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Army Stuff
About Me

Selection stage 1
Selection stage 2
Selection stage 3
Mountain Troop
Mobility Troop
Anti-Terrorist Team
Free-Fall Troop
Counter-Revolutionary Warfare
Boat Troop
Badges & Insignia:
Badges & Insignia


Four Man Patrol
River Crossing
Tactical Movement
Further education: HALO, etc
The new recruit is now ready for intensive specialist instruction.
He can opt to serve in any one of four tactically different troops
which make up each of the regular regiment's four active-service
Sabre squadrons. These are equipped for high-altitude free-fall
parachuting; amphibious operations from small boats, canoes
or even submarines, in ways similar to the Royal Marine
Special Boat Section (though the ultimate purpose is different);
mountaineering, including rock-climbing, ice and snow work;
and overland missions by custom-built Land-Rover. The last
group, known as the Mobility Troop, traditionally functions
in the desert and is trained to use sun compass, theodolite
and astro-navigation. Many SAS soldiers, who would serve in
Norway or Denmark in a European war, must also learn how to
use cross-country skis and other techniques of winter warfare.
One squadron regularly sends men for training in Northern

As practised by the SAS, free-fall parachuting is more than
usually hazardous and totally different from the basic static-line
techniques used by the Army since the Second World War.
A six-week HALO ('High-Altitude, Low-Opening') course of about
forty descents in Britain, and at Pau in France, drastically
introduces recruits to the art of free-fall stability, with an initial
descent from 12,000 feet, or about sixty seconds of unimpeded
fall, after only three days' ground training. The basic task is
theoretically simple: to remain stable in a face-to-earth, starfish
posture, with the body's centre of gravity at about solar-plexus
level. This is achieved by arching the back and placing the
limbs symmetrically so that air pressure on them is uniform.
After leaving the aircraft, the jumper will accelerate for the first
twelve seconds of fall -- about 1480 feet -- to terminal velocity of

The danger of this 'deep-end' method of training is that a
novice can easily become unstable in the air by losing the
symmetry of his position. If he starts an uncontrolled tumble
at the moment when his parachute begins to open, there is
a risk that it will snag on some part of his body, producing
a 'horse-shoe' malfunction, instead of deploying unimpeded
from the launch-pad of his back. The civilian sport jumper,
by comparison, makes a first free-fall of no more than three
to five seconds before opening his parachute in conditions of
perfect stability, well short of the radical air pressures presented
by terminal velocity. What is more, an expert civilian will expect
to perform all the manoeuvres the sport involves -- loops, turns,
rolls, tracking -- from about 7000 feet, and it is unlikely that
he will often leave the aircraft above 12,000 feet, which is the
height at which the SAS novice begins his parachuting.
The HALO course progresses to train the soldier to jump
from 25,000 feet or more, by day or night, using oxygen,
carrying a rifle against his body and an inverted Bergen pack
slung across the back of his thighs below his main parachute
harness. Because he carries so much equipment -- the load may
be 110 pounds -- the SAS soldier's freedom to correct his posture
in free-fall, so as to preserve basic stability, is severely limited.
For example, the unencumbered civilian normally opens his
own parachute with his right hand, while the left hand and
arm compensate for this loss of symmetry by reaching out
directly in front of the helmet to 'grab air'. The SAS soldier,
burdened as he is, dare not attempt this manoeuvre except as an
emergency drill. For this reason, his parachute is equipped with
an automatic opening device. The risks of disaster escalate if, for
any reason, the load being carried shifts during free-fall. It was
because his Bergen shifted that an SAS trooper, 'Rip' Reddy,
became the first British soldier to die during an operational
free-fall descent in 1970. Because the load may vary on each
descent, the aerodynamic problem of one jump will also differ
from that of the last jump, or the next.
There are other peculiar hazards. As the exit height increases,
so ice on goggles and chest-mounted altimeter becomes an acute
problem. (So does the risk of frostbite.) The SAS soldier, if he
is not to jump blind, must learn to rub the ice away with his
gloved hands. Again, to preserve symmetry/stability he must
use both hands simultaneously, at which point he will tilt
head-down before recovering the basic starfish posture. And,
because he jumps as one of a group, the risk of mid-air collision
is significant. For some exercises, the canopy opening height is
also reduced well below the usual 4000 feet (at which height
the distinctive crack of canopy deployment is inaudible on the
ground). In Norway and elsewhere, the soldier will travel into
a valley in a 120mph free-fall with the walls of a mountain on
each side of him. He must also learn to stay with the group.
To close a gap he will have to manoeuvre across the sky in a
tracking posture -- arms and legs in a delta position, posterior
raised -- so as to make progress laterally as well as vertically.
Why use free-fall? Theoretically, it should enable a small party
of men to leave an aircraft well away from their ultimate desti-
nation and to elude detection by radar. The radar cross-section
of a human descending at that speed would resemble that of a
bird, detectable only to an unusually experienced radar operator
in ideal conditions. Jump suits made from radar-absorbing
material further reduce the risk of detection. Behind a mountain
screen, as in Norway, it could be the perfect, silent way to
infiltrate a reconnaissance or sabotage party across enemy lines.
So far, however, the handful of operational free-fall descents
made by the SAS has not encouraged anyone to believe that free-
falling has many advantages over the use of helicopters. Even the
sound of helicopter engines, it is claimed, can be minimised to a
point where it does not betray an operation. Meanwhile, free-fall
parachuting, as well as being a tactical option, is also regarded
by the regiment as 'a good character builder'.

