Portraying- The Special Air Service (SAS) in Asia

Portraying- The Special Air Service (SAS) in Asia

To many the SAS was a WWII unit tearing up the North African desert in jeeps destroying enemy airbases……only to reemerge on the Iranian Embassy balcony in 1980, as men-in-black wearing gas masks.

So what happened to the SAS during the intervening years?

SAS – Time line from the end of WWII through the 1950’s / 60’s.

1945:- At the end of WWII the War Office could see no need for SAS style regiments…. the SAS Brigade was disbanded in October.

1946:- A War Office Tactical Investigation Committee decided otherwise.

1947:- The new SAS regiment was formed as part of the Territorial Army. The title chosen for the new regiment was 21 SAS Regiment (Volunteers), the regiment chosen to take on-board SAS mantle was the Artists’ Rifles, originally formed in 1860. The new 21 SAS Regiment came into existence in January, and took over the Artists? Rifles headquarters in London.

Malayan Emergency (1948-1960).

The Malayan Scouts Kit Display

1950:- The WWII SAS Brigade Commander, Mike Calvert was granted permission to raise a “special unit” to counteract the insurgents in Malaya. Namely, The Malayan Scouts (SAS), this unit comprised of “A” Squadron, which had been formed from 100 local volunteers, mostly ex WWII SAS and Chindits, the so-called “Happy Hundred”. A 21 SAS Squadron had been raised to serve during the Korean War, however, after three months training, they were sent to serve in the Malayan Emergency, they became “B” Squadron, and “C” Squadron was formed from Rhodesian volunteers.

1951:- The Malayan Scouts (SAS) successfully recruited enough men to form a Regimental Headquarters, a headquarters squadron and four operational squadrons of over 900 men. Jungle training included one-on-one tracking and elimination armed with an air-gun with fencing mask for protection. Calvert was invalided back to the UK, as years of jungle life had taken its toll, he was replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel John Sloane.

Malayan Scout – Long Range Patrol Beltring Jungle

In Malaya, “A” squadron was based at Ipoh, while “B” and “C” squadrons were at Johore. Training included pioneering techniques for helicopter re-supply and also the introduction of a “Hearts and Minds” campaign to win over the locals using medical teams going from village to village treating the sick. With the assistance of Borneo Iban trackers, they became experts in jungle survival. The regiments? mode of operation was to seek, find, and destroy communist terrorists (CT?s) and prevent their infiltration into the local communities. They developed tactics for long range patrols, ambush and tracking of CT?s to their bases. They acquired skills in tree jumping, this involved parachuting into the thick jungle canopy and getting the parachute catch on the branches. Brought to a halt the parachutist then cut himself free and lowered himself to the ground by rope. They also used inflatable boats for river patrolling, developed jungle fighting techniques, psychological warfare, and methods of booby trapping terrorist supplies.

1952:-The need for a regular army SAS regiment was recognized, The Malayan Scouts (SAS) were renamed 22 SAS Regiment and formally added to the British Army list. However, “B” Squadron was disbanded leaving just “A” and “D” Squadrons to serve.

In February, 54 men from “B” Squadron carried out the first parachute drop of the campaign code named Operation Helsby, which was a major offensive in the River Perak–Belum valley, just south of the Thai border.

Major John Woodhouse was sent back to Britain to set up the SAS selection and training scheme.

1955:- Woodhouse returned to Malaysia. After three years of service the Rhodesians “C” Squadron returned home, and were replaced by a New Zealand squadron. The “C” prefix was retired out of respect for the Rhodesian squadron. The 22 SAS was enlarged to five squadrons with the addition of “D” Squadron, and the Parachute Regiment Squadron.

1956:- The SAS develop the art of insertion by helicopter, evolving abseiling techniques and low level parachuting.

1957:- 22 SAS was cut to two squadrons plus Headquarters. Final connections with “Airborne Forces” were severed, and the “cherry” beret reverted by to the traditional “beige”.

