Book Review
The SAS In World War II
The SAS In World War II – An Illustrated History
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


This is a review of the Osprey Publishing LTD book The SAS In World War II– An Illustrated History by author Gavin Mortimer.

Throughout history armies have had sections, units or divisions that were referred to as special or elite. As warfare and weaponry changed and advanced so did these specially trained troops and the types of missions that they performed. Great Britain was no different in this department. The SAS (Special Air Service) was the brain child of Lieutenant David Stirling of the Scots Guards. Stirling’s idea was for small teams of parachute trained soldiers to operate behind enemy lines to gain intelligence, destroy enemy aircraft and attack their supply and reinforcement routes. As with any behind the lines operations this was to confuse and demoralize the enemy as well as cost the enemy materials and manpower that were destined for the front lines. After Stirling’s idea was approved and put into practice the SAS proved their power and worth not only in North Africa but in Sicily and Italy as well as during such famous events such as D-Day, the Ardennes offensive and finally the drive into Germany itself. The formation of the SAS was a brilliant one and the SAS has continues to distinguish itself throughout history.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released The SAS in World War II – An Illustrated History. It is a hardback book with 256 pages. Included with the text are black and white and color photographs and detailed captions. It has a 2011 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84908-646-2. The book examines and discusses the SAS in World War Two.


• Dedication
• Acknowledgements
• Introduction

• Chapter 1 Stirling’s leap of faith
• Chapter 2 L Detachment takes wings
• Chapter 3 Stirling’s capture
• Chapter 4 The SRS in Sicily and Italy
• Chapter 5 Bill Stirling and the boys of 2SAS
• Chapter 6 Roy Farran: from Taranto to Termoli
• Chapter 7 Back to Blighty
• Chapter 8 D-Day for 1SAS
• Chapter 9 2SAS earn their wings
• Chapter 10 2SAS return to Italy
• Chapter 11 Operation Archway: The drive into Germany
• Chapter 12 Operation Howard: Paddy Mayne’s last hurrah
• Chapter 13 Delighted then demobbed

• Glossary
• Endnotes
• Index


The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. I didn’t notice and spelling or grammar errors as I read through the book. Mortimer covers the SAS and their actions during World War Two very well and goes into great detail in the various campaigns and the actions taken there and various related incidents. It is very obvious that Mortimer has taken the task of researching and detailing the SAS very seriously. The text goes into great detail and leaves absolutely no area untouched in the SAS history. Mortimer has prepared a well written history that will be of great use and interest to the well-seasoned and knowledgeable SAS historian or the individual that is new to this world famous military unit and wants to learn about its history. I appreciate the fact that Mortimer did nor focus just on the SAS in the North African desert and has placed them in the various areas of operation that the SAS found themselves fighting in throughout World War Two. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the SAS to their military library will be pleased with this book.


There are a total of 167 black and white and color photographs featured in this volume. The majority of the photographs are nice clear, centered and focused images, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark and some appear to be too light. There are also some that look very grainy as well as looking as if the photograph negative had been severely scratched and another that appeared to be a double exposure. I have seen several military photographs so maybe that is just typical. I do know that several military photographs are actually stills taken from video so that could be one reason. With that said the quality of the blurry photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I haven’t seen a majority of the featured photographs before and I was pleased with this. I definitely consider that a bonus as it is nice to have a reference book that contains several lesser known photographs as opposed to the same old over used photographs that many books tend to contain. The photographs range from posed scenes to action scenes and show all aspects of the SAS from training to combat to time spent relaxing. The photographs contained in this book will prove to be a valuable asset to the military and SAS historian as well as the military scale modeler. Several of the photographs can be used as the basis for various scale modeling projects from the small vignette to the larger diorama.


The captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations well. They go into detail discussing things such as specific individuals, different divisions within the SAS, various campaigns and time frames, specific locations and dates, small arms, vehicles, equipment, weather, etc. As I read through the captions I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. This is a very nice reference book that contains many interesting photographs and well detailed captions. It details the SAS in World War Two very well. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.
Highs: Well researched and detailed text; Informative captions; Nice accompanying photographs.
Lows: Some of the photographs have an out of focus look to them. Some of the photographs appear to be too dark and some too light.
Verdict: A very nice reference book that is well written, researched and contains many interesting photos and detailed captions. It will make a nice addition to anyone’s personal library and will also benefit military enthusiasts, historians as well as modelers.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84908-646-2
  Suggested Retail: UK £20.00/ US $25.95/ CAN
  PUBLISHED: Dec 18, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Thanks for the review.
DEC 18, 2011 - 01:02 AM
You're welcome. I hope it was helpful. Randy
DEC 19, 2011 - 05:12 AM
How many pics are included in this book???
DEC 28, 2011 - 07:29 AM
Sorry Taesung, I just saw your post. There are a total of 167 black and white and color photographs in the book. Randy
JAN 02, 2012 - 04:32 PM
Thanks! I think I need to get a copy of it...
JAN 14, 2012 - 05:05 PM
You're welcome. It is a nice book. Randy
JAN 19, 2012 - 04:03 AM

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