Rt: Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling, Founder

A number of Special Forces existed during WWII, including the British Special Air Service (SAS).  The Special Air Service was founded in 1941 by David Stirling.  The group began by basically throwing out standard tactics used by the military and improvising with their own tactics.  This, in part, is what contributed to their success.  Many of the higher members of the military viewed the Special Air Service and other such groups as “private armies” and offered them very little support.


Stirling began to consider such a group after he served as a volunteer for the 8 Commando.  During this volunteer service, he had his first exposure to unconventional warfare.  He was under the command of Captain Robert Laycock and was quite dismayed at the lack of respect exhibited towards Laycock and his group, which was disbanded before it could even prove its effectiveness. 


The SAS Evolves

Stirling wanted to organize a group that was capable of fighting behind enemy lines, could have devastating effect, but would require very little support.  He felt this could be accomplished by recruiting a small group of dedicated, specially trained men.  He was joined by Australian Jock Lewes, who was an officer in the Welsh Guards.  At the beginning of Stirling’s training, a parachute accident left him hospitalized for two months.  During that stay, Stirling further refined his plans for the SAS, which may very well have saved the program. 


The SAS had a rough beginning that required learning from experience.  Rather than fold, Stirling used the information to further improve his plans for his elite group.  After a disastrous parachute drop, Stirling began revising plans for his troops reach their target by land.  They were assisted by the Long Range Dessert Group, a group who specialized in movement behind enemy lines.


SAS in North Africa

Eventually, the SAS began proving themselves by adapting to various situations and terrains.  Some of their early targets were the German and Italian Air Bases and then later on, the group assisted in Western Europe and North Africa.   The SAS was successful on many levels.  However, at the end of the war, with no immediate need, the group was eventually disbanded until their skills were once again desired against communist insurgents in the Far East. 


This World War II group –Special Air Service – is still an active Special Forces group in the British military and they are considered on of the top Special Forces in the world.