Secrets of the SAS revealed to mark the regiment's 70th anniversary
The Top Secret order authorising the first-ever Special Air Service (SAS) operation will be revealed today as part of a diary hidden away by the regiment for more than six decades.
It is included in a giant scrapbook, the SAS War Diary 1941-1945, containing orders, photographs, personal recollections, hand-drawn maps and newspaper cuttings, that is being released publicly to mark the regiment's 70th anniversary.
The order to the founder of the SAS, Captain David Stirling, begins: "Your force will consist of 54 men from 'L' Sec 1 S.A.S Bde. Your primary task is to raid both aerodromes... destroying as many aircraft as possible."
Military historian Gordon Stevens, one of the few people to interview the late Colonel Stirling, said: "So few people knew about the diary. Even within the regiment only a handful of people even knew it existed."
Mr Stevens, with publisher Martin Morgan, convinced the SAS Regimental Association to release the book.
"I was making a film about the SAS, during which I heard about this diary," explained Mr Morgan. "It was six months before I got to see it and six seconds to decide it should be published. It was another six months before I could persuade the regimental association it was a good idea."
The original diary was contained in a giant, leather-bound scrapbook that had been "liberated" from the Nazis. With many pages still blank, the historians added other unseen documents from the regiment and scanned them all to create 5,000, limited edition copies. As faithful as possible to the original, the copies are bound in leather with brass fixings and the pages have been scanned on to heavy paper to replicate the yellowing originals, making the 600-page book a 30lb tome. The only change has been that – apart from a limited 500 given to former SAS members – the Nazi logos on the German bindings have not been replicated.
Inside is an amazing insight into the birth of the SAS – as well as the origins of the Special Boat Squadron (SBS). Interspersed between tales of daring are original typed lists of soldiers killed, injured or captured, giving an unembellished account of their losses. Other lists include the names of men who would go on to become military legends, such as Lt (later Lt Col) Robert "Paddy" Mayne.
The account of the first operation in November 1941, when Stirling was determined to parachute in despite all odds, describes how it ended in disaster with only a third of the men making it out alive, beaten not by the enemy but by the desert. Without faltering, small groups went on to complete three more raids, destroying 88 German and Italian planes.
"The problem we had making it was that everyone who worked on it – graphic artists, printers and hand collators – stopped work and started reading," said Mr Morgan.
"We have had tremendous support and access from the regimental association in order to make this the most complete history we possibly could."
At a time when the regiment has suffered casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the books are to be sold to benefit its welfare fund. The war diary copies will be sold for £975, with 550 special editions, signed by original soldiers as well as recent Victoria Cross recipients, at up to £2,500.
Life & Style blogs
The mother who never gave up on her child abused by the Oxford child sex ring
Britain scrapes into top 25 countries in the world to be a mother in Save the Children report
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
The 12 most sexually satisfied countries in the world revealed
Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 1 Technology company Alibaba posts job advert asking for 'stunning' women with qualities of adult film actress Sora Aoi
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
- 4 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...