The UK Special Forces with roots from World War II, Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), are likely an inspiration for the US Navy SEALs & other modern special forces.
The United Kingdom’s special forces may not be as acclaimed and widely known around the world as US special forces are as the former doesn’t make a big deal about it. The UK special forces, namely Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), are not only older than American special forces but also served as an inspiration for other modern special forces.
So let’s know here some of the iconic facts about elite special forces of the UK.
In its first few decades, the SAS was a significant and skilled special forces regiment but not internationally known or applauded. That’s because they were a small unit during World War II. In 1980, various members of an extremist political group from Iran attacked the Iranian embassy in London and held 26 people as hostage and demanded to release around 100 captive political allies. They also asked for a plane so they could take the hostages with them and to make sure that their plane won’t be targeted as they escape.
The then British PM Margaret Thatcher wasn’t in favor of negotiating with terrorists. And after 6 days of fierce deadlock, it appeared that it wasn’t leading to anything good. When the terrorists killed some of the remaining hostages, Thatcher decided to call the SAS. They managed with tear gas grenades and their sheer skill and bravely rescued all of the remaining hostages without causing any harm to them and even took some terrorists alive for probing. This particular incident established their reputation as one of the most elite special forces in the world.
The late acting legend Sir Christopher Lee is known to have served honorably during World War II. Reportedly, Lee worked with RAF as a liaison between them and Special Forces. Not many claims can be found that suggest he was a part of SAS. But some historians' claims suggest that he sneaked behind enemy lines destroying planes.
The British once formed a peace treaty with ‘Gurkhas’, the elite fighting unit of Nepal and since then Gurkhas have been joining them & fighting bravely in their campaigns around the world. With extremely harsh and stringent selection of SAS, around 28,000 Nepalese men compete every year but only 200 positions are there to be filled in the Gurkha regiment of the British army.
Not long back, it was known that almost a dozen Gurkha serve with the elite SAS regiment; that’s out of a total of 50 who attempted the selection process in the last few years. With such an impressive pass rate of 25%, the British soldiers had an overall pass rate of about 10%.
UK’s elite navy force ‘Special Boat Service’ (SBS) is as old as the World War II. They are adept at boating, swimming, and anything involving water. Moreover, they are also great for operations in any climate or terrain. Interestingly enough, the more widely known US NAVY SEALs may have been inspired from the Special Boat Service as SBS predates the former.
At the time of World War II, a British commando gave rise to this entirely new unit that it continues to be in existence to this day and age. According to an oral history, a British commando named Roger Courtney tried convincing his superiors about his clever ways to sneak across the water without being detected so as to reach an enemy territory. With superiors not buying his idea, Courtney actually sneaked onto a nearby British ship named HMS Glengyle, stole a gun cover from the deck and etched his initials on the captain’s door. After that, he presented his findings to his superiors who decided that he needed his own men to command. So, from these plucky beginnings, the Special Boat Service came into being.
It was in 1863 when Queen Victoria commissioned the Victoria Cross at the Crimean War. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a member of the British Armed Forces. It is actually made out of scrap metal collected from a Russian cannon seized during the war. Because of its rarity, this medal is a highly sought collectors’ item and was once sold at £400,000 in an auction.
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