The unit had its origins in 1940 as Folboat Troop, under the command of Roger Courtney, attached to 8 Commando. It was named after the manufacturer of the canoes (Folbot) which the troop used.
Early in 1941, 8 Commando became part of ‘Layforce’ and sailed for the Middle East and Courtney’s troop took part in beach reconnaissance at Rhodes and a commando raid on Bardia.
The section was assigned to work with the Royal Naval Submarine Flotilla at Alexandria and redesignated as the Special Boat Section after the disbandment of 'Layforce'.
Courtney returned to the UK in December 1941 to establish a second SBS unit, and shortly after the first SBS unit began working with David Stirling’s SAS detachment in the Middle East. In 1942 SBS personnel took part in several operations with the SAS including raids on Bouerat (January), Benghazi (March) and the German airfields in Crete (June) where considerable damage was inflicted.
The (No 1) Special Boat Section was formally absorbed into 1st Special Air Service Regiment (1 SAS) on its formation in September 1942.
The commanding officer of 1 SAS, Lt Col David Stirling, was captured by the Germans early the following year. Shortly after, in April 1943, the regiment was reorganised into the Special Raiding Squadron under the command of Paddy Mayne, and the Special Boat Squadron, under the command of Lord Jellicoe. The SBS was headquartered in Athlit, south of Haifa, around this time and comprised a force approximately 250 strong, with L, S and M detachments.
For the remainder of the war the SBS mainly conducted operations in the Aegean and Balkans. In October 1944, L Detachment was deployed for Operation Manna and the liberation of Greece, forming part of ‘Pompforce’; which included 4th Parachute Battalion and RAF Regiment armoured cars under the command of Lord Jellicoe.
Towards the end of 1944 the SBS was renamed as the Special Boat Service and its detachments redesignated as squadrons. Its final operation in April 1945, prior to disbandment, was at Lake Commachio in northern Italy.
After the war the Royal Marine Commandos adopted the functional role of the SBS and the present day Special Boat Service forms part of the United Kingdom Special Forces.
In addition to Lord Jellicoe several other notable personalities served with the SBS during its association with the SAS; including Fitzroy Maclean and Anders Lassen, who was awarded three Military Crosses and posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for actions during the operation at Lake Commacchio.Read More
Make a donation to Airborne Assault ParaData to help preserve the history of The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces