British SAS Founder ~ 1942
British SAS Founder ~ 1942
Stirling was born at his family's ancestral home, Keir House in the parish of Lecropt, Perthshire. He was the son of Brigadier General Archibald Stirling, of Keir, and Margaret Fraser, daughter of Simon Fraser, the Lord Lovat (a descendant of Charles II, King of Scots); hence Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat was a first cousin. His paternal grandparents were Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Baronet and Lady Anna Maria Leslie-Melville.
He was educated at the Catholic boarding school Ampleforth College, but attended only a year at the University of Cambridge before departing to Paris to become an artist.
Stirling was commissioned into the Scots Guards from Ampleforth College Contingent Officer Training Corps on 24 July 1937. In June 1940, he volunteered for the new No. 8 Commando under Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Laycock, which became part of Force Z (later named "Layforce").
On 1 February 1941, Layforce sailed for the Middle East, in support of the capture of Rhodes, but were soon disbanded after suffering heavy casualties in the Battle of Crete and the Battle of the Litani River. Stirling remained convinced that due to the mechanised nature of war, a small team of highly trained soldiers with the advantage of surprise could attack several targets from the desert in a single night.
Believing that taking his idea up through the chain of command was unlikely to work, Stirling decided to go straight to the top. On crutches following a parachuting accident, he stealthily entered Middle East headquarters in Cairo (under, through or over a fence) in an effort to see Commander-in-Chief General Claude Auchinleck.
Spotted by guards, he abandoned his crutches and entered the building, only to come face-to-face with an officer with whom he had previously fallen out. Retreating rapidly, he entered the office of the deputy chief of staff General Ritchie. Stirling explained his plan to Ritchie, the latter immediately persuaded Auchinleck to allow Stirling to form a new special operations unit. The unit was given the deliberately misleading name "L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade" to reinforce Dudley Clarke's deception of a parachute brigade existing in North Africa.
They were short of equipment, particularly tents and related gear, at the outset when they set up base at Kibrit Air Base. The first operation of the new SAS was to relieve a nearby well-equipped New Zealand regiment of tents, bedding, tables, chairs, numerous other supplies, including a piano. After at least four trips, they had a well stocked camp.
After a brief period of training, an initial attempt at attacking a German airfield by parachute landing on 16 November 1941 in support of Operation Crusader was disastrous. Of the original 55 men, some 34 were killed, wounded or captured far from the target after being blown off course or landing in the wrong area, during one of the biggest storms to hit the area. Escaping only with the help of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) who were designated to pick up the unit after the attack, Stirling agreed that approaching by land under the cover of night would be safer and more effective than parachuting. As quickly as possible he organised raids on ports using this simple method, often bluffing through checkpoints at night using the language skills of some of his soldiers.
Under his leadership, the Lewes bomb, the first hand-held dual explosive and incendiary device, was invented by Jock Lewes. American Jeeps, which were able to deal with the harsh desert terrain better than other transport, were cut down, adapted and fitted with Vickers K machine guns fore and aft. He also pioneered the use of small groups to escape detection. Finding it difficult to lead from the rear, Stirling often led from the front, his SAS units driving through enemy airfields to shoot up aircraft and crew, replacing the early operational strategy of attaching bombs to enemy aircraft on foot.
The first Jeep-borne airfield raid occurred soon after acquiring the first batch of Jeeps in June 1942, when Stirling's SAS group attacked Italian-held Bagush airfield along with two other Axis airfields all in the same night. After returning to Cairo, Stirling collected a consignment of more Jeeps for further airfield raids. His biggest success was on the night of 26–27 July 1942 when his SAS squadron with 18 jeeps raided the Sidi Haneish landing strip and destroyed 37 Axis aircraft, mostly bombers and heavy transport, for the loss of one man killed. After a drive through the desert and evading enemy patrols and aircraft, Stirling and his men reached the safety of their advance camp at Qaret Tartura on the edge of the Qattara Depression.
These hit-and-run operations eventually proved Stirling's undoing; he was captured by the Germans in January 1943 having been dubbed "The Phantom Major" by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Although he escaped, he was subsequently re-captured by the Italians, who took great delight in the embarrassment this caused to their German allies. A further four escape attempts were made, before Stirling was finally sent to Colditz Castle, where he remained for the rest of the war. He arrived on 20 August 1944 and was given the task of setting up the Colditz British Intelligence Unit. After his capture Paddy Mayne took command of the SAS.
In North Africa, in the fifteen months before Stirling's capture, the SAS had destroyed over 250 aircraft on the ground, dozens of supply dumps, wrecked railways and telecommunications, and had put hundreds of enemy vehicles out of action. Field Marshal Montgomery described Stirling as "mad, quite mad" but believed that men like Stirling were needed in time of war.
- Realistic head sculpt
- Highly articulated
- Real cloth uniform
- Duffel coat
- Officers service dress peak cap
- Officer tie
- Map case
- Military tunic jacket
- Aertex tropical desert shirt
- BDU Trousers
- Commando beret cap
- Web holster
- Pistol ammo pouch
- British army P37 web belt
- Commando dagger scabbard
- Pair ankle desert boots
- Pair Gun holding hand
- Body with relaxed hands & feeth
- Sidestreet crosswalk sunglasses
- Kershaw Binoculars
- Commando dagger
- British Army white 1 pint tin mug
- Silenced Sten Mark II sub-machine gun with silencer sleeve
- Webley .38 Mark IV Revolver
- 2x SAS shoulder titles
- 6x Rank insignia
- 1x SAS parachute wings