When it comes to fitness, adaptability, and toughness we’d all love to be as capable as the guys that serve in the SAS and other elite Special Forces units around the world.
The SAS has been around for what seems like a long time. Many countries now have their own version of these masked men. It all started somewhere and somehow, but exactly where and how? Ben Macintyre has written a marvelous book about the birth of the SAS. It is called Rogue Heroes and is available at most bookstores and online.
Rogue Heroes is the first authorized history of the birth and development of the early SAS. Author Macintyre had access to a 500-page war diary that was in its time strictly confidential and was compiled by the regiment’s archivists. This document was full of reports from those involved in the group from 1941 to 1945.
The SAS was created by David Stirling, a Scots Guards Officer who was in Egypt when the British Army was being beaten by Rommel’s Afrika Korps. David was only 25 at the time but managed to bluster his way into a general’s office and convince the general that guerrillas were what was needed behind the German lines to create disruption.
The situation at the time was desperate, and Stirling got the go-ahead; he assembled a band of what was described in the book as “a bunch of badass warriors, vagabonds, and near-psychopaths.” This was the birth of the Special Air Service (SAS), and it became an elite unit of nearly 100 fighters trained to extreme standards.
Many recruits were rejected for not being tough enough; the bar was set very high. This resulted in wannabes making extreme efforts to outlast and out-train each other rather than suffer the humiliation of being returned to their original unit.
Their first raid was not a success – 34 men lost without a single enemy kill – and only 21 men returned to base. This was a regular occurrence, with large losses and small gains.
The type of men recruited were killers or survivors or a combination of both. They became nothing more than an annoying hindrance to the Germans, unable to affect the battle in any meaningful way.
It is quite possible that without David’s cleverness the SAS would have been a footnote in the history books. But he managed to get the son of Winston Churchill along on a mission and, even though it wasn’t a success, the young man’s report appealed to Churchill, who gave the SAS his blessing and full regimental status.
David became lost on a mission, and he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner in Colditz. While he was gone, the unit underwent a change and became able to work behind enemy lines in Europe with subtlety. They still suffered large losses as when they were discovered they were often executed by the SS, but they worked well on disrupting communications and collecting intelligence. At the end of the war, they were stood down and disbanded, seemingly destined to fade away into history. However, they didn’t stay gone for long and have since been reinstated, playing a special role in the world of modern warfare, where authorities see a need for this elite unit once again.
At the end of the war, they were stood down and disbanded, seemingly destined to fade away into history. However, they didn’t stay gone for long and have since been reinstated, playing a special role in the world of modern warfare, where authorities see a need for this elite unit once again.
This book is well worth a read, particularly if you’re into military history, but even if you’re not reading about the men and the things they were able to do will be amazing. The Book is avaibale at all good bookstores and online.
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