Monday, July 4, 2011

SAS jeep attack

In July 1942, Major David Stirling of the British Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) decided to attack Landing Ground 21, the airfield at Sidi Haneish, Egypt, using a V-shaped formation of two columns of seven jeeps commanded by Earl George Jellicoe and Paddy Mayne, with Stirling leading. They were to drive down the runway, engaging the lines of aircraft with their Vickers K guns, a total firepower of 68. To ensure surprise, the attack would be on a night with a full moon.

On the night of 26 July they set off. They hit the airfield at speed, the machine guns opened fire and Stirling fired a green Very light, the signal for the V formation. Recalling it afterwards, the men told Virginia Cowles, the author of Phantom Major. "The planes took longer to catch fire than the men had imagined. It was perhaps thirty seconds before the interior of the aircraft suddenly glowed red, followed by the dull thud of exploding petrol, which turned the whole body into a sheet of flame. Some planes did not burn but seemed literally to crumble and disintegrate as the bullets ploughed into them from less than fifty yards."

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