The “Cherry” Airborne Beret with SAS Patch

Oman (1958-1959).

1958:- The SAS got a new commander Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Deane-Drummond. The Malayan campaign coming to a close, two squadrons were dispatched from Malaya to assist in Oman.

1959:- January, “A” Squadron defeated a large Guerrilla force on the Sabrina plateau fighting the rebels on the Jebel Akhdar capturing the supposedly impregnable fortress in less than 10 weeks. The victory that was kept from the public due to political and military sensitivities.

The Indonesian-Malaysia Confrontation (Borneo) – (1962-1966).

1960:- After Oman 22 SAS Regiment was recalled to the UK, the first time the regiment had served there 23 SAS Regiment (Territorial) was formed renaming the Joint Reserve Reconnaissance Unit. It was evident that passive networks for escape had little place in the cold war era but, personnel caught behind enemy lines would need to be rescued by specially trained units.

The regiment was sent to Borneo for the Indonesian–Malaysian confrontation, where they developed tactics of patrolling up to 12 miles over the Indonesian border and used local tribesman for intelligence gathering. They lived in the indigenous tribes villages for anything up to five months gaining their trust for information, tracking and combat, in return for providing gifts and medical treatment.

1963:- December, the SAS went onto the offensive, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Woodhouse, they adopted a “shoot and scoot” policy to keep SAS casualties to a minimum. They were supported by the Guards Independent Parachute Company, and the Gurkha Independent Parachute Company.

Bunker Bash 2012 (membership of 2) was their first event and they were apprehensive regarding the public?s response to their portrayal of the SAS. Feedback was positive, veterans from both conflicts said they were impressed with their display. They even managed to put two ex SAS veterans that had served during that period back in contact with each other. They discovered members of the public were not even aware these conflicts had taken place, or even recognized the Malaysian National flag.

War and Peace 2012 (membership of 3) was their second event. Unfortunately, due to the inclement conditions they were placed in Medway field some distance from the Living History area. But daily patrols proved positive, and educational. Just because you are patrolling with AR15?s (M16?s) and wear a bush hat, does not mean you are portraying “Nam”. A number of ex SAS servicemen, and National Service veterans passed positive comments on the authenticity of their uniforms and equipment.

Out on patrol – Borneo Beltring

Portrayal Conflict History in Brief

The Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960) was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP).

The Malayan Emergency was the colonial government’s term for the conflict. The MNLA termed it the Anti-British National Liberation War, and the War of the Running Dogs. The rubber plantations and tin mining industries had pushed for the use of the term “emergency” since their losses would not have been covered by Lloyd’s insurers if it had been termed a “war”. The communists’ were defeated in 1960.

The Indonesian Confrontation (1962–1966) was Indonesia’s political and armed opposition to the creation of Malaysia, in September 1963.

The confrontation was an undeclared war with most of the action in the border area between Indonesia and Sabah / Sarawak on the island of Borneo. This conflict became to be known as Britain?s Secret War.

The terrain in Borneo is challenging, there are few roads, both sides had to rely on light infantry operations, air transportation, and use of river routes. There was almost no requirement for offensive airpower. The British and Malaysian Armed Forces provided a majority of the personnel involved, together with smaller numbers of Australian and New Zealand troops from the combined Far East Strategic Reserve stationed in Malaya and Singapore.

Initial Indonesian attacks into Sabah /Sarawak relied heavily on local volunteers trained by the Indonesian

Army. Initially, the British forces kept their activities low key. However, the British responded to increased Indonesian activity by going on the offensive. In 1965, covert operations into Indonesian Kalimantan under the code name Operation Claret commenced. By August 1966, following Indonesian President Suharto’s rise to power, a peace agreement finally took effect and Indonesia accepted the existence of Malaysia.

To discover more regarding these conflicts and the re-enactment group please visit :- www.wingedsoldiers.co.uk
or, Face Book……(Bersayap Tentara).


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