off as a hostage.[28]

Recruitment, selection and training

All members of the United Kingdom armed forces can be considered for special forces selection,[nb 1] but historically the majority of candidates have an airborne forces background.[30] There are two selections a year, one in winter and the other in summer,[29] and all the instructors are full members of the SAS Regiment.[29] Selection lasts for five weeks in Sennybridge, Powys in the Brecon Beacons and normally starts with about 200 candidates.[29] On arrival candidates have to complete a Basic Fitness Test (BFT) and a Combat Fitness Test (CFT). They then complete a series of cross country marches against the clock, with the distances covered increasing each day and includes a 14 miles (23 km) march with full equipment on Pen-y-Fan known as the Fan Dance in four hours.[29] By the end of the hill phase candidates must be able to walk four miles in 30 minutes and swim two miles in 90 minutes.[29]

Those who successfully complete the hill phase move onto the jungle phase which can take place in Belize, Brunei or Malaysia.[31] In the jungle phase candidates are taught navigation,moving in patrol formation and how to survive in the jungle.[32]

After successfully completing the jungle phase candidates return to Hereford for training in battle plans, foreign weapons and take part in a combat survival exercise.[33] The final exercise is an escape and evasion exercise the remaining candidates are formed into patrols and carrying nothing more than a tin can filled with survival equipment they are dressed in old Second World War uniforms and told to head for an point by first light. The exercise lasts for one week and is followed by the final selection test Resistance to Interrogation (RTI) which lasts for 36 hours.[34]

At the end of the RTI the candidates that have survived are transferred to an operational squadron.[35]

SAS Reserve selection

The Territorial Army SAS Regiments undergo the same selection, but due to being part-time the selection process is stretched over a longer period of time. Nine weekends of endurance training, one week endurance training in the Brecon Beacons. Followed by one week assessment (Test Week) in the Beacons.[36]

This is followed by Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) Training. Which comprises of: nine weekends patrol SOP's including surveillance and reconnaissance. one week live firing including patrol contact drills and Troop offensive action. a nine day battle camp comprising: Live firing assessment, Field training exercise to test the skills learned throughout Selection. This culminates in Conduct after Capture (CAC) training.[36] On successful completion of this training, ranks are badged as SAS(R) and are fit for appointment.[36]

Uniform distinctions

The SAS, like every British regiment, has its own distinctive uniform

Battle honours

Note that these officially sanctioned honours, first published in 1957, are for actions by the original 'L' Detachment, both numbered World War II British SAS regiments as well as the Special Boat Service regiment and the present regiment. The World War II honours Benghazi Raid, 1942 and Middle East, 1943-1944 are unique to the regiment. The odd dating for North Africa, 1940-43 is due to the fact that this is an omnibus theatre honour for units serving between these dates.

Order of Precedence

Preceded by:
The Rifles
British Army Order of Precedence[40] Succeeded by:
Army Air Corps

