David Stirling and his subordinates, 1942
In previous articles in the series, we mentioned the famous recruitment company Soldier of Fortune, founded by Bob Denard. But around the same time, another organization appeared, offering the services of professional mercenaries. It was the world's first private military company Watchguard International, founded by David Stirling in 1965. This person will become the hero of this article.
Monument to David Stirling, Doune Village and Castle Neighborhood, Scotland
Born in 1915, Stirling was the son of a brigadier general in the British Army. Before the start of World War II, he took fine art lessons in Paris and was going on an expedition to Everest, but then he volunteered for the Scottish Guards Regiment, which he later fought in France, and after the defeat, was evacuated from Dunkirk. Then, as part of Commando-8, Lt. Col. Lacock Stirling ended up in North Africa. This diversionary connection was disbanded after several unsuccessful operations, during one of which Stirling was injured in the eye and broke his leg. In the hospital, he drew up a plan for creating a new sabotage group, the task of which was to become raids on German rear.
Special Air Service
This idea was unexpectedly supported by Major General Neil Richie, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Commander of the British Forces in North Africa, Claude John Okinleck.
Major General Neil Ritchie
So Stirling (who at that time had the modest rank of lieutenant) was at the head of the Special Air Service (“Special Airborne Service”) - a unit that existed only on paper and was created to misinform the enemy: let the adversaries be afraid and try to calculate the length of the fangs of the painted tiger.
In July 1941, Stirling had 5 officers and 60 soldiers (Detachment L) at their disposal, who in November took the first battle as part of Operation Crusader. According to the plan drawn up by Stirling, on the night of November 16-17, 1941, these fighters were supposed to parachute to the airfields in Ghazal and Thimi, to destroy airplanes and fuel depots. After completing the mission, they were to be delivered to the base by units of the Desert Long Range Intelligence Group, established in June 1940 by Major Ralph Bangold (LRDG, Long Range Desert Group).
Ralph Banold, founder of the Long Range Desert Group
British Long Range Desert Group, North Africa
But the first pancake came out lumpy: the paratroopers were scattered around, they had to join the battle in small groups, the effect of surprise was lost and only 22 people managed to return to the base.
SAS first squad survivors, November 1941
The beginning was depressing. It seemed that detachment L was destined to repeat the fate of the disbanded Commando-8. But Stirling did not give up. He decided to change tactics and use vehicles - jeeps and trucks in raids. There was no solid front line and therefore night raids of mobile columns promised to be effective. And, in the end, if long-range reconnaissance groups could carry out long-distance raids towards the enemy, then why not use saboteur squads for their experience?
SAS fighters in a Chevrolet jeep, World War II, North Africa
This decision turned out to be successful, and on December 12, the group of Captain Maine successfully attacked the airfield in Tamet, destroying 24 aircraft, and returning to the base without losses.
Captain robert maine
During the following operations at two German airfields in Libya, another 64 aircraft were destroyed, and the losses of SAS fighters amounted to only three people.
On January 23, 1942, the attack on the port of Buerat proved to be successful, where army warehouses and fuel tanks were blown up, after which Stirling was promoted to major. In March of that year, SAS fighters destroyed 31 aircraft, and Stirling was nicknamed the Major Ghost.
Successful operations of the new unit led to its number growing significantly, and in September 1942, 6 squadrons (4 British, 1 French, and 1 Greek) and a boat service department entered the SAS. The words SAS became the motto: “Who takes risks, he wins”, the emblem is a dagger with two wings.
SAS Fighters, May 1945
Stirling's career in SAS ended in January 1943, when during one of the operations in Tunisia he was captured by the Germans, he was released only after the end of the war. Stirling retired with the rank of colonel.
David Stirling's New Idea
In 1959, Stirling created the television company Television International Enterprises (TIE). However, the young veteran was bored in the office, and therefore, in 1962, by order of the Sultan of Oman Qaboos, he formed his first detachment of mercenaries - these were instructors who trained soldiers for action against rebels of the Dofar province.
Then during the civil war in Yemen (which was described in the article "Soldiers of Fortune" and "Wild Geese") Stirling's services were used by British intelligence. Then, the French mercenaries Roger Folk (Fulk) and Bob Denard, already well-known French mercenaries, were involved in the hostilities against the new republican authorities, and the British sent SAS staff members on leave to help them. Funding for these operations went through Saudi Arabia. All this convinced Stirling of the prospects of this area and after the completion of the operation in Yemen, Stirling created the company Kulinda Security Ltd. (KSL), whose employees were used by Americans for operations against drug cartels in Latin America. The same company sent instructors to train special forces in Sierra Leone and Zambia.
But it was just a “test of the pen”: Watchguard International is considered to be the first “real” private military company in the world. In parallel with it, the Kilo Alpha Services mercenary recruitment office was also established. Stirling's partner was the former commander of the 22nd SAS Regiment, John Woodhouse.
