Roll of Hon­our

This qual­ity col­lec­tion metic­u­lously records the sto­ries of ev­ery fallen mem­ber of the SAS and LRDG, 1941-47, in­clud­ing never-be­fore iden­ti­fied ca­su­al­ties

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Your chance to win a limited edi­tion box set of the SAS LRDG Roll of Hon­our

The Spe­cial Air Ser­vice and Long Range Desert Group con­ducted dar­ing, clan­des­tine op­er­a­tions be­hind en­emy lines in the desert of North Africa, the Mediter­ranean, oc­cu­pied France and be­yond. The men who fought and died in these op­er­a­tions were highly trained, im­mensely brave and up un­til re­cently have largely gone un­recog­nised. Now, this new book col­lec­tion re­counts the in­cred­i­ble sto­ries of 374 spe­cial forces ca­su­al­ties, who are com­mem­o­rated in sites across 17 coun­tries.

The book’s au­thor, writ­ing anony­mously un­der the pseu­do­nym Ex-lance-cor­po­ral X, served in the Bri­tish Army for 12 years and is the holder of the Queen’s Gal­lantry Medal (QGM). For se­cu­rity rea­sons he can­not be named. He spent 13 years re­search­ing and com­pil­ing the book’s ser­vice records, medal citations and op­er­a­tional re­ports. 100 per cent of prof­its from the book’s run is be­ing do­nated to char­ity, with £100,000 go­ing to Com­bat Stress and the re­main­der fund­ing small memo­ri­als to those shot after cap­ture. His­tory of War has a copy of The SAS & LRDG Roll of Hon­our 1941-47 to give away to one lucky win­ner, so sim­ply visit www.his­to­ryan­ to en­ter. It is a limited print run of box sets and they are only avail­able from Be­low, the au­thor ex­plains more about the book and his work putting it to­gether.

HOW: The pref­ace to the book de­tails the ex­e­cu­tion of SAS men by SS troops. Why did you choose to open the book with this scene? EX-LANCE-COR­PO­RAL X:

I’d al­ready been work­ing on the Roll of Hon­our for a cou­ple of years when I dis­cov­ered those lines. They de­tail the last mo­ments of eight mem­bers of sec­ond SAS who had been cap­tured in eastern France in Septem­ber 1944 while op­er­at­ing be­hind the lines. Handed over to the SD, the men had been in­ter­ro­gated roughly then driven to a re­mote, wooded spot where they were shot one by one in the man­ner de­scribed. Un­doubt­edly they were afraid but re­fused to show it. The last sim­ply turned to his mur­derer and said, “We were good men”. Here was brav­ery that clearly de­served full, con­tex­tual recog­ni­tion, and these four words in­spired me to find and record ev­ery­thing I could about this group of eight, as well as the 366 other mem­bers of wartime spe­cial forces who are com­mem­o­rated within this box set.

There’s another rea­son. Al­though the bod­ies were ex­humed in Novem­ber 1945

(and even­tu­ally in­terred at Durn­bach War Ceme­tery, Ger­many), no one seemed to know where the ac­tual shoot­ing had taken place. A sim­i­lar for­est junc­tion had been iden­ti­fied as the mur­der site in the 1980s and a me­mo­rial


erected there. How­ever, I was scep­ti­cal and even­tu­ally was able to lo­cate the ex­act lo­ca­tion through thor­ough cross-ref­er­enc­ing. It’s one of the many mys­ter­ies solved in this box set, and it seemed ap­pro­pri­ate to open with this ex­tract, as part of the profit from sales will help fund a small me­mo­rial at this spot, as well as at other for­got­ten sites where sim­i­lar crimes took place.

What were your in­ten­tions by com­pil­ing the Roll of Hon­our? Is it in­tended as a his­tor­i­cal record, a com­mem­o­ra­tion, or both?

Both. I felt there was a gap in his­tory that needed fill­ing, my aim hav­ing been to en­sure that ev­ery mem­ber of the Bri­tish SAS and the Long Range Desert Group (plus all at­tached ranks) who lost their lives dur­ing WWII is com­mem­o­rated equally, re­gard­less of mil­i­tary sta­tus, so­cial background or honours won.

More­over, aside from pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion, wartime veterans and next of kin trusted me to pro­duce a fit­ting trib­ute that would cel­e­brate the lives of their fel­low sol­diers, broth­ers, fa­thers, un­cles and grand­fa­thers. I wanted to com­plete it while as many of them as pos­si­ble were still alive to see their friends and loved ones memo­ri­alised in this way. I’m ex­tremely proud to have re­paid that trust, and of the over­whelm­ing feed­back the box set has sub­se­quently re­ceived from all cor­ners. It not only com­mem­o­rates the men fully, but in do­ing so also uniquely forms the true his­tory of wartime SAS and LRDG op­er­a­tions, from North Africa to the Aegean and Italy to north­west Europe.

In gen­eral, did you find there were any sim­i­lar traits and back­grounds with men listed in the Roll of Hon­our? Are there any iden­ti­fi­able tropes that might even be in com­mon with spe­cial forces sol­diers to­day?

