In this video/article we’ll examine an internal British Army film about the Special Air Service Regiment or SAS. Produced in 1984 by the SSVC, the Services Sound & Vision Corporation, the 35 minute film provides an introduction to the SAS. It gives some insight into how the regiment’s members are selected, trained and goes into the roles of the four troops: Air, Boat, Mobility and Mountain, which make up the regiment’s four squadrons. The film also outlines the SAS’ role in close protection training and perhaps their best know role as an elite counter terrorism unit.
It’s definitely worth watching the whole thing, its available up on the Imperial War Museum’s online archive. In this video we’ll take a look at some of the weapons featured in the film. We’ll split these up into a number of categories: foreign weapons, personal weapons and support weapons.
Most of these clips relate to familiarisation with non-service weapons. These are weapons that might be encountered in the field either with allies or enemies. Several Combloc weapons a briefly seen including an RPD and a Chinese Type 56 rifle.
Some of the western small arms featured include brief clips of the FN Minimi and the HK21 – both weapons used by NATO allies – and also neutral Austria’s Steyr AUG bullpup – which SAS operators might encounter on operations. All three of these weapons were relatively new, the Minimi especially.
In terms of personal weapons we get a good look at a number of the in-service weapons which the SAS were issued at the time. The film opens with some footage of members of the SAS doing a static snap shooting drip, the troopers in the line are armed with a mix of weapons including an AR-15, a couple of L2A3 Sterling submachine guns and an Browning Auto-5 shotgun, which had found favour with British troops during operations in Malaya and Kenya. The SAS at the time also used the Remington 870. In another clip we see a trooper doing a contact drill with an L1A1 SLR.
Later in the film we see men from one of the mountain troops on operations. Much like the Royal Marines’ Mountain & Artic Warfare Cadre the SAS favoured the AR-15, like Colt 602 or 604s as well as another AR-pattern rifle, possibly a Model 603, fitted with an M203 under barrel grenade launcher. Worth noting that these guys also have 30 round magazines which had begun to be used in the early 80s.
In another short clip of some soldiers disembarking a helicopter during a section of the film about operations in Oman we see another AR pattern rifle and a metric FN FAL with a combo flash hider.
Close Protection & Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing
The film then goes on to explain the role the SAS take in training personal protection details and mounting personal protection for important figures. It briefly shows an MP5K and possible an appearance of an HK Operational Briefcase.
Possibly the SAS’ most famous element, the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing, is also featured, first showing with an operator in what’s known as ‘black kit’ with a respirator firing an MP5SD. Then a short sequence showing hostage rescue techniques, with a nod to the famous Iranian Embassy Siege operation. The operators are seen with MP5A3s, one of which has been adapted with a front grip and mounted with a Maglite-type weapon light. A room clearance drill is shown with a mix of MP5A3s and one operator has a MAC 10. The MAC 10 was one of the weapons which was surpassed by the MP5 and had been in use with UK special forces (including the SBS) throughout the 1970s.
Finally, the film also features a variety of support weapons including L7 GPMGs mounted on Pink Panther Land Rovers of the Mobility Troops. Earlier in the film there are brief clips of what appears to be an M1919 Browning being cocked and a 66mm M72 LAW being readied to fire.
There’s also an interesting sequence explaining designating targets for aircraft featuring a Ferranti Laser targeting Module. Finally, we also get a very brief mention of the Operations Research team (responsible for equipment testing and experimentation) and a glimpse of an early machine gun reflex optic mounted on a GPMG. The film offers an interesting insight into the weapons, equipment, tactics and organisation of the SAS during a period where their notoriety grew exponentially. I highly recommend watching the full film over on the IWM’s archive.
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‘The Special Air Service’, British Army/SSVC, (source)
Thanks to MajorSamm for pointing me in the direction of the video and to Vic for his help with this one.