Lieutenant Colonel John Woodhouse
According to Stirling, his organization was, while remaining private, to maintain close contacts with the British government and act exclusively in his interests, or in the interests of countries friendly to Britain. Thus, his people were guaranteed payment for their "work", assistance in ensuring weapons and equipment and even some kind of cover and some help at the state level. The government, on the other hand, received high-class professional military personnel who were ready at any time to undertake various "delicate" missions abroad, involving military instructors, specialists in military equipment, and especially army or intelligence units, was undesirable and could lead to diplomatic scandal .
There was no shortage of necessary specialists. And a very interesting question arises: why in fairly prosperous 60s and even more so in prosperous 70s, 80s and today, citizens of "well-fed" countries voluntarily went to war in the territory of states where they were shot from the present weapons? And where you can easily die from some exotic disease even without outside help. Nevertheless, they went: to the French Foreign Legion, to the “teams” of Hoare and Denard, to various private military companies. But in the USA, France, Germany, Great Britain and other countries of the “golden billion” it is very difficult to die of hunger even for professional parasites and marginalized people.
The first category of such volunteers is a kind of “adrenaline addicts” such as the quite successful businessman Michael Hoar or the wealthy aircraft collector Lynn Harrison. There are few such people, but they are. It is they who voluntarily go on various extreme expeditions to the mountains or the jungle, because to die is “better than from vodka and colds” (V. Vysotsky). As a last resort, parachute jump and line up for the most extreme rides at Port Aventura. The best option for them would be a “toy war” of a big sport, but few become professional athletes.
Another example of this kind is Mark Thatcher, the son of the famous Margaret, 71st British Prime Minister.
Family of Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, 1982. To the right of his parents is Mark, to the left is his twin sister Carol, a TV journalist who became “famous” for having once called the black athlete "black scarecrow" on the BBC. In 2005, she won the Australian reality show and earned her nickname Queen of the Jungle for her whole life.
Mark Thatcher did not have the abilities and talent of Hoar, Denard or Stirling, but you can’t hide your character in your pocket, and therefore, instead of becoming a member of parliament or taking a warm place in the Foreign Office (British Foreign Office), he became a small-scale adventurer. He started as an unsuccessful race car driver: in three races in a row (1979, 1980 and 1981), his crew went out of the race, and in 1982 he was completely lost during the Paris-Dakar rally, and after three days of searching was discovered by an Algerian plane 50 km away from the track. Reporters then for the first and last time managed to take pictures of the crying "iron lady" M. Thatcher.
Unlucky race car driver Mark Thatcher
In the future, he did not miss the stars from the sky, but, using the name and influence of his mother, in the 80s he received large commissions, lobbying for two major transactions: the construction of a hospital and university in Oman and the purchase of aircraft by Saudi Arabia. These contracts aroused great suspicion in parliament and led to the creation of commissions, which, of course, were looking for compromising material against Margaret Thatcher, and not her non-prodigious son, but even then she managed to get out of the water.
In 2004, Mark Thatcher decided to raise rates: he and the former officer Simon Mann tried to organize a coup d'etat in the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. However, the plane with weapons in which Mann was located was detained at the Zimbabwean airport, Mark was arrested in South Africa, but thanks to his mother’s influence, he was released on bail and sentenced only conditionally (in 2005). All these scandals did not prevent him from becoming a baronet - after the death of his father in 2003.
If the "adrenaline junkie" is still an idealist, we get a version of Ernesto Che Guevara.
But most legionnaires and “soldiers of fortune” are restless and unhappy people who do not find a place for themselves in modern society. There are especially many of them after the wars. They learned to fight very well, but the state no longer needs soldiers and former heroes are dismissed, where all the best places are already taken by cowards and fittlers - rear men who laugh at these "losers" and say phrases in their faces like: "I’m you I didn’t send a war. ” And until recently, people who felt themselves necessary, even irreplaceable, face a simple choice: to become a small, impersonal cog of an incomprehensible soulless mechanism or try to find a place where they will be in an environment that is understandable and familiar to them.
But back to Stirling and his PMC.
The main task of Watchguard International for the first time was the training of security personnel and guardsmen of the UK-friendly third world countries. Until 1970, Stirling avoided orders related to the organization of military raids on the territory of other states, and even more so with the participation of his people in coups. This was the fundamental difference between WI and Bob Denard's "Soldier of Fortune" mercenary offices. But in 1970, Stirling signed a $ 25 million contract with the Libyan royalists and almost started a “little war” against Gaddafi.
