SAS “Special Air Service”


The Special Air Service was a unit of the British Army  during the Second World War that was formed in July 1941 by Sir 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) It was conceived as a commando force to operate behind enemy lines in the North African Campaign and initially consisted of five officers and 60 other ranks. Its first mission, in November 1941,  was a parachute drop in support of the Operation Crusader offensive. Due to German resistance and adverse weather conditions, the mission was a disaster; 22 men, a third of the unit, were killed or captured. Its second mission was a major success. Transported by the Long Range Desert Group , it attacked three airfields in Libya, destroying 60 aircraft with the loss of 2 men and 3 jeeps. 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.  In January 1943, Colonel Stirling was captured in Tunisia and Lieutenant Colonel  Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne     replaced him as commander. In April 1943, the 1st SAS was reorganised into the Special Raiding Squadron  under Mayne’s command and the Special Boat Squadron was placed under the command of George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe.  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 Small Scale Raiding Force.  The Special Boat Squadron fought in the Aegean Islands and Dodecanese until the end of the war. In 1944 the SAS Brigade was formed from the British 1st and 2nd SAS,  the French 3rd and 4th SAS  and the Belgian 5th SAS. It was tasked with parachute operations behind the German lines in France and carried out operations supporting the Allied advance through France, (Operations Houndsworth, Bullbasket, Loyton and Wallace-Hardy) Belgium, the Netherlands (Operation Pegasus), and eventually into Germany (Operation Archway). Operation Pegasus was a military operation carried out on the Lower Rhine near the village of Renkum, close to Arnhem in the Netherlands. Overnight on 22–23 October 1944, the Allies successfully evacuated a large group of men trapped in German occupied territory who had been in hiding since the Battle of Arnhem. As a result of Hitler’s issuing of the Commando Order on 18 October 1942, the members of the unit faced the additional danger that they would be summarily executed if ever captured by the Germans. In July 1944, following Operation Bulbasket, 34 captured SAS commandos were summarily executed by the Germans. In October 1944, in the aftermath of Operation Loyton another 31 captured SAS commandos were summarily executed by the Germans.

Operation Bulbasket was an operation by ‘B’ Squadron, 1st Special Air Service (SAS), behind the German lines in German occupied France, between June and August 1944. The operation was located to the east of Poitiers in the Vienne department of south west France; its objective was to block the Paris to Bordeaux railway line near Poitiers and to hamper German reinforcements heading towards the Normandy beachheads, especially the 2nd SS Panzer Division – Das Reich,  under command of SS-Obersturmbannführer Christian Tychsen.  

Sir Archibald Davis Stirling died 4 November 1990 (aged 74) in Westminster, London, England. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne died 14 December 1955 (aged 40) in an car accident in Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland. George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe died 22 February 007 (aged 88) in Tidcombe, WiltshireUnited Kingdom.





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