Stirling, Colonel David, 1915-1990

After Dunkirk Stirling, transferred from the Scots Guards to the newly-raised Commandos, was sent to the Middle East and there hit upon the idea of organizing deep penetration raids into the enemy lines with the object of destroying aircraft. He received official backing and a small allotment of men and, first by parachute, then by Long Range Desert Group, began a series of descents on enemy airdromes. By 1942 this unit had been transformed into a regular regiment, called the Special Air Service (SAS), and he had become a Lieutenant Colonel and a legend to both sides in the desert, where he was known as ‘the Phantom Major.’ Early in 1943, however, he was captured by a unit of German soldiers especially trained in anti-SAS operations, and, despite numerous attempts at escape which eventually consigned him to Colditz, remained in enemy hands until the end of the war. While active, he had seen to the destruction of 250 enemy aircraft, and created a novel and now much imitated form of military organization.

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