I think we’re all full to the brim with the usual SAS Boy’s Own melo­drama, but there’s been ab­so­lutely no need for that here. The men’s sto­ries speak for them­selves and, strik­ingly, the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is that these were mainly or­di­nary men with or­di­nary back­grounds. They came from cities, towns and vil­lages all over the UK, the for­mer Com­mon­wealth and many other coun­tries and, be­fore vol­un­teer­ing for spe­cial forces, orig­i­nated from all three ser­vices. They were of all faiths, eth­nic back­grounds and po­lit­i­cal be­liefs. From Barnardo’s boy to aris­to­crat, milk­man to lawyer, from those barely out of school to univer­sity pro­fes­sors. These are the sto­ries, told for the first time, of reg­u­lar and ter­ri­to­rial sol­diers alike, all of whom who were sadly killed in ac­tion, posted miss­ing with­out trace while on op­er­a­tions, who died in ac­ci­dents or of sick­ness, those killed while sav­ing oth­ers, and those who were shot ei­ther while es­cap­ing or after cap­ture – or­di­nary men who vol­un­teered to carry out ex­tra­or­di­nary tasks for the sake of oth­ers. Their hum­ble but con­fi­dent at­ti­tude is as preva­lent to­day within our spe­cial forces as it was then.


The books de­tail pre­vi­ously un­known ca­su­al­ties, and even de­tail sto­ries that have only just come to light. What was the process for re­search­ing these ca­su­al­ties and fill­ing in the blanks, as it were?

Each of the 374 in­di­vid­ual en­tries are based on years of metic­u­lous cross-ref­er­enc­ing of ser­vice records, in­ter­views with veterans and next of kin, and op­er­a­tional re­ports found in col­lec­tions around the world. I’ve also vis­ited ev­ery grave, these be­ing scat­tered over 17 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, as well as the scene of the men’s ac­tions to fully un­der­stand the truth.

In ad­di­tion, I ex­am­ined the ca­su­alty list­ings for all rel­e­vant for­ma­tions to en­sure that any

men left off in the past have now taken their right­ful place on this Roll of Hon­our. The fact that some were omit­ted may come as a sur­prise, but record keep­ing was not as it is now. For ex­am­ple, un­til June 1944, wartime mem­bers of the SAS were ad­min­is­tered by cler­i­cal staff of their par­ent units, of­ten far from the rel­e­vant the­atre, and ca­su­al­ties were there­fore re­ported di­rectly to them. In un­usual cir­cum­stances, such as when men died of wounds long after cap­ture, news of their demise was some­times not re­layed to the reg­i­ment.

Such scrupu­lous re­search has re­sulted in proper his­tory, packed with new in­for­ma­tion and pho­tos, in­clud­ing the only known pho­to­graph from the first ever SAS raid, which I came across in a pri­vate col­lec­tion.

Why is it that these ac­counts have re­ceived rel­a­tively lit­tle at­ten­tion? Has the se­cre­tive na­ture of the SAS in any way pro­hib­ited ac­cu­rately ac­count­ing for and doc­u­ment­ing the ser­vice records of these men?

Of course, the SAS and LRDG have al­ways com­mem­o­rated their wartime ca­su­al­ties. Pil­grim­ages, both pri­vate and or­gan­ised, have hon­oured them since the end of the war and will con­tinue to do so. How­ever, their in­di­vid­ual sto­ries have never been pub­lished, not for rea­sons of se­crecy but be­cause there has never been the time to do so. The SAS has, for ex­am­ple, been op­er­a­tionally de­ployed ev­ery year bar one since the end of the Sec­ond World War and vet­eran wel­fare has, quite rightly, taken pri­or­ity over any such pub­li­ca­tion.


Many of these ac­counts are in­cred­i­bly hum­bling, bru­tal and tragic. Per­son­ally, is there one story or ac­count that par­tic­u­larly stands out for you, for any rea­son?

It’s dif­fi­cult to pull out just one ex­am­ple from the 374 in­di­vid­ual en­tries, but I’ve al­ways found the story of Parachutist James Dowl­ing par­tic­u­larly heart-rend­ing. He was a 17-year-old re­moval man who, when join­ing the in­fantry, lied and in­creased his age in or­der to have a bet­ter chance of serv­ing abroad. He was a model sol­dier un­til go­ing AWOL after be­ing re­fused com­pas­sion­ate leave to visit his dy­ing fa­ther. Sen­tenced to 12 months de­ten­tion, he was re­leased early after ex­press­ing his wish to serve in Air­borne Forces and sub­se­quently vol­un­teered for Sec­ond SAS. His first time on for­eign soil was when he parachuted be­hind the lines into eastern France in early Septem­ber 1944. Sadly he was one of those shot after cap­ture. If he’d been granted com­pas­sion­ate leave his fate would no doubt have been very dif­fer­ent.

100 per cent of prof­its from sales of the book go to ser­vice char­i­ties. Could you dis­cuss the work of these char­i­ties and why this dona­tion is so im­por­tant to them?

Out of these tragic sto­ries I’m pleased to say there’s al­ready been an up­beat and pos­i­tive out­come that I hope to add to. Thanks to all those who have sup­ported the project so far, the first £100,000 has al­ready been do­nated to Com­bat Stress, an in­cred­i­ble char­ity that en­sures ser­vice­men and women suf­fer­ing from PTSD re­ceive much-needed as­sis­tance. It will soon re­ceive a fur­ther £15,000. I’m also ring-fenc­ing £20,000 to help fund the small memo­ri­als al­ready men­tioned, where some of the sub­jects of these three vol­umes, in­clud­ing James Dowl­ing, were shot after cap­ture.

Joseph Mau­rice and Philippe Rousseau, two broth­ers, both died in the line of duty. Joseph Mau­rice died serv­ing in Sec­ond SAS in 1944

Lieu­tenant James Des­mond Black was one of eight SAS men who were ex­e­cuted by the SS after sur­ren­der­ing in eastern France in Septem­ber 1944

Cap­tain John Richard ‘Jake’ Ea­son­smith of the LDRG pho­tographed the SAS’S first ever raid. He went on to com­mand LRDG and was killed in Novem­ber 1943

ABOVE: Cap­tain Ea­son­smith took this pho­to­graph of the SAS after their first raid, named Op­er­a­tion Squat­ter

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