SAS Jeeps

By | May 14, 2016
SAS jeeps

Colonel David Stirling with the SAS jeeps

Western Desert SAS Jeeps

The Special Air Service was formed in July 1941 by David Stirling. It was a commando force that would operate behind enemy lines in the North African desert. Initially it consisted of five officers and 60 other ranks. On its first mission, the SAS were dropped by parachute, but it proved to be a disaster 22 men, a third of the unit, were killed or captured. It was then decided that it would be better to arrange for the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) to transport the SAS to within walking distance of the target, and then pick them up at predetermined place after the raid.

LRDG Chevrolets

LRDG Chevrolet trucks

Its second mission was a success using this method. But the problem for David Stirling was that the LRDG had other commitments and could only transport the SAS when it had vehicles available. So the ever resourceful Stirling managed to obtain some of the new Jeeps that were becoming available. The SAS decided to modify them to meet the requirements of a vehicle that could travel long distances through the desert with no support vehicles and was able to defend itself against a well-armed enemy.

SAS Jeeps

The jeeps were stripped of parts deemed unnecessary for the desert, the windscreen was removed along with the rear bumpers, the front was shortened and any other non-essential items. Some of the radiator grill bars were removed, this was more of a badge than a cooling aid making the SAS Jeeps instantly recognisable.

Brackets and frames were added to carry the extra fuel, water and spares necessary for long unsupported missions into the desert. They were fitted with water condensers that caught the steam from the radiator and turned it back to water for reuse. At least one vehicle in the unit would be fitted with a sun compass, and would also need to carry large quantities of normal, armour-piercing and tracer ammunition.

The jeeps were heavily armed with machine guns and could deliver an amazing amount of firepower for such a small vehicle. Most were armed with twin Vickers K guns some with the Browning machine guns and some with both. There was no standard SAS Jeep they were all a bit different.

SAS Jeeps

The SAS and the Jeep proved a very effective fighting force and destroyed hundreds of enemy aircraft while they sat on airfields, they continued to operate in the deserts of North Africa until the end of the campaign. The SAS moved to Europe with the allied armies and began operating behind the enemy lines, but for this a deferent type of SAS jeep would be needed, the European version.