Then MI-6 employees came to Stirling, who suggested that he carry out an operation to free family members and close associates of Libyan king Mohammed Idris al Senussi, who was ousted in September 1969. This operation was called "Hilton" because it was the name of the central prison in Tripoli, which should have been taken by storm. The British intelligence leadership believed that this high-profile action would lead to a monarchist uprising in Libya. The financing of this operation was undertaken by a former king who was in exile in Egypt.
At that time, David Stirling was undergoing rehabilitation after injuries sustained in a car accident, and therefore former SAS major John Brooke Miller and warrant officer (an intermediate position between sergeant and officer) Jeff Thompson became direct supervisors of the operation. Under the guise of tourists, they went on reconnaissance in Libya, found a beach suitable for disembarkation and a road along which you can reach the prison as soon as possible. After that, a detachment of 25 former SAS employees was created (each of them cost the customer 5 pounds) and a ship was hired, which was supposed to deliver them from the island of Malta to Libya. These plans were not implemented, since the British Foreign Ministry decided that foreign policy risks exceed the possible benefits. Stirling demanded that the king pay at least the mercenaries and achieve this requirement, and then stepped aside.
However, his assistant James Kent and the above-mentioned Jeff Thompson decided that $ 25 million (the equivalent of 170 million modern dollars) were not lying on the road, and on their own initiative they continued preparations for Operation Hilton. Now the role of performers was to play 25 French mercenaries. However, at first they were deceived by an intermediary Steve Reynolds from South Africa, who, having taken the money, did not acquire a ship or weapons on them, and then, in March 1971, the still purchased vessel Conquistador XIII was arrested in Trieste, from where it was going to Yugoslav port of Plece - for weapons purchased in Czechoslovakia. Experts are sure that the British intelligence, who never complained about competitors, “surrendered” to the Italians of the conspirators.
In 1972, PMC Watchguard International was closed.
John Woodhouse focused on working in a brewing company owned by his family, but specializing in soft drinks, and even under the Panda Pops brand he created a new brand of soda. He also served as chairman of the association of former SAS members.
David Stirling returned to the leadership of TIE and began creating new programs. Among other projects, his company TIE participated in the creation of the British version of the Muppets. In 1988, he suddenly tried to return to the “military business”, recreating the already familiar Kilo Alpha Services recruitment bureau, but with the functions of a private military company. In the same year, he signed a contract with two princes (the British Philip and the Dutchman Bernard), representing the International Wildlife Fund (since 1984 - the World Wide Fund for Nature) to protect South African national parks from poachers. In parallel, agreements were reached on training the commandos of the Zulu movement "Inkata" and the opposing braid fighters (to which Nelson Mandela belonged).
Then, under a contract with David Walker, Stirling led the private military company Saladin Security Ltd, which supplied bodyguards for British diplomats and members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia.
David Stirling died in 1990, having become a knight of the British Empire.
Styling's ideas and projects were extremely successful and outlived their author.
Special Air Service these days
SAS, which was liquidated after the end of World War II (October 8, 1945), like a phoenix from the ashes, was revived in 1950 to fight Malay rebels, then conducted operations in Oman, Indonesia (the island of Borneo), in Aden.
Since 1969, the main adversary of the Special Air Service has been the terrorists of the IRA (Irish Republican Army). In 1976, SAS fighters conducted illegal operations on the territory of that country twice with the aim of abducting fighters who had taken refuge in Ireland. The first experiment was successful, but 8 people of the second group of special forces were detained, accused of illegal possession of weapons and deported to Britain.
Now SAS includes three regiments (21st, 22nd and 23rd) and two battalions of communications.
Elite is the 22nd regiment, which, recall, was previously commanded by John Woodhouse. It was he who inherited the SAS motto from Stirling's time: “Who takes the risk, wins”, and enjoys the reputation of a very effective special forces unit with extensive experience in successfully combating terrorists.
On May 5, 1980, the fighters of this regiment became famous throughout the world during Operation Nimrod, an assault on the Iranian embassy in London seized by Arab militants. With the permission of Margaret Thatcher, who wanted to show everyone how effective the special units of the UK are, this assault was broadcast live by BBC. Results of the operation: 5 out of six terrorists were killed, the rest was captured, one hostage was killed and two were injured.
Soldiers of the 22nd SAS regiment storm the Iranian embassy, May 5, 1980
M. Thatcher and SAS fighters after the operation to free the Iranian embassy
In 1982, SAS units took part in the Falkland Islands war, in 1989 - in the "Anti-Cocaine War" in Colombia. In the 90s. Of the 1997th century, SAS units were used during the Gulf War and the Balkans, and in 6 XNUMX SAS employees and several fighters of the American Delta group participated in the operation of the Peruvian special services to free the residence of the Japanese ambassador in Lima, which was captured by militants of the Tupac Revolutionary Movement Amaru.
Another Stirling idea turned out to be successful - about private military companies (Private military company). We will try to talk a little about them in the next article.