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23 Special Air Service
S.A.S emblem
Active 1959–present
Country  United Kingdom
Branch The Army Reserve
Type Long-range reconnaissance patrol
Role Reconnaissance and long range patrols
Part of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade
Engagements Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
War In Afghanistan

23 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve) (23 SAS(R)) is a regiment of the British Army Reserve. Together with 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) (Reserve) (21 SAS(R)), it forms the Special Air Service (Reserve) (SAS(R)). Unlike the regular SAS Regiment it accepts members of the general population without prior military service.[1]


The unit was founded in 1959,[2] as an additional regiment of the Territorial Army,[3] and was created from the former Reserve Reconnaissance Unit, itself descended from the body of the organisation known as Military Intelligence 9.[4][5] The initial headquarters location was London, the headquarters were moved during 1959, to Thorpe street, Birmingham, during 1966, to Kingstanding, Birmingham, within the Territorial Army centre there.[6]

The regiment's first commander was H. S. Gillies, at the time a Lieutenant Colonel.[4] Anthony Hunter-Choat OBE was the commanding officer of the regiment from 1977 to 1983.[7] Sebastian Morley, at that time a Major, was for a period commander of D squadron until his resignation sometime during 2008.[8]

In 1963 it was deployed to Borneo to support Malaysian and British Commonwealth forces in combating guerrillas crossing from Indonesia to the federation of Malaysia.[9]

In mid-October 2001, members of 21 SAS and 23 SAS deployed to Afghanistan as reinforcements of two squadrons of 22 SAS, for Operation Determine, during the 2001 coalition invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime and destroy and dismantle al-Qaeda in the aftermath of September 11 attacks. Following the invasion, members of both territorial SAS regiments remained in the country to provide close protection to SIS members.[10][11][12]

In June 2008, three soldiers from 23 SAS were killed by a landmine their vehicle triggered again Helmand province.[13][14] The reservists were involved in the training the Afghan National Police (OMLT), during the most recent Afghan war, there were also elements of the Regiment performing tier 1 operational duties during this period in Iraq. Post Afghanistan a report found that the SAS(R) lacked a clearly defined role [15][16][17][18]

An inquest into the deaths of three reservists during a 2013 SAS test march heard that 6 months preparation is needed before undertaking "Test Week". It is possible for "direct civilian entry" students to attempt to join one of two SAS Reserve regiments. Around 10% of the candidates who took part in the march had no previous military experience before opting to try for the SAS. The majority of candidates have served in other British Army units. An Army review found that though reservists in 21 and 23 SAS had well defined jobs during the Cold War, but since then “the requirement for them appears to be less clear and more difficult to articulate” and that reservists “were not trained and conditioned to the right level; neither did they have the experience to face the rigours of the test march”.[19]

On 1 September 2014, 23 SAS was placed alongside 21 SAS under the command of 1st Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade, a brigade under Force Troops Command which provides combat specialist support to the British Army's Reaction and Adaptable Forces.[20][21]

See also


  1. L. Thompson - SAS : Great Britain's Elite Special Air Service (p.11) published by MBI, 1999, 128 pages, ISBN 1610607422 [Retrieved 2015-06-25]
  2. Steven Morris - Brecon Beacons Territorial Army Reservists Deaths published by The Guardian Newspaper Monday 15 July 2013 11.21 BST (Guardian News and Media Ltd) [Retrieved 2015-04-26]
  3. (author is shown one of listed page 659, not available (shown) in copy) - Encyclopedia of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: A New Era of Modern Warfare (p.527) ABC-CLIO, 29 Oct 2013 (edited by SC. Tucker) ISBN 1610692802 [Retrieved 2015-04-26]
  4. 4.0 4.1 R M Bennett (31 Aug 2011). Elite Forces. Random House. ISBN 0753547643. Retrieved 2015-05-15. 
  5. G Pitchfork MBE - Shot Down and on the Run: The RCAF and Commonwealth Aircrews who Got Home from Behind Enemy Lines, 1940-1945 Dundurn, 2003 ISBN 1550024833 [Retrieved 2015-05-15]
  6. Benjamin Hurst. HOME»NEWS»WORLD NEWS»ASIA»AFGHANISTAN. Birmingham Mail 26th December 2008. Retrieved 2016-12-22. 
  7. Obituary of Brigadier Tony Hunter-Choat published 23 Apr 2012 Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015 [Retrieved 2015-05-15]
  8. T Harding - Exclusive: SAS chief quits over 'negligence that killed his troops' published 31 Oct 2008 Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015[Retrieved 2015-05-15]
  9. Cawthorne, Nigel, The Mammoth Book of Inside the Elite Forces, Robinson, 2008 ISBN 1845298217 ISBN 978-1845298210
  10. Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1-4728-0790-8,p.75
  11. Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908
  12. Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036
  13. Harding, Thomas (31 October 2008). "SAS Chief Quits Over 'Negligence That Killed His Troops". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  14. Rayment, Sean (28 December 2003). "Overstretched SAS calls up part-time troops for Afghanistan". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  15. United Kingdom Ministry of Defence : Army (website) published online by the Crown 2015 [Retrieved 2015-03-26]
  16. Richard (B.E.M.) et al Forces War Records - Unit History: 23 SAS (R) [Retrieved 2015-04-26]
  17. R. Bennett. Espionage: Spies and Secrets. Diane Pub Co; 1st Edition edition (Feb. 2001), 432 pages, ISBN 1448132142. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  18. S. Rayment. HOME»NEWS»WORLD NEWS»ASIA»AFGHANISTAN. published by the Telegraph Media Group Limited 11 Apr 2010. Retrieved 2015-08-03. 
  19. Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent (2017-04-21). "Army reservists still at risk in SAS selection, Brecon Beacons inquiry finds". Retrieved 2017-05-28. 
  20. Janes International Defence Review, May 2014, page 4
  21. Army Briefing Note 120/14,

External links

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