'Them' - The forgotten years'

#1
I’m particularly interested in an account of the British SAS that looks at the period between the enthusiastic amateurism of Malaya and their secret war in Northern Ireland.

Is there an in depth and comprehensive account of SAS activities in the 20 years between Operation Helsby in 1952 and the battle of Mirbat in 1972?

In 1952 there was nothing particularly secret about the British SAS operations in Malaya. For sure they were engaged in specialised tasks, often of extremely long duration. But this was long before ‘selection’ was in place and long before the term ‘persec’ was even invented.

By 1972, this had all changed. The training and Regimental tradition had become more professional by a great degree. The reality of Northern Ireland where RUC and British soldiers were more likely to be targeted off duty than on did change the rules.

What was the SAS engaged in at the mid-point say 1962? What was the SAS OOB in 1962? How many, where were they posted, who was the boss, anything at all would be useful?

I don’t believe that the SAS were engaged at all in the Brunei Crisis of 1962. Were they?

I know that by 1966 they were very involved in Claret operations in the same neighbourhood and were involved in the training of Australian SAS conducting the same missions. Are there any accounts of Brit SAS in Borneo that are worth a look?
It is an interesting period that falls well outside the ’30 year rule’ and occurred long before the ‘persec’ mania applied. Why is information so hard to find?

Regards

Mick
 
#2
I’m particularly interested in an account of the British SAS that looks at the period between the enthusiastic amateurism of Malaya and their secret war in Northern Ireland.

Is there an in depth and comprehensive account of SAS activities in the 20 years between Operation Helsby in 1952 and the battle of Mirbat in 1972?

In 1952 there was nothing particularly secret about the British SAS operations in Malaya. For sure they were engaged in specialised tasks, often of extremely long duration. But this was long before ‘selection’ was in place and long before the term ‘persec’ was even invented.

By 1972, this had all changed. The training and Regimental tradition had become more professional by a great degree. The reality of Northern Ireland where RUC and British soldiers were more likely to be targeted off duty than on did change the rules.

What was the SAS engaged in at the mid-point say 1962? What was the SAS OOB in 1962? How many, where were they posted, who was the boss, anything at all would be useful?

I don’t believe that the SAS were engaged at all in the Brunei Crisis of 1962. Were they?

I know that by 1966 they were very involved in Claret operations in the same neighbourhood and were involved in the training of Australian SAS conducting the same missions. Are there any accounts of Brit SAS in Borneo that are worth a look?
It is an interesting period that falls well outside the ’30 year rule’ and occurred long before the ‘persec’ mania applied. Why is information so hard to find?

Regards

Mick
Try these for starters:

The Joker Peter Scholey
Soldier Against The Odds Lofty Large
SAS: Secret War in South-East Asia Peter Dickens
The Story of the Special Air Service, 1950-1980 Tony Geraghty
Phantoms Of War by David Horne
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
**Cough Cough nudge nudge**

 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
Mick,

You surprise me mate. I thought you pretty much knew everything going about Borneo! Ref the SAS involvement a good start as any would be this little number; 'SAS : the jungle frontier : 22 Special Air Service Regiment in the Borneo Campaign, 1963-1966' (1983) SAS The Jungle Frontier PETER DICKENS Borneo War 1963-66 PB - vShop Item 11343394

Ref the Brunei Revolt; I believe the initial action was fought by the 2nd Gurkha Rifles and Queens Own Highlanders with 42 Commando Royal Marines freeing hostages in the famed Limbang Raid and were later reinforced with 1st Green Jackets (Oxf&Bucks) and 40 Cdo RM. 22 SAS along with KOYLI and 7th Gurkha Rifles arrived in January of 1963 and replaced the 1QOH who were a spearhead battalion.

On 'Claret', the SAS were involved from the get go in 1964 when incoming Labour Government, more specifically the new Defence Sec. Dennis Healey, decided to authorise cross border raids. Initially only Special Forces and Gurkha troops were allowed on Claret Ops, but as other units got 'jungle time' under their bush hats this was relaxed. Shockingly, Wiki has quite a good write-up decent overviews Operation Claret - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Other reading material: Confrontation, the War with Indonesia 1962-1966 by Nick Van Der Bijl Confrontation, the War with Indonesia 1962-1966: Amazon.co.uk: Nick Van Der Bijl: Books
Contains a few factual errors and so casts the rest in doubt, but well worth a gander anyway.

Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962-66 (Men-at-arms) by Will Fowler Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962-66 Men-at-arms: Amazon.co.uk: Will Fowler, Kevin Lyles: Books
A typical Osprey book which pretty much delivers what it aims to. Not much in the way of illustrations, but Fowler is a good author and historian (and very helpful to me personally, in way of research on this topic). Only briefly covers SAS/SBS, though Claret gets a decent mention.

Worth a mention is Drop Zone Borneo - The RAF Campaign 1963-65: The Most Successful Use of Armed Forces in the Twentieth Century by Roger Annett Drop Zone Borneo - The RAF Campaign 1963-65: The Most Successful Use of Armed Forces in the Twentieth Century: Amazon.co.uk: Roger Annett: Books
An account of keeping those patrols supplied from the air.
 
#6
**Cough Cough nudge nudge**

Oh very good.

I had to look it up.

Here's an Amazon review:

I had the misfortune to read this in its previous incarnation 15 years ago, and thought it would linger on the 1p sales on Amazon, being eagerly snapped up only by the tin foil hat brigade in their search for yet another conspiracy. Staggeringly this tissue of lies has actually been republished, real trees have laid down their lives in an utterly pointless sacrifice. For those of you not in the know, this book is fiction. His knowledge of the weapons he allegedly used in cutting great swathes through the IRA is far below what is expected of an SAS Trooper. Indeed it is below the knowledge one would expect from a mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (the role Mr Bruce actually carried out whilst serving in the British Army). I was at that time an un-serving 19 year old student and even I knew that the SLR fired 7.62 Rounds not 9mm.

The book would be funny if the Walter Mitty style was actually well written. It is I'm afraid not exactly Shakespeare. It would be a light airport novel if it were not so patently false, the average Sven Hassell novel is more accurate. As it is it's a nasty little book that unfortunately denigrates the sacrifices of brave men and women who are accused of being little better than the SS. It has given ammunition to people who don't even accept the authors own admission that he's a liar that the British Army operated death squads in Northern Ireland in the 1970's.. Mr Bruce cannot be blamed for the actions of those too simple to accept his own admission that he made it all up, he could at least have the decency however to publish his book in the fiction section.



Saying that sort of thing will get you banned from some forums Bwahahahahaha!

Mick
 
#8
Mick,

You surprise me mate. I thought you pretty much knew everything going about Borneo! Ref the SAS involvement a good start as any would be this little number; 'SAS : the jungle frontier : 22 Special Air Service Regiment in the Borneo Campaign, 1963-1966' (1983) SAS The Jungle Frontier PETER DICKENS Borneo War 1963-66 PB - vShop Item 11343394

Ref the Brunei Revolt; I believe the initial action was fought by the 2nd Gurkha Rifles and Queens Own Highlanders with 42 Commando Royal Marines freeing hostages in the famed Limbang Raid and were later reinforced with 1st Green Jackets (Oxf&Bucks) and 40 Cdo RM. 22 SAS along with KOYLI and 7th Gurkha Rifles arrived in January of 1963 and replaced the 1QOH who were a spearhead battalion.

On 'Claret', the SAS were involved from the get go in 1964 when incoming Labour Government, more specifically the new Defence Sec. Dennis Healey, decided to authorise cross border raids. Initially only Special Forces and Gurkha troops were allowed on Claret Ops, but as other units got 'jungle time' under their bush hats this was relaxed. Shockingly, Wiki has quite a good write-up decent overviews Operation Claret - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Other reading material: Confrontation, the War with Indonesia 1962-1966 by Nick Van Der Bijl Confrontation, the War with Indonesia 1962-1966: Amazon.co.uk: Nick Van Der Bijl: Books
Contains a few factual errors and so casts the rest in doubt, but well worth a gander anyway.

Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962-66 (Men-at-arms) by Will Fowler Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962-66 Men-at-arms: Amazon.co.uk: Will Fowler, Kevin Lyles: Books
A typical Osprey book which pretty much delivers what it aims to. Not much in the way of illustrations, but Fowler is a good author and historian (and very helpful to me personally, in way of research on this topic). Only briefly covers SAS/SBS, though Claret gets a decent mention.

Worth a mention is Drop Zone Borneo - The RAF Campaign 1963-65: The Most Successful Use of Armed Forces in the Twentieth Century by Roger Annett Drop Zone Borneo - The RAF Campaign 1963-65: The Most Successful Use of Armed Forces in the Twentieth Century: Amazon.co.uk: Roger Annett: Books
An account of keeping those patrols supplied from the air.
Ah!

