Special Boat Service
Overview
The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the special forces
Special forces
Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform...

 unit of the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. Together with the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

, Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Special Reconnaissance Regiment
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment or SRR is a Special Forces regiment of the British Armed Forces. It was established on 6 April 2005 and is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces under command Director Special Forces, alongside the Special Air Service , Special Boat Service and the Special...

 and the Special Forces Support Group
Special Forces Support Group
The Special Forces Support Group or SFSG is a special operations unit of the British Armed Forces. The SFSG is the newest addition to the United Kingdom Special Forces. It was formed officially on 3 April 2006 to support the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service on operations. This could...

 they form the United Kingdom Special Forces
United Kingdom Special Forces
The United Kingdom Special Forces is a UK Ministry of Defence Directorate which also has the capability to provide a Joint Special Operations Task Force Headquarters...

 and come under joint control of the same Director Special Forces.
The SBS can trace their origins to the Second World War, when they were formed as the Special Boat Section in 1940. They became the Special Boat Squadron after the Second World War and the Special Boat Service in the 1980s.

The SBS is manned by ranks drawn mostly from the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 and carries out a role similar to the Special Air Service, but with a traditionally stronger focus on amphibious operations.
Encyclopedia
The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the special forces
Special forces
Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform...

 unit of the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. Together with the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

, Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Special Reconnaissance Regiment
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment or SRR is a Special Forces regiment of the British Armed Forces. It was established on 6 April 2005 and is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces under command Director Special Forces, alongside the Special Air Service , Special Boat Service and the Special...

 and the Special Forces Support Group
Special Forces Support Group
The Special Forces Support Group or SFSG is a special operations unit of the British Armed Forces. The SFSG is the newest addition to the United Kingdom Special Forces. It was formed officially on 3 April 2006 to support the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service on operations. This could...

 they form the United Kingdom Special Forces
United Kingdom Special Forces
The United Kingdom Special Forces is a UK Ministry of Defence Directorate which also has the capability to provide a Joint Special Operations Task Force Headquarters...

 and come under joint control of the same Director Special Forces.
The SBS can trace their origins to the Second World War, when they were formed as the Special Boat Section in 1940. They became the Special Boat Squadron after the Second World War and the Special Boat Service in the 1980s.

The SBS is manned by ranks drawn mostly from the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 and carries out a role similar to the Special Air Service, but with a traditionally stronger focus on amphibious operations. Two of the SBS's four squadrons, C and X, are configured for general operations. S squadron specialises in the use of minisubs and small boats and M squadron specialises in Maritime Counter Terrorism. The SBS also operates on dry land, with recent operations in the mountains of landlocked Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and in the deserts of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. Their main tasks include intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism operations (surveillance or offensive action), sabotage and the disruption of enemy infrastructure, capture of specific individuals, close protection of senior politicians and military personnel, plus reconnaissance and combat action on enemy territory.

Second World War

The Special Boat Section was founded in July 1940 by a Commando
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...

 officer, Roger Courtney
Roger Courtney
Roger James Allen Courtney MC, known as Jumbo, was influential in the establishment of the Special Boat Section's which saw action in World War II. They would eventually lead to the formation of the UK Special Boat Service....

. Courtney became a commando recruit in mid-1940, and was sent to the Combined Training Centre in Scotland. He was unsuccessful in his initial attempts to convince Admiral of the Fleet
Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy)
Admiral of the fleet is the highest rank of the British Royal Navy and other navies, which equates to the NATO rank code OF-10. The rank still exists in the Royal Navy but routine appointments ceased in 1996....

 Sir Roger Keyes and later Admiral Theodore Hallett, commander of the Combined Training Centre, that his idea of a folding kayak
Folding kayak
A folding kayak is a direct descendant of the original Inuit kayak made of animal skins stretched over frames made from wood and bones. A modern folder has a collapsible frame made of some combination of wood, aluminium and plastic, and a skin made of a tough fabric with a waterproof coating...

 brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 would be effective. He decided to infiltrate the HMS Glengyle
HMS Glengyle
HMS Glengyle was a Landing Ship, Infantry of the Royal Navy. She saw service in the Second World War-Design and conversion:Glengyle was built by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Dundee, for the Glen Line...

, a Landing Ship, Infantry
Landing Ship, Infantry
Landing Ship, Infantry was a British term for a type of ship used to transport infantry in amphibious warfare during the Second World War...

 anchored in the River Clyde
River Clyde
The River Clyde is a major river in Scotland. It is the ninth longest river in the United Kingdom, and the third longest in Scotland. Flowing through the major city of Glasgow, it was an important river for shipbuilding and trade in the British Empire....

