Special Air Service

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'Special Air Service'

The Special Air Service (SAS) has its origins in the North African desert. It was formed in 1941 to undertake small-scale raids behind enemy lines. Many of its men were drawn from Commando units in the Middle East including Nos. 7, 8 and 11 and also operated under the title L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade. A brigade was usually made up of around 5,000 men, so this name was a fiction designed to deceive the enemy.

'Special Raiding Squadron'

In April 1943 1st SAS Regiment was restyled as the Special Raiding Squadron and undertook raids in Sicily and Italy alongside the 2nd Special Air Service, which came into existence in May 1943 in Algeria.
The Special Raiding Squadron was commanded by Major Robert Blair Mayne, better known as 'Paddy'.
In 1944, the S.R.S. and 2 S.A.S. were placed under the umbrella Special Air Service Brigade.
 

ALMONDS, John Edward

No 8 Commando
SAS
Coldstream Guards
Military Medal (MM)
Bar to the Military Medal
Sergeant John Almonds, known as Gentleman Jim, served in No.8 Commando and embarked with them to the Middle East as part of Layforce. When his Commando unit was being disbanded he transferred to the newly raised  'L' Detachment SAS [1]

BACKHOUSE, Charles, R.

Charles Backhouse 2 commando and 1st SAS
SAS
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Mentioned in Despatches
Charles Backhouse served with No.2 Commando before joining the 1st S.A.S. [1].
He received a Mention in Despatches for his escape having been taken prisoner of war whilst serving with the 1st SAS [2].
Recommendation 

BENNETT, Robert

No 8 Commando
SAS
Grenadier Guards
Military Medal (MM)
British Empire Medal (BEM)
Lance Sergeant Robert Bennett joined 'L' Detachment, S.A.S. Brigade on the disbandment of No.8 Commando. He was awarded the Military Medal in recognition of gallant and distinguished service during the December 1941 S.A.S. raid on Tamet areodrome. He had participated in five previous operations [1][2][3].

BOLDEN, Stanley

Stanley Bolden 12 Commando
No 12 Commando
SAS
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Military Medal (MM)
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lance Corporal Stanley Bolden, No.12 Commando, was awarded the Military Medal in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the Field [1][2].
He was later killed in action serving as a Corporal with the 2nd SAS Regiment during an attack on the German 51 Mountain Corps HQ at Albinea Italy [3][4].

BOLLAND, Stanley

Stanley Bolland
No 8 Commando
SAS
Scots Guards 2nd Bn
Killed in action or died of wounds
Guardsman Stanley Bolland was serving with  "L" Detachment, S.A.S. Bde., Special Air Service Regiment, A.A.C. at the time of his death, having previously served in No.

BROOK, Harold

No 8 Commando
SAS
Grenadier Guards
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lance Corporal Harold Brook died [1] during operations in France with 1st Special Air Service Regiment having left the Commandos. He was reported as missing in action during Operation Houndforce [2]. 
 

BROUGH, William Gordon

No 8 Commando
SAS
Scots Guards 2nd Bn
Military Medal (MM)
Lance Sergeant William Brough, formerly No.8 Commando and known as Jimmy, was awarded the Military Medal whilst serving with the Special Air Service Brigade in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field.
 
See more on this entry in our Forum [view].

BROWN, Leslie Jock

Cpl. Leslie Brown 1st SAS
'Layforce'
SAS
Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Killed in action or died of wounds

Corporal Leslie Brown had previously served in the Commandos before joining 'B' Squadron of the 1st Special Air Service. He died when his jeep patrol was attacked whilst en route to harass the enemy in Southern Tunisia.

BYRNE, John Vincent

John Vincent Byrne DCM
No 11 Commando
SAS
No 6 Commando
Gordon Highlanders
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
3 May 1940 wounded at Dunkirk France serving as a Private with 1st Bn. Gordon Highlanders, British Expeditionary Force [1].
Attached to and served with No.11 Commando 8 Troop (Layforce) until disbanded [5][7]. 
Joined 'L' Detachment Special Air Service 1941 attaining rank of Corporal [2][3][3a]

CHEYNE, John

Jock Cheyne 11 Commando
No 11 Commando
Gordon Highlanders
Killed in action or died of wounds
Sergeant John Cheyne, 8 troop, was posted to 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, on the 28th August 1941.

