The selection for the Special Air Service is one of the toughest in the world. The SAS was a secret organization in the British Army, and the existence of their regiment was not made public until 1980. It is one of the longest-running special mission units still in service. It is also one of the best. If you want to find the most intelligent and brilliantly commissioned enlisted soldiers the United Kingdom has ever had, we have them on this list.
As it comes with no surprise, these agents were given the toughest of missions combatting terrorism, rescuing hostages, and all the other MI6-type operations you could think of. Here are some of their most epic operations:
Raid on Egyptian Airfields
The raid operation was carried out on July 26, 1942. Commanded by Major David Stirling, SAS attacked the German-held Sidi Haneish Airfield using their American Bantam Jeeps. It was part of the Western Desert Campaign of World War II, where they attacked five airfields in Egypt held by the Axis forces beginning July 7.
SAS members arrived with eighteen jeeps, each with 3 to 4 British or French commandos. They navigated through the desert in formation without headlights to avoid detection. Thankfully, it was a full moon and the night sky was clear from clouds. The runway lights switched on as they approached, and the raiders thought for a while that they had been busted. But, it turned out a German Luftwaffe bomber was about to land.
The SAS stormed the airfield, each holding their tracer ammunition-loaded K guns. They attacked the German aircraft base, including some Ju 52 cargo aircraft, Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers, and Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. On the other hand, the Germans retaliated with their machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons. Nevertheless, the SAS members managed to escape, all in all, damaging or destroying around 40 Luftwaffe planes. The only casualty was Lance Bombardier John Robson, who was operating a machine gun when one of the Germans shot and killed him.
In the 15 months of this mission, the Special Air Service was able to destroy more than 250 German aircraft, earning Stirling the moniker “Phantom Major.”
Jebel Akhdar Rebellion
In the 18th century, Britain and Oman had an alliance. So when the Jebel Akhdar rebellion broke out again in 1957, and the rebels took over three forts on Mt. Jebel Akhdar, Oman asked for help. Unfortunately, at that time, the British were supposed to be leaving the country, and they could only send 64 SAS members to assist. To the surprise of many, this number was
SAS’ strategy was to launch a full-scale attack by the British brigade, made of about a thousand men, knowing this feat would be necessary if they wanted to recapture the mountain. However, Lieutenant Anthony Deane-Drummond and David Smiley agreed that they needed additional SAS troops and that one squadron would not suffice, so two were instead deployed, led by Deane-Drummond. One division was based at Tanuf, south of Jebel Akhdar, while the other was found at different positions North of Jebel Akhdar.
On January 26, one of the squadrons hiked up 7,000 feet of elevation while carrying about 120 pounds of equipment. Aside from the grueling walk, one of the rebel snipers also hit a grenade in one of the SAS’s backpacks, instantly killing two while injuring the others. Nevertheless, they soon were able to take back the forts of Saiq and Bani Habib but not the Jebel Akhdar.
At night, the SAS scaled the southern face of the Jebel to take the rebels by surprise. The supplies were then parachuted once the men reached their position on the plateau, ideally to mislead some rebels into thinking the British would be assaulting from above. A little fighting ensued, but not to the extent of SAS’ expectations. The rebel fighters were believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia or merged into the local population, fearing a confrontation with the British Army.
Iran – London Embassy 1980
From April 30 to May 5, 1980, a group of six Iranian Arabs barged their way into the Iranian embassy on Prince’s Gate in South Kensington, London. They were there to rally about the sovereignty of the Khuzestan Province of Iran, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf. In connection, they wanted the prisoners in Khuzestan to be released by the British government.
They thought that the best way to do that was to take hostage of 26 people hostage— visitors, embassy staff, and a police officer guarding the embassy. But, above the demand, they wanted a safe passage out of the United Kingdom, too— a request the government decided not to grant and instead started a siege.
After a lengthy negotiation, five hostages were released in exchange for minor concessions, one of which was that their demands be televised in the UK. However, after six days, none of their demands were met. Finally, the increasingly frustrated hostage-takers decided to kill one of the hostages and threw his body out for everyone to see, sending a clear message that they meant business.
What followed was SAS’s Operation Nimrod, which aimed to rescue the remaining victims. But instead, the SAS members entered through the windows. The raid lasted for 17 minutes, and they managed to rescue all the remaining people, except one. Meanwhile, only one of the Iranian Arabs was not killed, while the remaining one served 27 years in prison.