. Courtney paddled to the ship, climbed aboard undetected, wrote his initials on the door to the captain's cabin, and stole a deck gun
Deck gun
A deck gun is a type of artillery cannon mounted on the deck of a ship or submarine.The deck gun was used as a defensive weapon against smaller boats or ships and in certain cases where torpedo use was limited. Typically a crew of three; gunner, loader, and layer, operated the gun, while others...

 cover. He presented the soaking cover to a group of high ranking Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 officers meeting at a nearby Inveraray
Inveraray
Inveraray is a royal burgh in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne, near its head, and on the A83 road. It is the traditional county town of Argyll and ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll.-Coat of arms:...

 hotel. He was promoted to captain
Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)
Captain is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines. It ranks above Lieutenant and below Major and has a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force...

, and given command of twelve men, the first Special Boat Service/Special Boat Section.

It was initially named the Folboat Troop, after the type of folding canoe employed in raiding operations, and then renamed No1 Special Boat Section in early 1941. Attached to Layforce
Layforce
Layforce was an ad hoc military formation of the British Army consisting of a number of commando units during the Second World War.Formed in February 1941 under the command of Colonel Robert Laycock, after whom the force was named, it consisted of approximately 2,000 men and served in the Middle...

 they moved to the Middle East, they later worked with the 1st Submarine Flotilla based at Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 and carried out beach reconnaissance of Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

, evacuated troops left behind on Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 and a number of small-scale raids and other operations. In December 1941 Courtney returned to the United Kingdom where he formed No2 SBS, and No1 SBS became attached to the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 (SAS) as the Folboat Section. In June 1942 they took part in the Crete airfield raids
June 1942 Crete airfield raids
Operation Albumen was the name given to British Commando raids in June 1942, on German airfields in the Axis-occupied Greek island of Crete, to prevent them from being used for supporting the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert Campaign in World War II...

. In September 1942 they carried out Operation Anglo
Operation Anglo
Operation Anglo was a British Commando raid on the occupied island of Rhodes during the Second World War. The raid was carried out by eight men of the Special Boat Section assisted by four Greeks....

, a raid on two airfields on the island of Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

, from which only two men returned. Destroying three aircraft, a fuel dump and numerous buildings, the surviving SBS men had to hide in the countryside for four days before they could reach the waiting submarine. After the Rhodes raid the SBS was absorbed into the SAS due to the casualties they had suffered.

In April 1943, 1st SAS was divided into two with 250 men from the SAS and the Small Scale Raiding Force
Small Scale Raiding Force
No. 62 Commando or the Small Scale Raiding Force was a British Commandos unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The unit was formed around a small group of commandos under the command of the Special Operations Executive...

, forming the Special Boat Squadron under command Major the Earl Jellicoe
George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe
George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe, KBE, DSO, MC, PC, FRS was a British politician and statesman, diplomat and businessman....

.
They moved to Haifa
Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

 and trained with the Greek Sacred Regiment
Sacred Band (World War II)
The Sacred band was a Greek special forces unit formed in 1942 in the Middle East, composed entirely of Greek officers and officer cadets under the command of Col. Christodoulos Tsigantes. It fought alongside the SAS in the Libyan desert and the Aegean, as well as with General Leclerc's Free...

 for operations in the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

.
They later operated among the Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

 and Cyclades
Cyclades
The Cyclades is a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece; and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos...

 groups of islands in the Dodecanese Campaign
Dodecanese Campaign
The Dodecanese Campaign of World War II was an attempt by Allied forces, mostly British, to capture the Italian-held Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea following the surrender of Italy in September 1943, and use them as bases against the German-controlled Balkans...

 and took part in the Battle of Leros
Battle of Leros
The Battle of Leros was the central event of the Dodecanese Campaign of the Second World War, and is widely used as an alternate name for the whole campaign. Leros was occupied by British forces on 15 September 1943...

 and the Battle of Kos
Battle of Kos
The Battle of Kos was a brief battle between British, Italian and German forces for the control of the Greek island of Kos, in the then Italian-held Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea.-Background:...

. In August 1944 they joined with the Long Range Desert Group
Long Range Desert Group
The Long Range Desert Group was a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commander of the German Afrika Corps, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".Originally called...

 in operations in the Adriatic, on the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

, in Albania, and, finally, Istria
Istria
Istria , formerly Histria , is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The peninsula is located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Bay of Kvarner...

. So effective were they that by 1944 200–300 SBS men held down six German divisions.

