Shock SAS attack on German airfield
26th July 1942: One of the earliest operations by the SAS establishes their reputation for surprise attacks deep behind enemy lines
The members of the Special Air Service were currently known as L Detachment, SAS Brigade and would not be designated the SAS Regiment until September 1942. The original name was intended to cause confusion amongst the Germans about the nature and strength of these unconventional forces - suggesting that it was just a small part of a large parachute Brigade.
The role of the SAS was to mount disruptive raids behind enemy lines. Their first parachute raid had been costly affairs where they sustained heavy casualties. But on the night of 26th July they mounted one of their most successful raids ever. They had driven for days across the desert, guided by men from the Long Range Desert Group, until they were well behind enemy lines. The German guards at Sidi Haneish airfield near Fuka were caught completely off guard.
Carol Mather1 was one of the officers on the raid, which was led by the SAS's founding officer, Colonel David Stirling:
‘At the edge of the aerodrome form a line abreast and all guns spray the area. When I advance follow me in your two columns and on my green Very light open fire, outwards at the aircraft’
We left the escarpment RV at last light and climbed up the rocky cliff in our two columns. There was a full moon and so driving was comparatively easy. David led off at a terrific speed and it was not long before we were suffering from punctures. We had fifteen before we reached our objective, and for each one a halt of five minutes had to be made.