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Simon Bolivar

My Falklands Story Part 10: SAS v SBS

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Part 10 SAS v SBS (subtitled: When the Sh*t’s incoming , hit the dirt & don’t stick your out!)<o></o>
The SBS were involved in operations on the Falklands for three weeks before the main landings, as well as being involved in the re-taking of South Georgia. There was only one SBS killed during this conflict, Sergeant Ian ‘Kiwi’ Hunt, after he strayed into SAS patch & became a Blue on Blue casualty.
The SAS had their blackest day on the 19th May, a Seaking from 846 Naval Squadron was doing deck transfers when it ditched into the sea. Of 30 POB, 18 SAS were killed plus an aircrewman & the only RAF servicemen killed during the conflict. It was the biggest single loss of SAS personnel since WWII.
I had been working Easter Duty at RNAS Culdrose, watching the World Snooker Championship in the Sickbay restroom, when the service was interrupted & the news flash showed men in balaclavas entering the Embassy in Grosvenor Square. I guessed straight way they were the SAS, sounds obvious today but that was the first time they had operated in the public environment & the first most of the public had seen or even heard of them.
From then on they had all the publicity & the SBS kept under the radar, the way they like it. I can’t say I had actually knowing met anyone from either regiment before the Herc flight out to Gib but I got to met a few representatives of both on the Uganda.
So my impressions and remember these are gathered from those unluckily enough to have been injured, I guess the best & luckiest of both Regiments managed to sneak in & slip out without receiving ‘Blighty wounds’. The SAS were most easily identified by their long hair. This was allowed so they could mingle in Northern Ireland at short notice, where as normal serviceman’s haircut would mark you out as such, when in the late 70’s & early 80’s civy hairstyles were far longer than today. Long hair can always be cut if they were to be infiltrated into areas were short hair was the norm. They also tended to be younger, in some cases much younger than the craggy SBS vets. It was explained to me that most are seconded to the SAS for a few yrs & then return to their original regiments to help disseminate the training & tactics they had learnt. Once a Royal makes it into the SBS, he stays with them, continuing to expand his knowledge & training so therefore have a higher than average age range.
Several of the SBS appeared to be older than the normal 40yo max age & had obviously been on extended retention. A canoe Instructor comes to mind, he looked nearly 50, grey hair & whip like body. None of the guys where big & wouldn’t have stood out in a bar from any other servicemen.
In ’82 only serviceman & ladies of ill-repute generally had tatt’s. Tattoos were actively discouraged in SAS & SBS, I think there was a time when they wouldn’t accept you if you had tattoos as it was too easy to ID you from them, particularly service/ reg tatt’s (you also wouldn’t get commissioned if you had tatt’s, that would be visible in short sleeves & shorts e.g. Tropical rig). These days I would guess it’s hard to find youngsters who haven’t any to start with & there’s probably a 90% tatt’ rate in the Para’s & RM, as they always were popular. Of course the fav tatt’ was the blood group, usually semi-circular flash across the top of a shoulder. I always though these were unlucky; I mean sods law says that’s the arm that’s gonna get blown off so which one would you have it on, dominate or non-dom? I guess these guys don’t think too much about such scenarios; if you’re the worrying kind, then they are the wrong regiments for you.
So my fav story about the SAS, which I cannot verify is true, only that we were told it from several different patients who came on at different times. So it was out there but may have been part of the smoke & mirrors type propaganda put up by the SAS themselves. I guess you have all seen the Magnificent Seven? Remember the scene when the young Mexican walks into the bandits camp & gets to hear their plans & judges their morale? Well according to the tale a SAS officer who spoke Spanish did just that to an Argentine machine gun outpost. He approached them from behind i.e. where they would expect their own to arrive from & he hailed them in Spanish, he then picked them up for the mess in the pit & smoking (a buring fag end can been seen from a long way). They jumped to attention & profusely apologised. He becomes friendlier & tells them to stand easy. ‘Have you received the food rations I sent up earlier?’ ‘No Sir, we have been short for several days’. ‘That’s terrible, I’ll give the Quartermaster hell and you will have your food tomorrow. How’s your ammunition stocks, I trust you are using them sparingly? Yes of course, we only have a limited supply left’. ‘OK I will have more sent up tomorrow, we are expecting an attack soon, the enemy is very close now & we expect large numbers. We need your machine guns to cut the bastards down eh? Oh we have intelligence that they are putting the Ghurkhas in first, so you will get the chance to kill many so they don’t get to go home with our ears as souvenirs’. A few more words & he slipped away, having learned their conditions & put the fear of the Ghurkha hoards into them. Like I say it’s was probably just a story but with the SAS I would never exclude the chance, that it might have had more than a grain of truth in it & just embellished somewhat in the re-telling.
My SBS story, well that concerns two unlucky chaps who were injured in the same fire fight & came in together. One had fairly minor injuries peppering his back; the other had similar but included one large wound on his buttock. I could probably have squeezed my thumb in there it was that large & deep. So they went to theatre for de-bridement & them it was up to the medic’s to keep it clean & dress it daily/alternate days depending on workload. To dress it I had to syringe it out & then pack several yds of cotton wick in there by pushing it in, in folds, with a 6” metal probe. So as one is performing intimate nursing care without the benefit of curtains, I kept the conversation going & asked how he came about his injuries. Making a rapid tactical withdrawl perhaps? That didn’t go down too well! They’d been out in a mission, (which they still couldn’t tell me about or they’d have to kill me ect, ect) when they’d come under fire & received ricochet injuries from rock fragments caused by the bullets hitting rocks behind them, in the shallow dip they were they laid. ‘So is that your story I asked incredulously, is that the best you can come up with to tell the guys back home? Well I hope they believe you & at least when I tell my story, I can say I probed deep into SBS arse & lived to tell the tale’, giving gentle dig, pushing the pack firmly in. ‘Wanna bet you little s………’ slapping the dry dressing on top, I made a tactical withdrawal of my own, to the amusement of the Para’s around us.
So SAS v SBS? Well I’d say I found the SBS the more interesting characters but it was pretty close. Simon V the SBS? Well I definitely came out way ahead there but there are always consequences; there are still some pubs in Deal I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into. But I am being paranoid, it was 30yrs ago & after all the SBS have a sense of humour too, don’t they? Perhaps I should try dropping in on our summer hols this yr & telling my tale, maybe we could all have a drink & a laugh about it….hmmm on the other hand daughter wants to go to the other end of the country & visit Hadrian’s Wall. Well maybe Deal next yr, yep that’s a definite maybe.
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