DAVIDSON, Alexander

No 11 Commando
SAS
Gordon Highlanders
Army Air Corps
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lance Sergeant Alexander Davidson was killed in action serving with 1 SAS having left the Commando. He had previously been attached to No.11 Commando since August 1940. He also served in the ME Commando and 1SSR.
 
Sources
CWGC.

DRONGIN, Anthony

No 8 Commando
SAS
Scots Guards
Killed in action or died of wounds

Regimental Sergeant Major Anthony Drongin of No 8 Commando gave up his rank to join L Detachment SAS when 8 Commando was disbanded. He served as a Corporal and is reported to have died of wounds inflicted during SAS operations near Benghazi.

DUFFY, Joseph Aloysius

No 11 Commando
SAS
Seaforth Highlanders
Died on war service

Private Joseph Duffy joined L Detachment, SAS, from No 11 Commando on the 28th August 1941 and was accidentally killed in training due to a parachute failure, along with his friend and fellow Seaforth Highlander, Private Kenneth Warburton. Location given as East side of the Great Bitter Lake. The pair became the Regiment's first casualties.​ 

FARRAGHER, Kieran Joseph

95 Cdo. Regt.RA
29 Cdo. Regt.RA
SAS
Royal Artillery
Died in service

Warrant Officer Kieran Farragher, attached to the Special Air Service, died in a climbing accident in Botswana. He had joined the SAS in 1973 having previously served in 95 Commando and 29 Commando Regt RA.

FASSAM, Joseph William

Joseph William Fassam 1st SRS
No 8 Commando
Middle East Commando
SAS
Royal Artillery
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lance Bombardier Joseph Fassam died during operations at Termoli Italy with the Special Raiding Squadron having left the Commando.
Service 
No. 8 Commando;  
4 Special Service Battalion;
'B' Battalion Layforce;
Royal Artillery;
Middle East Commando, 'A' Squadron;
1st SAS;

HERSTELL, Ernest Maxwell

No 6 Commando
Small Scale Raiding Force
SAS
Royal Artillery
Killed in action or died of wounds
Gunner Ernest Herstell served in 6 Commando, then the SSRF (62 Commando) and finally the SAS. He died during operations with 2 SAS at Pantelleria during Operation Snapdragon.
Ernest was a serving Police Officer who volunteered for the Commandos as part of the Police Intakes. In 1939 he was a Police Constable residing at 37 Cotham Vale, Bristol.
 

KEITH, Douglas

No 11 Commando
SAS
Gordon Highlanders
Died on war service
Private Douglas Keith, formerly 11 Commando,  was posted to 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, on the 28th August 1941, and was taken prisoner after Operation Squatter.  He died whilst being transported on the Italian prison ship SS Sebastiano Venier, after it was was torpedoed by a British submarine.
 

LAPPIN, James

Jimmy Lappin 11 Commando and SAS
No 11 Commando
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Mentioned in Despatches
10 Troop of No.11 Commando. 
Took part in the Rommel raid (Operation Flipper)*.
'A' Squadron Middle East Commando.
Special Air Service.
Mentioned in Despatches in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the Field.
 
Sources
London Gazette 37310, page 5099.

LAPRAIK, John Neilson

51ME Commando
SBS
SAS
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Military Cross (MC)
Bar to the Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Territorial Decoration (TD)
Acting Captain John Neilson Lapraik was awarded the Military Cross for gallant and distinguished service in the Middle East [1].
Recommendation

LAYCOCK, Robert Edward

Major General Robert Edward Laycock
Special Service Brigade
Royal Horse Guards
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG)
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Knight of the Order of St John (KStJ)
Order of Oranje Nassau with Swords (Netherlands)
Legion of Merit (USA)

Born 1907; educated at Eton College and Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst; joined Royal Horse Guards, Mar 1927, 2nd Lt, 1927; Lt 1930; Capt 1934; married Angela Claire Louise (née Dudley Ward), 1935; instructor on anti-gas and air defence measures, School of Military Engineering, Chatham, Dec 1937; General Staff Officer, Grade 3 (passive air defence) in department of Chief of Imperial General S

LEE, Jack William

General List
SAS
General List
Military Cross (MC)
Lieutenant Jack Lee (born Raymond Jack William Couraud) was a French Liaison Officer attached to No.2 Commando specifically for Operation Chariot, the raid at St. Nazaire 28 March 1942.