In its most dangerous form, free-falling into the sea is prac-
tised by the boat-troops, specialists in diving and other maritime
skills, who do not always use boats. In 1970, the regimental
journal, Mars & Minerva, described how 'the boat-troop, in
their rubber suits, flippers, containers and parachutes waited
nervously by the door of the Argosy aircraft for the green light
and their "leap" into the sea. They all started as the voice of their
favourite RAF parachute jumping instructor, Tommy Atkinson
(who supervised the exits), rang in their ears: "One more point,
lads. At Suez, we had some casualities in the aircraft door whilst
waiting to jump. So now, I have orders to simulate this sort of
thing by practising just such an eventuality as you make this
jump." An amazed boat-troop looked goggle-eyed at Tommy
as he made this statement, all frowning with concentration.
"What I propose to do", continued Tommy, "is to punch
every third man in the ear as he leaps from the aircraft."...
The boat-troop parachutists descend lower and lower, swaying
through the dusk on their parachutes towards the inky blackness
of the sea, Good grief, it really is black! The boat-troop dropped
into a large oil-slick and emerged like Kentucky Minstrels.
There were some who thought that this might have been one
of Tommy Atkinson's tricks. He was that convincing...'
On one occasion, 'the boat-troop Sergeant (a willing pupil
of Atkinson) regarded the free-fall troop seriously as he briefed
them for their annual swimming test in the cold, mid-winter
Mediterranean Sea. "If you have any worries," he said, "raise
your fists above your head and shout. My boys are in the
Gemini pick-up craft and they will be with you almost instantly.
Incidentally, I should warn you about the basking sharks that
occasionally appear in the Med at this time of the year. Mind
you, a man has not been taken here for about seven years, but
just keep your eyes open." The free-fall troop had suddenly
taken a new interest in their swimming. Some smiled in ridicule
but nevertheless they all took a good look around as they
jumped from the Gemini into the sea. Some five minutes had
passed. All were swimming steadily towards the shore. Colin
had drifted away from the others slightly, but was swimming
well enough. Suddenly he felt a movement in the water close
to him. With blurred vision, he peered under the water and
sensed rather than saw the black shape flash past his legs;
felt something sharp groping at his calf. His frantic cry of
"Shark!" and consequent action were all that the books had
ever portrayed. He was practically standing on the water. The
rest of the free-fall troop promptly developed that gregarious
spirit and formed an instant, protective, hysterical cluster in
the water. The black shape, and yes, a fin were seen by all.
Frenzied shouts. Why the hell were the pick-up party so slow
in reacting? They seemed to be doubled-up over their boats...
Then, as a note of hysteria crept into Colin's voice, Bob, the
boat-troop's ace diver, emerged alongside him. In the Geminis,
the boat-troop laughed and laughed...'