Throughout the war, the No2 SBS did not use the Special Boat Squadron name but instead retained the name Special Boat Section. They accompanied Major General Mark Clark ashore before the Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

 landings in November 1942. Later one group, Z SBS, which was based in Algiers from March 1943, carried out the beach reconnaissance for the Salerno landings and a raid on Crete, before moving to Ceylon to work with the Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

s, Force 136
Force 136
Force 136 was the general cover name for a branch of the British World War II organization, the Special Operations Executive . The organisation was established to encourage and supply resistance movements in enemy-occupied territory, and occasionally mount clandestine sabotage operations...

 and later with Special Operations Australia. The rest of No2 SBS became part of South-East Asia Command's Small Operations Group, operating on the Chindwin and Irrawaddy rivers, and in the Arakan
Rakhine State
Rakhine State is a Burmese state. Situated on the western coast, it is bordered by Chin State in the north, Magway Region, Bago Region and Ayeyarwady Region in the east, the Bay of Bengal to the west, and the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh to the northwest. It is located approximately between...

, during the Burma campaign
Burma Campaign
The Burma Campaign in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II was fought primarily between British Commonwealth, Chinese and United States forces against the forces of the Empire of Japan, Thailand, and the Indian National Army. British Commonwealth land forces were drawn primarily from...

.

Post war

In 1946, the SBS, whether of Commando or SAS parentage, were disbanded. The functional title SBS was adopted by the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

. It became part of the school of Combined Operations under the command of "Blondie" Hasler
Herbert Hasler
Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert George "Blondie" Hasler, DSO, OBE was a distinguished Royal Marines officer in World War II, responsible for many of the concepts which ultimately led to the post-war formation of the Special Boat Service...

. Their first missions were in Palestine (ordnance removal) and in Haifa
Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

 (limpet mine
Limpet mine
A limpet mine is a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets; they are so named because of their superficial similarity to the limpet, a type of mollusk....

 removal from ships). The SBS went on to serve in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 deployed on operations along the North Korean coast as well as operating behind enemy lines destroying lines of communication, installations and gathering intelligence. It was during the Korean War that the SBS first started operating from submarines. In 1952, SBS teams were held at combat readiness in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in case Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

's coup turned more violent than it did. The SBS were also alerted during the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 of 1956 and coup against King Idris I of Libya
Idris I of Libya
Idris, GBE , , was the first and only king of Libya, reigning from 1951 to 1969, and the Chief of the Senussi Muslim order.- Early life :...

 (1959), but in both cases they did not see action. In 1961, SBS teams carried out reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 missions during the Indonesian Confrontation (see Operation Claret
Operation Claret
Claret was the code name given to operations conducted from about July 1964 until July 1966 from East Malaysia across the border in Indonesian Kalimantan during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation. They were instigated by the Director of Borneo Operations Major General Walter Walker with the...

). In the same year, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 threatened to invade Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 for the first time, and the SBS put a detachment at Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

. In 1972 the SBS and SAS came into prominence when members of a combined SBS and SAS team parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean after a bomb threat on board the cruise liner RMS Queen Elizabeth 2
RMS Queen Elizabeth 2
Queen Elizabeth 2, often referred to simply as the QE2, is an ocean liner that was operated by Cunard from 1969 to 2008. Following her retirement from cruising, she is now owned by Istithmar...

. A thorough search of the ship found no evidence of any device drawing the conclusion that it was a hoax.

Special Boat Squadron

In 1977, their name was changed to the Special Boat Squadron and in 1980 the SBS relinquished North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 oil rig protection to Comacchio Company
Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines
The Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines , formerly Comacchio Company Royal Marines and Comacchio Group Royal Marines , is a commando-sized specialist unit of the Royal Marines responsible for guarding the United Kingdom's Naval nuclear weapons and other security-related duties.-History:On 1 May...

. In 1982 after the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

 they deployed to South Georgia. The only losses to the SBS during the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 occurred when the SBS and SAS were operating behind the lines and two members of the SBS were shot by the SAS patrol, who had mistaken them for Argentinians.

Special Boat Service

In 1987, they were renamed Special Boat Service, and became part of the United Kingdom Special Forces group alongside the Special Air Service and 14 Intelligence Company
14 Intelligence Company
14 Field Security and Intelligence Company is alleged to have been an element of the British Army Intelligence Corps which operated in Northern Ireland from the 1970s onwards. The unit conducted undercover surveillance operations against suspected members of Irish republican and loyalist...