See also


  1. ^ United Kingdom Special Forces never recruit directly from the general public [29]
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Griffin, pp.150–152
  2. ^ a b Molinari, p.22
  3. ^ a b c Short & McBride, p.16
  4. ^ a b c d Short & McBride,p.18
  5. ^ "Lord Guthrie: 'Tony's General' turns defence into an attack". The Independant. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/lord-guthrie-tonys-general-turns-defence-into-an-attack-399865.html. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  6. ^ Adams, p.102
  7. ^ Thompson, p.8
  8. ^ Thompson, p.7
  9. ^ Thompson, p.48
  10. ^ Molinari, p.25
  11. ^ a b Short & McBride, p.17
  12. ^ "Special forces quitting to cash in on Iraq". The Scotsman. http://www.sandline.com/hotlinks/Scotsman_Spec-forces.html. Retrieved 9-March-2010. 
  13. ^ "Special Air Service (Reserve)". Ministry of Defence. http://www.army.mod.uk/specialforces/Special%20Air%20Service%20(Reserve).aspx. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  14. ^ "The arrested development of UK special forces and the global war on terror". Cambridge University Press. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=6459928&jid=RIS&volumeId=35&issueId=04&aid=6459920. Retrieved 17-March-2010. 
  15. ^ a b c Ryan, p.40
  16. ^ Ryan, p.97
  17. ^ a b c "Overstretched SAS calls up part-time troops for Afghanistan". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/1450394/Overstretched-SAS-calls-up-part-time-troops-for-Afghanistan.html. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  18. ^ Fremont-Barnes p.19
  19. ^ "B Sqn 23 SAS". Reserve forces and cadets association. http://www.rfca-yorkshire.org.uk/Units/Leeds/B%20Sqn%2023%20SAS.htm. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  20. ^ Fremont-Barnes, p.4
  21. ^ "C Squadron 21 Special Air Service Regiment (V) Artists Rifles". Ministry of Defence. http://www.armyjobs.mod.uk/south/rolesandregiments/ta/Pages/CSquadron21SpecialAirServiceRegiment(V)ArtistsRifles.aspx. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  22. ^ "G Squadron, 23 Special Air Service Regiment (R)". Ministry of Defence. http://www.armyjobs.mod.uk/northwest/rolesandregiments/ta/Pages/GSquadron,23SpecialAirServiceRegiment(R).aspx. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  23. ^ a b Thompson, p.86
  24. ^ "E Squadron - 21 Special Air Service Regiment". Ministry of Defence. http://www.armyjobs.mod.uk/wales/rolesandregiments/ta/Pages/ESquadron,21SpecialAirServiceRegiment.aspx. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  25. ^ "D Squadron 23 SAS (R)". Ministry of Defence. http://www.armyjobs.mod.uk/scotland/rolesandregiments/ta/pages/dsquadron23sas(r).aspx. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  26. ^ Ryan, pp.38–39
  27. ^ Ryan, pp.38–54
  28. ^ "Six days that shook Britain". The Guardian]]. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/jul/24/military.features11. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  29. ^ a b c d e f Ryan, p.17
  30. ^ Ryan, p.15
  31. ^ Ryan,p.19
  32. ^ Ryan,p.21
  33. ^ Ryan, p.23
  34. ^ Ryan, p.24
  35. ^ Ryan, p.25
  36. ^ a b c "Special Air Service (Reserve)". Ministry of Defence. http://www.army.mod.uk/specialforces/Special%20Air%20Service%20(Reserve).aspx. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  37. ^ Stevens, p.57
  38. ^ Davis, p.67
  39. ^ "Gulf Battle Honours". The Independant. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/gulf-battle-honours-1511977.html. Retrieved 18-March-2010. 
  40. ^ Queen's Regulations for the Army, Part 1 Paragraph 8.001 Precedence of Corps and Regiments
  • Adams, James (1987). Secret Armies. Hutchinson. ISBN 0553281623. 
  • Davis, Brian Leigh (1983). British Army uniforms & insignia of World War Two. Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0853686092. 
  • Griffin, P.D (2006). Encyclopedia of Modern British Army Regiments. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 075093929x. 
  • Fremont-Barnes (2009). Who Dares Wins - The SAS and the Iranian Embassy Siege 1980. Osprey Publishing. 
  • Short, James; McBride, Angus (1981). The Special Air Service. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0850453968. 
  • Molinari, Andrea (2007). Desert raiders;Axis and Allied Special Forces 1940-43. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781486030062. 
  • Ryan, Chris (2009). Fight to Win. Century. ISBN 9781846056666. 
  • Stevens, Gordon (2005). The Originals - The secret history of the birth of the SAS in their own words. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0091901776. 
  • Thompson, Leroy (1994). SAS: Great Britain's elite Special Air Service. Zenith Imprint. ISBN 0879389400. 

Coordinates: 52°5.180′N 2°47.451′W / 52.08633°N 2.79085°W / 52.08633; -2.79085 (Stirling Lines)

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|Badge of the S.A.S.]] The S.A.S. or Special Air Service, is a Special Operations Organisation of the British Army. It was founded in 1941 to attack behind the German line of defence in North Africa, in World War II.

The SAS is a very secret organisation, its members often do not tell anyone except close family that they are in it. The British Ministry of Defence (MOD) rarely speaks of the SAS and mission details are never released until after a set amount of time.

The Badge of the organisation is a knife with wings. It shows the motto: Who Dares Wins.

Current SAS roles include:

  • Gathering intelligence behind enemy lines.
  • Destroying targets far behind enemy lines.
  • Protecting The Royal Family, and important government members.
  • Training special forces of other nations.

The SAS is thought of all over the world as one of the best, if not the best Special Operations organisations. This is mainly because of the intense training they are put through. The hardest part of this is intense interrogation (questioning while under torture) which the trainees must go through.

The SAS is respected worldwide and used to train many other Special Forces Units.

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