WWII SAS Members Identified for Roll of Honor

Special Air Service in North Africa, 1943. Wikipedia / Public Domain
Special Air Service in North Africa, 1943. Wikipedia / Public Domain

For thirteen years a former soldier using the pen name Ex-Lance-Corporal X has worked to document and commemorate every SAS member killed in World War II. He has recently confirmed the identities of 13 lost members of the unit.

The 800-page, three-volume memorial for the SAS and its predecessor, the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), holds the stories of 374 men who died in the war. Some of those stories were nearly lost forever.

This month is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the SAS. The roll of honor was compiled by combing through service records, operational reports, medal citations, diaries, and letters from next of kin.

“As far as I’m aware it is unique, no other regimental roll of honor having gone to anywhere near the same level of detail. Up until now all official or unofficial rolls have only ever consisted of a list, none of the actual individual stories having been researched,” said Ex-Lance-Corporal X.

His research has confirmed the identities of six members of the SAS and seven of the LRDG. The thirteen men had either been completely unknown or only had been suspected of being members. Due to poor paperwork, spelling errors, and the confusion of war, some soldiers were only recorded as belonging to their parent unit. There was no mention of their involvement in the SAS.

Some of the operational reports mentioned casualties but left out the names of the deceased. Some of the research performed has put names to those casualties. In one case, an unknown SAS soldier that was killed when his jeep hit a landmine has been identified as Gunner Thomas Wall. He is buried in Libya and had been listed simply as serving in the Royal Artillery.

The project has led to adding names to memorials in Hereford and Stirling. The project has also identified 21 French and Greek soldiers killed while they were officially part of the SAS.

While contacting the next of kin for Private Fred Ireland of the 2nd SAS who died in a plane crash while he was returning from an aborted mission in 1944, the author located the deceased soldier’s best friend. The friend survived the crash that killed Ireland. The friend went on the marry Ireland’s widow and raise his children.

Tracy Ireland, 56, is his granddaughter. She knew little of her grandfather’s death until reading the research. “I didn’t know my father had died in this country, and I didn’t know how the operation had gone. I think you will find it’s commonplace that people didn’t talk about it much and particularly the SAS, because of the nature of what they did, they didn’t talk about it. My grandfather would not want any fuss at all and none of those guys would, that’s their whole thing, they very rarely talked about it.”

According to the roll of honor records, about 20% of the SAS casualties were executed after being captured by German troops.

Profits from The SAS and LRDG Roll of Honor 1941-7 go to Combat Stress.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE