The SAS are one of the most famous special forces unit in the world and are easily the best of the British Army. The SAS was founded in 1941 first as a regiment but was then reconstituted as a corps in 1950. This special forces unit takes on many roles from counter-terrorism to hostage rescue and everything in between. Not much information is available on the SAS as it is highly classified due to the operations they undergo. Not even the British government or Ministry of Defense (MoD) will comment on the SAS or the actions they take. The SAS currently consists of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, the 21st (Artists) Special Air Service Regiment and the 23rd Special Air Service Regiment. The 21st and 23rd Regiments are made up of reservists under the command of the 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade. The Special Air Service originally began in the Second World War in 1941. In 1947 the SAS was reformed to become part of the Territorial Army to allow reservists to be available for operation.
The SAS was first formed during the Western Desert Campaign of World War II and are still in operation today. The SAS took part in operations in North Africa, the Greek Islands and were an important part of the invasion of Italy in 1943 which struck a major blow to the Axis. After this they were reformed into a brigade which included two British regiments, two French regiments and one Belgian. THe SAS then began operations in France which led them through to Italy and then onto Germany.
Once the Second World War had finished, the SAS was disbanded and it would be almost six years later before they were reformed as part of the Territorial Army which would go on to form the 22 SAS Regiment for regulars. Since then, the SAS has been involved in almost every small war that the UK has been involved in since and are still on call for counter-terrorism. Information on the recent activities of the SAS are unavailable to the public as the operations they undergo are highly classified.
- The Iranian Embassy Siege, 1980
- Peterhead Prison Siege, 1980
- Victor Two, 1991
- Operation Barras, Sierra Leone, 2000
- Basra Rescue, 2005
The Iranian Embassy Siege, 1980
Also known as Operation Nimrod, this incident took place in the heart of London in broad daylight and involved six Iranian gunmen who infiltrated the Iranian Embassy and took 26 people hostage. These terrorists identified themselves as the Democratic Revolutionary Front for Arabistan and were protesting against oppression of Khuzestan. This operation was what gave the SAS their spotlight as it set the standard for counter-terrorism today. The six day siege was ended within 11 minutes once the SAS were called and all hostages were saved.
Peterhead Prison Siege, 1980
In the D-wing of Peterhead Prison a riot had broken out which ruleted in prisoners taking control of the wing and taking a 56 year old prison officer hostage. The prisoners were in for life for violent crimes and had nothing to lose so when threats were made to kill the hostages the SAS was called. Several politicians were against the idea of sending in special forces at first but in the end they were given the go ahead. Stun and gas grenades were used on the prisoners and the sheer speed of the SAS assault meant that no casualties were taken and all prisoners and hostages were safely secured.
Victor Two, 1991
The SAS were deployed during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 to the Iraqi desert. They were looking for targets of interest and were tasked with destroying missiles which were firing on Israel. Nearing the end of the campaign, the whole of squadron of the SAS was gathered for an assault on the Scud communications installation which was code named Victor Two. The SAS went in to destroy the communications tower that was assisting SCUD missiles being launched. Even though they were misinformed and highly outgunned the SAS were able to fight off hundreds of enemy soldiers and managed to plant their explosives and destroy the facility.
Operation Barras, Sierra Leone, 2000
In Summer 2000 a group of Royal Irish Rangers were on patrol in Sierra Leone when they were captured by a gang of rebels known as the West Side Boys. The rebels demanded ransoms of various amounts and negotiations saw the release of a number of the Rangers but 7 were still held and when the negotiations were broken and the lives of the hostages were threatened the SAS was called yet again to save the day. D squadron of the SAS was flown to the country and prepped for the ensuing hostage rescue mission. With hundreds of troops said to be guarding the base it was decided that they would take the element of surprise. This would later be changed as after multiple observations it was deemed that stealth would be impossible and so the base needed to be hit with speed and firepower. With air support, three chinooks escorted by helicopter gunships flew into the base and stormed it. The shock from the landings worked and the West Side Boys were eventually subdued and the SAS only took one casualty with another 13 injured. The 7 hostages were all secured and returned to the UK safely.
Basra Rescue, 2005
2 SAS soldiers on a surveillance operation in Basra were investigating claims that the local police in had been torturing prisoners. They were confronted by several policemen and a gunfight ensued. The soldiers had to surrender and were taken into custody. This operation is controversial as it is claimed that the two soldiers were really on a sabotage mission and were equipped with C8 CQB carbines, a mini PARA machine gun and a LAW rocket launcher. The SAS stormed the house in which the soldiers were being held and surprisingly nobody was injured in the rescue.