Thread Reader


Nov 25
10 tweets

1/ This may be of interest in light of what's been written recently about L Detachment, SAS, being 'thugs', 'dregs' & 'psychotic' From a memo written in late 1942 by Brig Bob Laycock (pic), Special Service Brigade, & sent to all commando units. Should serve as the last word

2/ Laycock: “Let us get out of our minds once and for all the puerile idea that we ought to ape the slovenly qualities which have come to be described as those of the ‘tough guy’ and the ‘gangster’.
3/ A great deal of harm has been done in this respect by popular opinion bolstered by the Press which has been inclined to represent the Commando soldier as a care-free, happy-go-lucky, dirty individual, divorced from discipline & ‘spit and polish’ & worst of all, proud of it.
4/ Let us face facts. Neither the general public nor the Press reporters know the first thing about soldiering. Why should they? But you do. Those of you who have been in action, you know that the ‘tough guy’ who ‘shoots a line’, who slouches about in his billeting area
5/ …with his hands in his pockets, badly shaven, in filthy uniform, he is the last chap you want alongside you in action. Gangsters are usually ‘yellow’. They are bullies and they will do a job when things are going well but they are invariably the first to shirk their duty
6/ …in the face of real danger. I suppose, by and large, if I was asked to say which of the Commando units that had served under my command has been the most successful, I should say that the record of L Detachment under Lt-Col Stirling in Libya was the best of all.
7/ They have had practically no publicity & I do not suppose that many of you have even heard of them. For initiative & resource, for endurance, for faultless training & fearless action which culminated so often in grievous loss to the Germans of valuable men and material...
8/ …I put them second to none. Their casualties were small because they were well disciplined. I spent some time with them at their base camp [Kabrit] just before one of their most successful raids on the airfields 350 miles behind the enemy lines. They were a fine body of men.
9/ Their camp and everything about them immediately gave one the impression of soldierly efficiency. Everything was spotlessly clean & tidy which is not easily accomplished in the desert. They were just the same if one saw them on leave in Cairo.
10/ When they walked out they looked like soldiers and they were proud of it. But one never heard them brag.” P.S. As I explain in The Phoney Major, David Stirling spent most of his time in Cairo, living in his brother’s flat. Paddy Mayne was in charge at Kabrit.


Gavin Mortimer. Writer and historian with a specialty in wartime special forces Media enquiries:
Follow on Twitter
Missing some tweets in this thread? Or failed to load images or videos? You can try to .