LETTER: Wartime history of the SAS

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From Mr Sydney Hudson

Sir: As a wartime operational member of the organisation on which the SAS was founded - the Special Operations Executive - I read the report of Michael Portillo's speech to the Conservative conference with some amusement ("Portillo whips up nationalist frenzy", 11 October).

In his admiring references to the SAS, Mr Portillo forgot to mention that the SOE was established on the instructions of Winston Churchill with the specified objectives of "setting Europe ablaze".

The task was to be carried out by initiating and supporting the various national resistance groups operating against Nazi occupation and tyranny. It seems strange that the present Secretary of State for Defence appears now to regard the SAS as a symbol of British resistance against the eventuality of Continental aggression.

I would like to add that, in those distant days of the underground struggle, the vision of a Europe united for peace was a tenet of the belief in a better world to come which inspired many resistance fighters. To some, who still survive, this ideal remains very much alive.

Yours sincerely,

Sydney Hudson

Special Forces Club

London, SW1