Interview with Ben Macintyre: “They changed the way war is run”

Ben Macintyre has written the first authorised history of the SAS in the Second World War. He tells Rob Attar how a group of bearded ruffians mastered covert warfare in the north African desert

Men of the SAS returning from a three-month trip behind enemy lines during the war in North Africa. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the December 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine and accompanied a BBC Two series on the SAS

In context

The SAS (Special Air Service) was founded in north Africa in July 1941 with the aim of attacking airfields and other targets deep behind enemy lines. At a time when the north African campaign was going badly for the Allies, the British were prepared to attempt a new form of warfare, which, despite a number of reverses, proved highly successful. The unit rapidly grew from a few dozen men to several thousand. In Europe, the SAS was active in both the Italy campaign  and the attacks on France, the Netherlands and Germany. At the end of the war the SAS was disbanded, but was later reformed in 1947 and continues to operate today.

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