LEWES, John Steel

No 8 Commando
SAS
Welsh Guards
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lieutenant John Lewes  was serving with  "L" Detachment, S.A.S. Bde., Special Air Service Regiment, A.A.C. at the time of his death. His previous service in No. 8 Commando is mentioned in various books but nothing official confirming this has yet been found by this archive.

MARTIN, Michael John

SAS
95 Cdo. Regt.RA
Special Air Service
Killed in action or died of wounds
Trooper Michael Martin, attached to the Special Air Service, died during operations in Oman.  He had previously served with 8 Battery, 95 Commando Regiment, R.A.  

MCGONIGAL, Eoin Christopher

No 11 Commando
SAS
Royal Ulster Rifles
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lieutenant Eoin McGonigal, formerly 7 troop of No.11 Commando, was posted to 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, on the 15th August 1941. He died during Operation Squatter targetting airfields at Timimi, west of Tobruk. 
 
Sources
CWGC.

MUNRO, George

No 11 Commando
50ME Commando
SBS
Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) 2nd Bn.
Killed in action or died of wounds
Sergeant George Munro, a veteran of the Litani River raid, died during operations with the S.B.S., on the island of Samos after leaving the Commando.
Postings
Sep   1940 - volunteered for 11 Cdo.
Mar  1941- arrive Middle East - 'C' Bn Layforce
Aug  1941- 11 Cdo absorbed into ME Cdo

MUSK, Eric

Eric Musk 7 Commando
No 7 Commando
Cambridgeshire Regiment

Lance Corporal Eric Musk was wounded during operations in Crete on 28 May 1941 whilst his unit were designated as part of Layforce. He avoided capture at Crete and later served in the SAS.

NIXON, Malvern

No 11 Commando
SAS
Royal Scots
Killed in action or died of wounds
Private Malvern Nixon died when his jeep patrol was attacked whilst en route to harass the enemy in Southern Tunisia. He was serving with 1st SAS  ('B' Sqn.) at the time of his death having left the Commandos.

PINCKNEY, Philip Hugh

No 12 Commando
SAS
Royal Artillery
Executed

Captain Philip Pinckney was executed whilst a prisoner of war. At the time he was serving with 2 SAS and had been captured on Operation Speedwell after parachuting with 6 others into Bologna, Italy. The aim of the operation was to disrupt enemy railway movements.

POWELL, Adrian Mark

29 Cdo. Regt.RA
SAS
Royal Artillery
Died in service

Trooper Adrian Powell died in a road traffic collision whilst serving with the SAS. He had previously served with  7 and 148 Btys. of 29 Commando Regt. RA, and 7 RHA.  He died when the vehicle in which he was travelling overturned while on way to training exercises near Nairobi in Kenya.

Also killed in this collision was 24648153 SSgt. Martin Halls, SAS, formerly Royal Engineers.

RALPHS, Edward

No 7 Commando
SAS
South Lancashire Regiment
Military Medal (MM)
Private Edward Ralphs was awarded the Military Medal whilst serving in the Special Raiding Squadron [1][2]. He had previously served in No.7 Commando [3].
Recommendation

REED, Neville

No 1 Commando
SAS
3rd Carabiniers Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards
Mentioned in Despatches
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Lance Sergeant Neville Reed served in No 1 Commando.
  • Post war he was RSM of 22 Special Air Service Regiment in Malaya. [1] 
  • 28th May 1957 it was announced that he had received a Mention in Despatches in recognition of distinguished services with 22 SAS in Malaya for the period 1st July to 31st December, 1956. [2] 

SEEKINGS, Albert Reginald

Albert Reginald Seekings 7 Commando and SAS
No 7 Commando
SAS
Cambridgeshire Regiment
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
Military Medal (MM)
Mentioned in Despatches
Albert Reginald Seekings served in No.7 Commando. Due to illness he did not take part in the Crete landings after which he joined 'L' Detachment SAS [1][2].
 
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Lance Sergeant, 'L' Detachment SAS, Middle East.
Recommendation

SEEKINGS, Robert William

Robert William Seekings 7 Commando and SAS
No 7 Commando
SAS
Cambridgeshire Regiment
Private Robert Seekings, No. 7 Commando, was wounded 28 May 1941 during operations in Crete whilst his unit were designated as part of Layforce [1]
Service History [2]
13 February 1938 enlisted at Ely into the T.A.*
3 September 1939 mobilised with the Cambridgeshire Regiment.