You think I know **** all when in fact I know **** nothing!

That is very valuable thanks.

Bailey thanks for the list. I'm very familiar with Professor Horner can you or R,P fine tune their lists to give me the best tome that provides an SAS snapshot for the mid-point 1962?

Really appreciate it

Cheers Mick
 
#9
Ah!

You think I know **** all when in fact I know **** nothing!

That is very valuable thanks.

Bailey thanks for the list. I'm very familiar with Professor Horner can you or R,P fine tune their lists to give me the best tome that provides an SAS snapshot for the mid-point 1962?

Really appreciate it

Cheers Mick
Depends what you want, but I'd start with Dickens's book I think (the same book came out under different titles). Authough the meat of the book is 1963 onwards there is some background and history in there.
 
#10
CM, my old man who died recently was ex D sq, 57-65. Malaya, Oman, Aden etc & a few places elsewhere he spoke about often when we were swapping respective war stories of derring do. Spent a lot of time in sub-Saharan Africa after 63.
 
#11
Depends what you want, but I'd start with Dickens's book I think (the same book came out under different titles). Authough the meat of the book is 1963 onwards there is some background and history in there.
Thanks very much Bailey, I've ordered a copy.

Mick
 
#12
CM, my old man who died recently was ex D sq, 57-65. Malaya, Oman, Aden etc & a few places elsewhere he spoke about often when we were swapping respective war stories of derring do. Spent a lot of time in sub-Saharan Africa after 63.
Ches

My old man who popped his clogs a long while ago told stories of being with 3RAR in Malaya in 1958. He and his mates were given a shoeing on leave by some small pasty faced poms. The reason they were so pasty in the face was because the were 'them' that had been on patrol in the ulu and hadn't seen the sun for three weeks.

Perhaps they met?

A couple of questions if I may.

D squadron was in those days just a regular squadron right? They hadn't re-organised into boats, mountains etc? When did that occur?

From what I've seen from memoirs of members of the original establishment under Calvert, the SAS in the early 1950's was a bit of an untrained rabble. Anecdotal evidence I have from Australians is that by the late 1950's they had there stuff sorted and were pretty highly regarded for their professionalism. What changed and when?

When was 'selection' introduced?

When did the regiment move to Hereford?

Australian records tend to be a bit more forthcoming than British ones. Australian records show the contact between SIS (MI-6 ) and the Australian SAS in Borneo. You'd have to assume that same sort of liason existed with the British Regiment. Is there anything in the British literature that confirms it?

I asume that the focus on Sub Saharan Africa was in the nature of training indigenous soldiers. Was training a focus for Brit SAS in the 1960's. This was an important element of their operations in Malasia and Borneo with Sakai and Iban. Is this correct? Did they have some sort of facility to 'train the trainer' or was this learnt on the job?


Thanks in Advance

Mick
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#13
Try these for starters:

The Joker Peter Scholey
Soldier Against The Odds Lofty Large
SAS: Secret War in South-East Asia Peter Dickens
The Story of the Special Air Service, 1950-1980 Tony Geraghty
Phantoms Of War by David Horne
Yesterday's Mail carried a review of a book about a "forgotten war" in Aden about 1962 (before Mad Mitch and his men) where They were training the Yemenis (no, not the enemies, silly) how to use the Victorian weapons they had and how "suicidal frontal assault" was almost always not the best battle plan.

Sorry the name of the book has gone out of my head and I already tried googling this morning without success. The paper will still be there when I get home.
 

udipur

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
Might want to take a look through DLB's memoirs as he argued whether he or Watts crested the Jebel Akdar first.

When asking the locals about how to climb the treacherous hills around there, across which the locals seemed to bound with ease and the Brits went through a pair of boots in a week, Watts was suggested to take his boots off. The locals had never worn footwear and had elephant hide leather for the soles of their feet.
 

Travelgall

LE
Kit Reviewer
#15
Oh very good.

I had to look it up.

Here's an Amazon review:

I had the misfortune to read this in its previous incarnation 15 years ago, and thought it would linger on the 1p sales on Amazon, being eagerly snapped up only by the tin foil hat brigade in their search for yet another conspiracy. Staggeringly this tissue of lies has actually been republished, real trees have laid down their lives in an utterly pointless sacrifice. For those of you not in the know, this book is fiction. His knowledge of the weapons he allegedly used in cutting great swathes through the IRA is far below what is expected of an SAS Trooper. Indeed it is below the knowledge one would expect from a mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (the role Mr Bruce actually carried out whilst serving in the British Army). I was at that time an un-serving 19 year old student and even I knew that the SLR fired 7.62 Rounds not 9mm.