Signallers and surgeons
Within each troop (one officer and fifteen men), whatever its
tactical role, every soldier has to acquire one or more of
the specialist skills needed when the troop or its standard
sub-unit, the four-man patrol, is functioning on the ground.
Communication is of such importance that a gifted signaller
will be particularly cherished by the regiment. The SAS is one
of the few elements of the British -- or any other -- armed forces
still using high-speed Morse. Not only does this make for better
security, but there are technical reasons why Morse can be more
readily transmitted 1000 miles across rough terrain than voice.
The SAS basic signals course lasts three months. The need for
a medical specialist well-versed in emergency first-aid and basic
' surgery, taught to SAS soldiers in this country and the United
States, does not require a qualified doctor to satisfy it. If the
situation is critical, a doctor will be flown or parachuted to the
scene and the casualty will be evacuated. A good 'bush doctor'
will know whether such assistance is imperative. He will also
weigh against that need the risk that the turbulence and noise
inherent in a casualty evacuation may 'blow' the security of
a secret operation. The patrol 'medic' is also valuable in
dispensing simple medical care to civilians and their farm stock
in a primitive environment as part of SAS policy to gain the
co-operation of the indigenous population. For the same reason,
at least one man of the four needs an adequate command of the
language of the war zone to which he is posted. Such courses are
intensive and may be tailored specifically to SAS needs. They are
held at the Royal Army Education Corps School of Languages
at Beaconsfield. For historic reasons, Malay and Arabic have
been most regularly taught to SAS soldiers, but more recently
European and Scandinavian languages and Russian have become
equally important.
Certain fighting skills are also developed to an awesome
level of ability. Among these, the use of the automatic pistol
in close-quarter battle (CQB) is the most impressive. The object
of this six-week course, for which a minimum of 1200 to 1500
bullets per man is provided, is to teach the soldier to burst into
a room ostensibly occupied by several armed men and to kill
or disable all of them with aimed shots from a thirteen-round
9mm Browning. It is assumed that each target must be hit
in the chest by two bullets from up to twenty yards. The
technique developed by the SAS in its specially-constructed
'CQB House' at Hereford, is to move continuously, rolling
over and over on the ground if necessary, without pausing
to fire accurately. Instant magazine changes and clearing jams
in the pistol are also included in the repertoire. The ultimate
effect of this training is deadly, as guerrillas and terrorists in
Ireland, Aden and elsewhere have discovered. In a city or a
crowded, hijacked aircraft, such training also minimises the risk
of innocent casualties that the enormous velocity of modern
firearms makes all too probable.
The use of explosives is a basic tool of all SAS soldiers and
forms part of the early continuation training. More advanced
techniques taught to specialists in this field include the creation
of booby-traps, knowledge of a wide variety of explosives and
the use of sophisticated timing and trigger mechanisms.
The troop to which the SAS novice has now been assigned
is part of a larger unit known as a squadron, of which 22 SAS,
the regular regiment, has four. Each squadron consists of four
troops plus a squadron commander (a major), a second-in-
command, a sergeant-major, quartermaster and clerks -- a total
seventy-two men and six officers. Theoretically, the novice is
not basically proficient until he has exercised with the whole
squadron, though fighting actions involving an entire SAS
squadron are rare.
At any one time, parts of the squadron may be dispersed
all over the world in small 'team jobs', either training friendly
forces or on highly secret operations, often concerned with
counter-terrorism in friendly states. But one complete squadron
of 22 SAS is always on instant stand-by at Hereford, gear packed
and a codeword, signalling an alert, memorised. Readiness is
routinely tested, and men are extracted from their beds or their
favourite pubs at unsocial hours. Some years ago the code was
'Free Beer!' As it echoed through the Hereford bars many of
their regular customers left: back at Bradbury Lines barracks
they collected their Bergens and assembled. 'This time it's for
real, lads,' they were told. 'We're going to Ireland.'

Training in the Brecons


















Determining position with GPS



















Using the radio








































Sniper training