Declassified: How Britain’s Special Forces Forever Changed Warfare

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Until that point, parachutes were mainly used only for emergencies, by pilots ejecting their aircraft. But, Stirling reasoned, they could be utilized by a small group of commandos, dropping down from high altitude, and conducting raids on the Nazi camps. By destroying German planes at night, when they’re on the ground, the Allied Forces would be able to conduct their attack from the sea, unimpeded.

parachute 1

While the majority of the British generals dismissed the concept as “ungentlemanly”, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was open to new approaches. When the idea was presented to him, he allowed Stirling to proceed with a small troop of volunteers.

Stirling was ready to proceed, but how would he ever be able to find soldiers willing to tackle such a high risk mission?

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They decided the best place to try the new methods would be the North African front, where the Nazis had embedded along the Mediterranean coast, with the vast Great Sand Sea behind them. The Axis forces would never anticipate an attack coming from behind them, from the impenetrable desert.

north africa map

But first, they had to prepare themselves. Stirling’s co-founder, Jock Lewes, took charge of designing the training regimen. It was rigorous, with the men living in tents in the desert, with hardly any supplies or rations.

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