- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
I wish I had the funds to purchase on of these books but at the very least, I would love to be able to see just a couple of pages. I'm sure there is some amazing content that was found in the diary.
Forgotten SAS diary reveals mission to capture Rommel
An SAS mission to kidnap Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German commander, is disclosed in the first war diary to be authorised by the regiment.
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German General Erwin Rommel Photo: REX FEATURES
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
6:37AM BST 23 Sep 2011
The SAS War Diary discloses previously unheard accounts of its exploits during the Second World War. It has been hailed as an extraordinary treasure trove for historians as it discloses the secrets of the SAS's wartime raids.
The public can now read the reports written by David Stirling, the regiment's founder, and other SAS men that include a mission to kill or capture Rommel at a French chateau in 1944.
The SAS Regimental Association has authorised the sale of the books in an attempt to raise thousands of pounds for the dozens of special forces men wounded on current operations as well as older veterans. Each 600–page volume is being sold for £975, with the print run limited to just 1,000 books.
The SAS is allowing its archive to be opened up because, a former soldier said, the covert nature of its operations meant it had been impossible to raise money "except through generous individual donations made over the years".
A senior officer from the SAS Regiment Association said that having read the remarkable stories "it would be wrong to let them fester in some back room".
"They are the essence of what started up special forces," he said. "They should not be able to gather dust. They belong to the nation and the nation should be proud of them."
One of the more daring exploits is the targeting of Rommel, arguably the Third Reich's finest commander, at a French chateau shortly after D–Day in 1944.
In a document marked "Secret" and under the heading "Method" the orders state: "The following points should be borne in mind:
"If it should prove possible to kidnap Rommel and bring him to this country the propaganda value would be immense and the inevitable retaliation against the local inhabitants might be mitigated or avoided. Such a plan could involve finding and being prepared to hold for a short time if necessary a suitable landing ground.
"To kill Rommel would obviously be easier than to kidnap him and it is preferable to ensure the former rather than to attempt and fail in the latter."
However, the day before the SAS team was due to parachute in, Rommel returned to Germany having been seriously injured when his staff car was hit by RAF planes.
It is understood that more than two dozen SAS soldiers have suffered "lifechanging" injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.
With a growing number of wounded and bereaved, the SAS Regimental Association's funds have come under pressure and was not helped after money invested in Icelandic banks was lost during the banking crash.
The diary was put together by a former SAS soldier shortly after the original regiment was disbanded in 1945. He preserved as much documentation as he could, compiling a scrapbook of photographs, operational orders and afteraction reports from its origins in North Africa through Italy, France and the drive on Berlin.
The diary, which weighs 25lb and was bound in leather "liberated" from the Nazis, was locked away for half a century with no one aware of its existence. Shortly before the unnamed soldier's death a decade ago he handed it over the SAS Regimental Association.
Working with Extraordinary Editions, the publisher, other archive material was used to fill out the 600–page volume into the first full picture of the SAS in the Second World War. The book is also being released to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first SAS raid — a commando assault in the North Africa campaign — which will be celebrated later this year.
The officer from the association spoke of the need for funds. "Because of our profile it is difficult to stand on a street corner with a bucket and banner and we would not really do a sponsored car wash in Hereford," he said. "Inevitably we have large numbers of wounded from the current wars. We have suffered more or less the same as other regiments.
"The MoD does look after them but it's the aftercare and ensuring that no one falls down the cracks that needs to be addressed."
The SAS Association is accepting donations. Cheques can be made payable to the SAS Regimental Association, PO Box 35051 London NW1 4WF