The book would be funny if the Walter Mitty style was actually well written. It is I'm afraid not exactly Shakespeare. It would be a light airport novel if it were not so patently false, the average Sven Hassell novel is more accurate. As it is it's a nasty little book that unfortunately denigrates the sacrifices of brave men and women who are accused of being little better than the SS. It has given ammunition to people who don't even accept the authors own admission that he's a liar that the British Army operated death squads in Northern Ireland in the 1970's.. Mr Bruce cannot be blamed for the actions of those too simple to accept his own admission that he made it all up, he could at least have the decency however to publish his book in the fiction section.



Saying that sort of thing will get you banned from some forums Bwahahahahaha!

Mick
I wrote the review. It is utter tosh..
 
#17
You probably ought to add 'Ghost Force: the secret history of the SAS' by Ken Connor to the list mentioned here.
There are several. I'd offer, considering the OP's specific queries -

'The SAS - An Official History' by Philip Warner. Decent enough material for it's time.
'The History of the SAS Regiment' by Maj.-General John A Strawson.
 
#19
The SAS became A, B, D, and G squadrons - it used to have a C Squadron, which was Rhodesian. I have read in various books references to the Rhodesian SAS being deployed to Malaya/Borneo and one reference saying that they were withdrawn due to 'inherent racism', although it was probably because there was a greater need for them at home.

I don't know when the link between UK and Rhodesian SAS was broken (if indeed it ever was) but when I was hanging around Special Forces in the mid-70s, whenever the Rhodesian SAS was mentioned, the reply was always a knowing look and 'oh, you mean our naughty squadron!'. Maybe those on this site who have a bit more in-depth knowlege might be able to enlighten me.
 
#20
Ches

My old man who popped his clogs a long while ago told stories of being with 3RAR in Malaya in 1958. He and his mates were given a shoeing on leave by some small pasty faced poms. The reason they were so pasty in the face was because the were 'them' that had been on patrol in the ulu and hadn't seen the sun for three weeks.

Perhaps they met?

A couple of questions if I may.

D squadron was in those days just a regular squadron right? They hadn't re-organised into boats, mountains etc? When did that occur?

From what I've seen from memoirs of members of the original establishment under Calvert, the SAS in the early 1950's was a bit of an untrained rabble. Anecdotal evidence I have from Australians is that by the late 1950's they had there stuff sorted and were pretty highly regarded for their professionalism. What changed and when?

When was 'selection' introduced?

When did the regiment move to Hereford?

Australian records tend to be a bit more forthcoming than British ones. Australian records show the contact between SIS (MI-6 ) and the Australian SAS in Borneo. You'd have to assume that same sort of liason existed with the British Regiment. Is there anything in the British literature that confirms it?

I asume that the focus on Sub Saharan Africa was in the nature of training indigenous soldiers. Was training a focus for Brit SAS in the 1960's. This was an important element of their operations in Malasia and Borneo with Sakai and Iban. Is this correct? Did they have some sort of facility to 'train the trainer' or was this learnt on the job?


Thanks in Advance

Mick

CM,

Am posting at work so aoplogise for the broad brush replies, its also been awhile since i brushed up on my desmond history.

D sq was as you say just a regular sq. IIRC the re-org into respective troops didn't occur until late 60's when the CRW role was becoming a major aspect of future ops. Not sure on that though. Regular SAS wasn't formed until late 50's following the disbandment of the various regt's at the end of WW2. I think onluy 21 TA remained on the ORBAT in 46.

Selection was in place back then albeit obv different from now. My old man used to talk of the 'sickeners' the DS used to throw in for those not far off biffing the course. Sounded like a right bunch of bastards as usual.

He only ever used to speak about Middle Wallop. I think the move to Bradbury Lines was circa 63 & he only ever there a couple of times. Should be plenty of online historical stuff to chew through.

Most definitely contact with Box back in those days. He used to mention several briefings for ops across the HK border into China & in Germany for stuff across the IGB by Box types &/or green slime. Both ops got pulled before the off thankfully. I think the German op was in support of Brixmix stuff.

Deployments in Africa were operational. He was wounded in Kenya & lost a patrol member to enemy fire in the same action. No idea on dates though but most def post 64.
 
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