. In the first Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 the SBS carried out one of its most high profile operations when it liberated the British Embassy in Kuwait, abseiling from helicopters hovering above the embassy. They were also responsible for carrying out diversionary raids along the Kuwaiti coast which in effect diverted a number of Iraqi troops to the SBS area of operations and away from the main thrust of the coalition build up. In September 1999 the SBS were involved in operations in East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

. A small SBS team landed and drove out the back of a C-130 Hercules
C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport...

 transport aircraft in Land Rover
Land Rover
Land Rover is a British car manufacturer with its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom which specialises in four-wheel-drive vehicles. It is owned by the Indian company Tata Motors, forming part of their Jaguar Land Rover group...

 Defenders at Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport
Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport
Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport , formerly known as Comoro International Airport, is an airport located in Dili, the capital of East Timor...

 in Dili
Dili
Dili, spelled Díli in Portuguese, is the capital, largest city, chief port and commercial centre of East Timor.-Geography and Administration:Dili lies on the northern coast of Timor island, the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands....

.

21st century

In September 2000 the SBS were involved in Operation Barras
Operation Barras
Operation Barras was the name given to a hostage rescue operation by the British Special Air Service, Special Boat Service, and Parachute Regiment in Sierra Leone on 10 September 2000...

, a hostage rescue operation in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

. In November 2001 the SBS had an extensive role in the invasion of Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

 and were involved in the Battle of Tora Bora
Battle of Tora Bora
The Battle of Tora Bora was a military engagement that took place in Afghanistan in December 2001, during the opening stages of the war in that country launched following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The U.S...

. The SBS were used in vital phases of the invasion of Afghanistan. A small SBS contingent secured Bagram Airbase prior to the deployment of larger forces that would become the main staging area for allied forces during Operation Enduring Freedom. Members of the SBS helped quell an Afghan prison revolt during the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi took place between November 25 and December 1, 2001, in Northern Afghanistan. It began with the uprising of foreign Taliban prisoners held at Qala-i-Jangi fortress, and escalated into one of the bloodiest engagements of the War in Afghanistan...

 near Mazar-i-Sharif, in November 2001.
In the invasion of Iraq in 2003
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 Corporal Ian Plank was killed when his patrol was engaged by Iraqi insurgents during a house-to-house search for a wanted high ranking militia leader. On 27 June 2006 Captain David Patten SAS and Sergeant Paul Bartlett, SBS, were killed and another serviceman seriously injured in a Taliban ambush in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. It was reported that the ambushed vehicle was part of an SBS patrol. On 12 May 2007 a joint SBS and Special Forces Support Group
Special Forces Support Group
The Special Forces Support Group or SFSG is a special operations unit of the British Armed Forces. The SFSG is the newest addition to the United Kingdom Special Forces. It was formed officially on 3 April 2006 to support the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service on operations. This could...

 (SFSG) team killed the Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah
Mullah Dadullah
Maulavi or Mullah Dadullah or Dadullah Akhund was the Taliban's senior military commander until his death by U.S and U.K special ops in 2007. He was an ethnic Pashtun from the Kakar tribe of Kalai-Kakaran village in Uruzgan province of Afghanistan...

 in Helmand province after a raid on a compound where his associates were meeting.
On 18 February 2008, Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Matin
Abdul Matin (Taliban leader)
Mullah Abdul Matin was aTaliban leader in Afghanistan who was killed in combat in the Gereshk region of Helmand Province....

 and one of his sub-commanders, Mullah Karim Agha, were travelling through the desert on motorbikes when they were ambushed and killed by an SBS unit dropped into his path by helicopter.

Organisation

The Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 does not comment on special forces matters, therefore little verifiable information exists in the public domain. The SBS are under the Operational Command of Director Special Forces and are based in Hamworthy barracks, Poole
Poole
Poole is a large coastal town and seaport in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England. The town is east of Dorchester, and Bournemouth adjoins Poole to the east. The Borough of Poole was made a unitary authority in 1997, gaining administrative independence from Dorset County Council...

, Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

.

In 1987 when renamed the Special Boat Service, the SBS was also reformed along SAS lines, with 16 man troops instead of the traditional sections.
About 200–250 men make up the SBS at any one time, and once qualified, personnel are known as "Swimmer Canoeists". They are experts in swimming, diving, parachuting, navigation, demolition and reconnaissance.

