Sunday, 28 May 2023

WWII Western Desert SAS Book - Speed, Aggression Surprise

Even though I now seem to be a hardened Audible book listener these days, I do still gain pleasure from reading books in the traditional way (see below, ["Speed, Aggression, Surprise"] SAS related - LRDP North African Campaign, but more interestingly informing on miscellanea such as the1941 Levant campaign against the Vichy French and what can be best described as an early form of "strategic Psy-Ops" in the Mediterranean theatre of operations):  

Entertaining, illuminating and therefore "hand on heart", the book can be highly recommended as a good read. The genius behind much of the subterfuge being a little known British officer called Dudley Clarke, with the creation of phantom armies and Axis misdirection being his speciality. If I tried to list all the schemes devised, I would be doing them and him an injustice - instead I can recommend the book. It is sobering to read about the formation of the SAS in the context of this maelstrom of intrigue. Certain unconventional officers having a desire to put their hard earned Commando special training, learnt from the Scottish Highlands to good use, matched equally with the need to avoid standard "military bull". To think of the SAS as one of the many quirky "special forces" units and ideas floating around at the time. The LRDP by contrast being fathered in a more specialised pre-war incubation of foresight, fostered by Wavell, Hobart and Ralph Bagnold. Indeed the success of 1941 Commando Operations was highly debatable with a strong anti-special operations meme from the established military in general. Auchinleck gave the SAS an "in", being named as a parachute unit by accident brought in Clarke's distanced "approval" or "help" (despite a disastrous first parachute operation that nearly killed all the SAS participants) and really saved by the LRDP professionalism. Post North Africa, the SAS seemed to be a solution looking for a problem - "helping" French partisans in guerrilla warfare, almost fitting the bill?  


Pete. said...

Good review.

Try the work of Tim Jones too- a recent scholar looking at the early days of the SAS with new eyes and no BS.



Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Cheers Pete, it is a fascinating book about a fascinating period of history, that under closer examination does not quite stack up with all the North African theatre of operation myths that abound and are propagated in popular culture. I was surprised at the rather randomness of the use of Commando formations and how they differed from the post war cultural perspective of an elite unit. Layforce was pretty much destroyed in heh Greek and Crete evacuations. The SAS in itself got into very serious problems when it expanded and grew too big - becoming big enough to b ambushed in a way it usually ambushed others. The Luftwaffe formation that was an anti partisan style LRDP/SAS and Free French "raider hunters" was an eye-opener. Especially a He 111 raid that took out a secret Free French base. Good stuff, plenty of scope for many game scenarios in it!