Last year I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Cody Firearms Museum’s Arsenals of History Symposium. I’ve been working with my friend Jonathan Ferguson of the Royal Armouries on a research paper looking at British use of the AR-15 platform. My focus for the project has been the user experience, I’ve spoken to over 25 veterans from across the British military who have experience using the AR-15/M16 platform on operations. Chronologically their experiences span nearly 60 years and this somewhat informal presentation gives a brief overview of some of the operations where the rifles have been used from the Indonesian Confrontation right through to the present day.
If you’re a member or former member of the British armed forces with experience with the AR-15/M16 platform I would love to hear from you, please reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org. Your help and insights would be invaluable.
Once the project is completed I’ll put together a more in-depth video discussing the history of the UK’s use of AR-15/M16-pattern rifles.
In this video/article we’re going to take a look at a short internal British Ministry of Defence film about the SBS called ‘Oil Safe’. Produced in 1980 by the SSVC, the Services Sound & Vision Corporation, the 11 minute film provides an introduction to the Special Boat Service’s capabilities and procedures for retaking off-shore oil and gas rigs seized in a potential terrorist operation.
‘Oil Safe’ is not to be confused with another oil rig hijack film made the same year – ‘North Sea Hijack’ with Roger Moore.
It gives some insight into how the SBS would go about recapturing a rig seized by terrorists, showing in some detail the procedures used in operations associated with offshore gas and oil installations. The film takes us step by step through the operation from the moment the SBS are notified to the moment they exfiltrate after the operation to retake the rig is successful.
It’s definitely worth watching the whole thing, its available up on the. In this video we’ll take a look at some of the weapons featured in the film.
The first weapons we see are those of the SBS assault team as they are preparing their weapons and kit for the journey out to the oil rig. On the table we see no less than eight MAC-10s. While the MAC-10 would later be surpassed by the HK MP5 it was in service with UK special forces throughout the 1970s. Here it appears to be the assault team’s primary weapon.
The MAC-10, designed by Gordon Ingram, could be paired with a sound suppressor – but these do not appear in the film. The MAC-10’s small size and considerable firepower seem well suited to the team’s task.
Also on the table are numerous L9A1 Browning Hi-Powers, a Remington 870 shotgun, a pair of AR-15s, an L1A1 self-loading rifle and an anti-riot Grenade Discharger – for CS gas. The Colt AR-15 was favoured for its firepower and light weight. The SAS and the Royal Marines’ Mountain & Artic Warfare Cadre favoured the AR-15 for the same reasons. Colt Model 602, 603 and 604s were the most prevalent models. In the film the rifle is seen with both 20 and 30 round magazines.
During the operation to retake the rig we see the team armed with the MAC-10s, AR-15s and Hi-Powers. The terrorist seen guarding the rig’s landing pad is shot by a member of the SBS armed with the Remington 870, another terrorist is shot by two SBS members with Hi-Powers who raid the rig’s cafeteria.
The terrorists are portrayed as being armed with a magazine-less M1 Carbine and a Luger P08 pistol. After the terrorists are neutralised the film explains that their weapons are taken by UK Police as part of an investigation into the seizure of the rig. Royal Marine Commandos who arrive by helicopter following the SBS’ initial assault are armed with L1A1 SLRs and L2A3 Sterling submachine guns.
Check out our earlier article/video analysing a 1984 British Army video on the SAS here.
I highly recommend watching the full film over on the Imperial War Museum’s online archive.
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SBS Procedure: Part 3 – Oil Safe, SSVC/UK MoD via IWM, (source)
A few weeks ago at the We Have Ways podcast’s history festival (WarFest) I had a chance to chat with the chaps from the Royal Navy Beachhead Commando Reenactors, a group portraying a unique Second World War British Commando unit. And I got to have a paddle in a Mk1** canoe!
The Royal Navy Commandos were tasked with reconiotring the beaches before landings and once the landing began they were first onto the beach. The Royal Navy Commando beachhead parties and beachmasters would then direct the landing of troops and materials.
Below are a few photos from the groups camp and of the Mk1** Commando canoes used by the SBS and Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP):
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Prime your limpet mines, pull on your windproofs and climb into your canoes and join us as we paddle furiously into enemy territory to discuss 1955’s Cockleshell Heroes with none other than historian Saul David.
Saul has a new history of the Special Boat Service out so what better film to tackle than Cockleshell Heroes. Starring Trevor Howard, Jose Ferrer, Victor Maddern, Christopher Lee and Percy Herbert as the Royal Marine Commandos tasked with sinking enemy ships deep in enemy territory on Operation Frankton!