There are four active squadrons and a reserve unit:
  • C Squadron – responsible for swimmer and canoe operations.
  • M Squadron – responsible for maritime anti-terrorism and ship boarding operations. The Black Group, counter–terrorist team who specialise in helicopter assault are included in M Squadron.
  • S Squadron – specialises in small water borne craft and mini-sub operations.
  • X Squadron – in June 2004 it was reported that a new squadron had been formed from volunteers from the SAS and the SBS. This is believed to be the first phase of an expansion of Britain’s Special Forces ordered by the Government because of an increased threat to national security.
  • SBS Reserve or SBS(R) – provides individual reservists to serve with the regular SBS rather than forming independent teams. Only candidates with military experience will be eligible to enlist. The SBS(R) are located at locations throughout the United Kingdom, but training is carried out in the South of England.

Recruitment, selection and training

In the past the SBS was staffed almost entirely by the Royal Marines. Volunteers for the SBS are now taken from all the British Armed Forces although volunteers still predominantly come from the Royal Marines. Candidates wishing to serve with SBS must have completed two years regular service and will only be accepted into the SBS after completion of the selection process.

Until recently, the SBS had its own independent selection program in order to qualify as a Swimmer Canoeist
Frogman
A frogman is someone who is trained to scuba diving or swim underwater in a military capacity which can include combat. Such personnel are also known by the more formal names of combat diver or combatant diver or combat swimmer....

 but has now been integrated its selection program into a joint UKSF selection alongside candidates for the SAS. All members of the United Kingdom armed forces can be considered for special forces selection, but historically the majority of candidates have an airborne forces background. There are two selections a year, one in winter and the other in summer, and all the instructors are full members of the Special Air Service Regiment.
Selection lasts for five weeks in Sennybridge
Sennybridge
Sennybridge is a village in Powys, Mid Wales, situated some from Cardiff and from Swansea. It lies west of Brecon on the A40 trunk road to Llandovery, at the point where the River Senni flows into the Usk...

, Powys
Powys
Powys is a local-government county and preserved county in Wales.-Geography:Powys covers the historic counties of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire, most of Brecknockshire , and a small part of Denbighshire — an area of 5,179 km², making it the largest county in Wales by land area.It is...

 in the Brecon Beacons
Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons is a mountain range in South Wales. In a narrow sense, the name refers to the range of popular peaks south of Brecon, including South Wales' highest mountain, Pen y Fan, and which together form the central section of the Brecon Beacons National Park...

 and normally starts with about 200 candidates. On arrival candidates have to complete a Basic Fitness Test (BFT) and an infantry Combat Fitness Test
Combat Fitness Test
A Combat Fitness Test was the name given to a test of fitness administered by the British Army and the United States Marine Corps.-United Kingdom:...

 (CFT). They then complete a series of cross country marches against the clock, with the distances covered increasing each day and including a 14 miles (22.5 km) march with full equipment on Pen-y-Fan, known as the Fan dance
Fan dance (exercise)
The Fan Dance is part of the Fitness and Navigation phase of the selection process of the UK's Special Forces personnel. It has also been used on courses run by the Pathfinder Group and the Infantry Battle School, Brecon, Wales. It is a 24 kilometre long distance march in the Brecon Beacons of...

, which must be completed in four hours. By the end of the hill phase candidates must be able to walk four miles in 30 minutes and swim two miles in 90 minutes.

Those who successfully complete the hill phase move onto the jungle phase which can take place in Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

, Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

 or Malaysia. In the jungle phase candidates are taught navigation, moving in patrol formation and how to survive in the jungle.

After successfully completing the jungle phase candidates return to Hereford for training in battle plans, foreign weapons, and take part in a combat survival exercise. The final test is an escape and evasion exercise; the remaining candidates are formed into patrols, and carrying nothing more than a tin can filled with survival equipment they are dressed in old Second World War uniforms and told to head for a point by first light. The exercise lasts for one week and is followed by the final selection test resistance to interrogation
Resistance to interrogation
R2I or resistance to interrogation is a name for a set of techniques taught to UK, and other NATO soldiers ostensibly to help them, after capture by the enemy, to resist interrogation techniques such as humiliation and torture....

(RTI), which lasts for 36 hours.

At the end of the resistance to interrogation phase the surviving candidates are transferred to an operational squadron.

For SBS(R) selection, candidates are required to complete the following tests over the four-day initial selection course:
  • Combat Fitness Test (CFT) – 12.8 km (8 mi) carrying 25 kg within 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Swim test – 0.5 km (0.310686368324903 mi) using any stroke in uniform and retrieve an object from 5m
  • Gym tests
  • Advanced CFT 1 – 15 km (9.3 mi) carrying 25 kg
  • Advanced CFT 2 – 24 km (14.9 mi) carrying 30 kg

External links

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