David Stirling

Posted in Scottish Military Figures

One just has to recall the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London, filmed, unusually, on British television, to know what the SAS is about. Dirty, desperate, and (preferably) unfilmed, they have being doing the necessary but sometimes unpalatable work for the government since World War II.

It was then that David Stirling, born in Stirlingshire (perhaps - you see the need for secrecy') on 15 November 1915, persuaded his superiors to allow the formation of a 'hit team', making fast, independent raids into the German-held territory in North Africa.

Stirling was the son of a brigadier general. After a year at Trinity College, Cambridge, war happened, and he joined up, first of all with the Scots Guard Supplementary Reserve of Officers, then the following year the commando Brigade of Guards in the Middle East.

As a major, with six officers and 60 men, he harried, bombed and blasted Rommel's army. Hundreds of aircraft which might otherwise have supplied the Germans or bombed the Allies were consigned to junk; likewise supply depots were transformed into grand firework displays.

This great game could not continue forever of course, and Stirling was captured in Tunisia in 1943. As a multiple escapee, he eventually ended up in the Colditz Castle camp, the one where all allied 'difficult' characters went to.

After the war, he formed organisations promoting racial integration in Africa, security services for foreign heads of state, and also television stations in developing nations. He established a Foundation which bears his name, to help preserve endangered species of animals. He was knighted in 1990.