The SAS is one of the most famous British units of the Second World War, and its vehicles were the key to the success or failure of many of their missions. This book looks at the main types of vehicles used by the SAS from their formation up until 1991, but with a fairly heavy focus on the Willys Jeep.
The first of those vehicles, the ‘Blitz Buggy’, did at least give the SAS their independence, but proved to be unreliable. They only really got into their stride as an independent force once they had acquired the Willys Jeep, which they then used for the rest of the war.
We get a good section on the development of the Jeep, and it’s that vehicle that dominates for four of the six chapters. The focus is less on the vehicles that you might expect, and more on the missions that were carried out with them. That isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of material on the vehicles – in particular on the modifications carried out over time, such as extra armour, or changes in the way fuel was stored. The author also discusses the suitability of the various vehicles for their demanding role.
One of the best features of this book is that it goes beyond the familiar North African exploits of the SAS. There is a brief interlude in Italy, before we follow the SAS to France in 1944. At first there were no plans to give the SAS teams operating behind enemy lines Jeeps, but soon after D-Day they began to the parachuted into France! This gave the various SAS teams much needed mobility during the behind the lines phase of their activities, and also allowed them to act as a rapidly moved advance guard to the British army during the ‘great swan’ of 1944 and the final dash into Germany in 1945.
This is an interesting approach to the history of the SAS, building an account of many of their missions around an examination of their vehicles, and as a result a much more interesting book that it would have been if it has been a purely technical study of the jeep!
Self-Sufficiency – The Blitz Buggy
SAS Desert Jeeps
The Italian Job, 1943
Sprouting Wings: Jeeps in France, 1944
Post-War: The Land Rover Era
Author: Nic Fields
Edition: Gavin Mortimer