“Thus was born the SAS” – in memory of Sgt Jimmy Storie
There are many stories about brave and extraordinary missions undertaken by members of SOF community. We can easily agree that modern SOF era started during the World War II with the creation of the British Special Air Service. As almost everybody knows about Iranian Embassy Siege in London 1980 only few know the story of SAS’s Day One.
Let us start with origin of the SAS name. By the end of July 1941, time of Unit formation, Brigadier Dudley Clark, responsible for a Branch in the Middle East which dealt with enemy deception, tried to persuade the enemy there was fully equipped parachute brigade (he even used to drop dummy parachutists to stimulate training exercises near POW camps). He called this phantom brigade First SAS Brigade. David Stirling – creator of real parachute unit, agreed to name his unit “L” Detachment Special Air Service Brigade. Number “22” and word “Regiment” came later after resurrection of the SAS.
But, as it often happened to SOF units, Middle East Headquarters never liked the idea of a new unit. Fail the first op and there will be no other. First operation – “Operation Squatter” was unique for those days – parachute behind the lines, take out enemy aircrafts on two aerodromes at Tmini and Gazala , make way back across the desert, rendezvous with the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and come home.
Stirling made it clear to his men: fail and better we stay on the desert…
The Unit of 65 men left Kabrit in Egypt by planes (five Bristol Bombay aircrafts from 216 Squadron) in the morning of the 16th November 1941. One of the planes was shot down by enemy fighters. Another plane tried to get back inside Allied territory but was forced to land behind German lines and parachutists with the aircraft crew were soon in German hands. Between 2230 hrs and 2300 hrs the rest of the Unit was dropped over the objectives. There was strong gale and heavy rain (a sandstorm as well). It took almost two hours to collect all the survivors – only 22 from 65. They managed to locate only two of eleven containers. And only one with weapons – just revolvers. Stirling then made a tough decision to abort the mission and go to the LRDG rendezvous. After having some rest (they were very exhausted) the survivors started the trip back. During the journey a number of tough decisions had to be made:
- To use only LDRG instead of parachuting.
- The decision not to return or contact the to base stop in Siwa Oasis,
- To send everyone back to Kabrit and collect every item of useful equipment and weaponry (collect unseen) and return to Siwa asap.
- That the LDRG would support “L” Detachment.
Then without informing anyone and carried by LRDG 21 of them went back into the desert to finish their mission. And they finished it – “…thus was born the SAS. “Forged in hell” as Colonel David himself described it…”. These are the words of Sgt Jimmy Storie – last surviving member of The Originals, those few men who survived SAS Operation Number One.
Today Sgt Jimmy Storie is no longer with us. On January 8th 2012, in age of 92, he passed away and joined the Reg Detachment in Warrior’s Heaven. He managed to leave the letter for all of us – on pages of The SAS War Diary. But it is another story…