SENIOR, Fred

Fred Senior 1st SAS
No 8 Commando
Middle East Commando
SAS
Scots Guards 2nd Bn
Killed in action or died of wounds

Lance Sergeant Fred Senior died when his jeep patrol was attacked whilst en route to harass the enemy in Southern Tunisia. He was serving with 1st SAS  ('B' Sqn.) at the time of his death having left the Commandos.

SHORTALL, James Patrick

SAS
Royal Fusiliers
Executed
Corporal James Shortall was taken prisoner of war and executed whilst serving with the 2nd Special Air Service Regiment.
He had previously served in No.8 Commando in October 1940 and by March 1941 had moved to No.3 Commando. In April 1943 he was posted to 62 Commando SSRF whilst in North Africa which formed the foundation on which 2nd SAS was raised on 13 May.
 

SHORTEN, Raymond Herbert

52ME Commando
'Layforce'
SAS
General List
Killed in action or died of wounds
Lieutenant Raymond Shorten left the Commando in July 1942 to join 'L' Detachment SAS. He  died in October during operations with the SAS at Sidi Barrani.
 
 Nov 40, enlisted General List
 Dec 40, 52 ME Cdo
 Jan 41, wounded
 Mar 41, merged into D Bn,Layforce
 Apr 42, merged into ME Cdo C Sqn
 July 42, joins L Det, SAS Bde.
 

SILLETT, Thomas John

No 8 Commando
SAS
Somerset Light Infantry 5th Bn
Died on active service
Private Thomas Sillett died of illness (diptheria) whilst serving with 1st SAS, 'A' Sqn.  He had joined No 8 Commando in 1940 and embarked with them for the Middle East at the end of January 1941 as part of Layforce.  He later left the Commandos and joined 'L' Detachment SAS in June 1942.
 

STONE, Sidney James

No 8 Commando
SAS
Scots Guards
Killed in action or died of wounds

Sergeant Sidney Stone was serving with  "L" Detachment, S.A.S. Bde Special Air Service Regiment, A.A.C. at the time of his death, having previously served in No. 8 Commando.

TAIT, Duncan Robert

Duncan Robert Tait 11 Commando
No 11 Commando
SAS
London Scottish The Gordon Highlanders
Military Medal (MM)
Bar to the Military Medal
Lance Corporal Bob Tait, No.11 Commando 8 Troop [image in gallery], attached to Layforce, was awarded the Military Medal [1] in recognition of gallant and distinguished conduct during operations at Litani River, Syria, 9/10 June 1941 [2].
 

TERRY, Jack

Sgt Jack Terry DCM 11 Commando
No 11 Commando
SAS
Royal Artillery
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
Sergeant Jack Terry was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal [1] in recognition of gallant and distinguished services during the Rommel raid in the Middle East. It was during this raid that his commanding officer Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes was killed. Sgt. Terry made good his escape and later joined the Special Air Service.

TINNION, Bradley

SAS
Special Air Service
Mentioned in Despatches
Killed in action or died of wounds
Bombardier Bradley Tinnion, formerly 29 Commando RA, died whilst serving with the SAS having left the Commando in 1998.  He suffered fatal wounds when he was hit by machine gun fire as he helped rescue and evacuate six Army hostages out of the jungle in Sierra Leone. He received a posthumous MiD. [Award: London Gazettes Supp. 56168, page 4246.]

WARBURTON, Kenneth

No 11 Commando
SAS
Seaforth Highlanders
Died on war service
Private Kenneth Warburton died in training as a result of parachute failure whilst attached to 'L' Detachment SAS. He had previously served in 11 Commando 6 troop.  Also killed was his friend and fellow Seaforth

WESTWATER, Alexander

No 7 Commando
SAS
Royal Artillery
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
Died on war service
Sergeant Alexander Westwater DCM, formerly 7 Commando and SAS,  was killed in Italy after an explosion in what is described as a battle accident whilst serving with the Royal Artillery (AFHQ).
[Source: Royal Artillery Deaths 1939-1946, Form RH, stamped RA Record Office Field Branch]
 

WHITE, Harold

Harold White 7 Commando and SAS
No 7 Commando
SAS
Royal Army Service Corps
Military Medal (MM)
Corporal Harold White was awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry whilst serving with 'L' Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, having left the Commando after operations in Crete.
Recommendation
(by Lt. Col. A.D. Stirling, D.S.O.)

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