CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Friday, August 4, 2017






Rogue Heroes: How the SAS was forged from the 'sweepings of public schools and prisons', revealed in an elite regiment's secret war diary




The wind had reached gale-force as the five elderly Bristol Bombay transport aircraft neared their target, bucking in the storm and threatening to flip over.
Driven sand and pelting rain covered the cockpits. The pilots strained to see ahead into the dark sky over the North African desert.
Suddenly, German searchlights picked them out and flak began exploding around them in blinding flashes. A shell ripped through the floor of one plane and missed the auxiliary fuel tank by inches.
In the back of each aircraft sat a ‘stick’ of 11 British parachutists, 55 soldiers in all; almost the entire strength of a new, experimental and intensely secret combat unit. The fledgling Special Air Service — the SAS — was on its first mission behind enemy lines.
Restrained fear was the predominant emotion among them as they sat strapped in, shivering with cold and waiting to go into action.
All of a sudden, the pilots signalled them to jump — though in truth, they were now flying blind, navigating by guesswork.
Who dares: Stirling (right) and his band of mavericks training in the desert in the early days of the SAS
Who dares: Stirling (right) and his band of mavericks training in the desert in the early days of the SAS
First, canisters containing explosives, Tommy guns, ammunition, food, water, maps, blankets and medical supplies were tossed out. Then, one by one, the men hurled themselves into the seething darkness.
First out was Captain David Stirling, the creative genius behind this whole new enterprise. Seconds later, he hit the desert floor with such force that he blacked out. When he came to, he was being dragged along by his parachute ‘like a kite’ in a 40mph wind, whipped and grated across sharp gravel and rocks.
He struggled to release himself and staggered to his feet, covered in lacerations and pouring blood.
It took him two hours to gather what remained of his team. One man had vanished completely. Another had broken an ankle and could not stand. A sergeant broke his back on landing and could not even crawl.
The supply canisters were nowhere to be found, leaving Stirling’s unit armed only with revolvers, a handful of grenades and barely a day’s supply of water. As an attacking force, they were now useless.
The SAS — Stirling’s invention, the result of his eccentric military mind — looked as if it was ending in oblivion and ignominy before it had even begun.
JUST five months earlier, in the summer of 1941, the 25-year-old Stirling, an officer in the Scots Guards, came up with his revolutionary plan while lying paralysed from the waist down in a Cairo hospital after an accident during commando parachute training.
At the time of its founding, the SAS was an experiment
At the time of its founding, the SAS was an experiment
Privileged by birth and education, a scion of one of the oldest and grandest families in Scotland, he was not a conventional soldier. He lacked basic military discipline, could not march straight and was so lazy his comrades nicknamed him ‘the Giant Sloth’.
He was impertinent, indolent and often half asleep after nights spent drinking, gambling and playing billiards in smart London clubs. The hospital nurses knew him well, for he frequently popped in during the morning, whey-faced and liverish, to request a blast from the oxygen bottle to cure his hangover.
Since being posted to Egypt with the British Commandos, he had spent much of his time in Cairo’s bars and clubs, or gambling at the racecourse.
Fellow officers found him charming and entertaining, but senior commanders thought him incompetent and profoundly irritating. A cowboy of a soldier, he was under investigation for malingering.
But as he lay in bed recovering, he did a great deal of thinking about how commandos in North Africa might take the enemy by surprise by attacking not from the Mediterranean, where they were expected to launch any raid, but from the other direction, the vast, seemingly impenetrable desert.
The Great Sand Sea, the ocean of dunes that makes up about a quarter of the greater Libyan desert, ‘was one sea the Hun was not watching’, Stirling reflected.
If small, mobile teams of highly trained men could infiltrate the enemy’s desert flank, they could sabotage airfields, supply depots, communications links, railways and roads, and then slip back into the embracing emptiness of the desert.
It was an inspired idea, which he shared with another officer and they wrote a proposal for ‘a new type of force, to extract the maximum out of surprise and guile’.
Specially recruited, highly trained teams would drop by parachute behind enemy lines, creep to airfields and plant timebombs on as many aircraft as possible, before retreating into the desert and making their way home.
What Stirling proposed would leapfrog the front line and take the battle directly into the enemy camp. In the eyes of those in the British Army who clung to the classical conception of warfare, in which men in uniform clashed on a battlefield until one side emerged victorious, this was unsporting, like punching a chap when he is looking the other way.
Worse still, Stirling’s idea threatened the concept of rank. A mere lieutenant, he insisted on going directly to the commander-in-chief to create and command what looked suspiciously like a private army. Stirling knew the resistance he would meet if he put his proposal through proper channels. Military bureaucracy — that ‘freemasonry of mediocrity’ and ‘layer upon layer of fossilised s***’, as he called it — would bar his way.
So, still on crutches from his accident, he wormed his way into Eighth Army headquarters in Cairo and burst unannounced into the office of General Sir Neil Ritchie, the deputy chief of staff.
The general glanced at the paper Stirling thrust into his hands and then announced: ‘This may be just the sort of plan we’re looking for.’
Soldiers preparing for action at a desert camp in Egypt in 1942
Soldiers preparing for action at a desert camp in Egypt in 1942
Three days later, Stirling was summoned back to see the C-in-C, General Sir Claude Auchinleck — who just happened to be an old family friend from Scotland and had fought alongside Stirling’s father in World War I.
Auchinleck liked the proposal. He was planning a major counter-offensive to hit back at the German Field Marshal Rommel and reverse the tide of the desert war, and Stirling’s band of raiders might just hamper enemy airpower at a critical moment.
The plan was cheap in terms of manpower and equipment and could pay handsome dividends if it worked. And if it didn’t, all that would be lost was a handful of adventurers.
At the end of the meeting, Stirling was promoted to captain and authorised to raise an initial force of six officers and 60 men.
The new unit’s name was provided by a little-known military genius, Colonel Dudley Clarke, whose job was strategic deception by concealing the truth from the enemy and planting lies instead.
He’d already invented a fake paratroop brigade he called the 1st Special Air Service Brigade, which appeared in false documents leaked to the enemy. For Stirling’s crew he came up with the designation of L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade — the letter ‘L’ meant to imply that detachments A to K were already in existence.
The SAS thus came into being as part of a larger contingent that did not actually exist. It was an oddly appropriate start.
Stirling began recruitment and as word got around, there was no shortage of volunteers. He had a clear idea of the sort of men he needed — those with an ability to think and react independently, something not normally highly prized in the Army.
‘I always hoisted on-board guys who argued,’ he said. They would also have to be willing to kill at close quarters, and not merely for the sake of killing. ‘I didn’t want psychopaths.’
He sought outsiders, misfits and reprobates with an instinct for covert war and little time for convention.
Stirling’s ideal SAS man was exceptionally brave but just short of irresponsible; disciplined but also independent-minded; uncomplaining, unconventional and, when necessary, merciless.
Inevitably, there would be a fair number of thugs, toughies and sheer b******s — not always easy to control. Part soldiers, part spies, these rogue warriors were, as one former SAS officer put it, ‘the sweepings of the public schools and the prisons’.
The new detachment showed its mettle from the start. Arriving at their training grounds in the desert, the men found just three ragged tents, a single ancient lorry and a couple of chairs.
So they stole equipment from a nearby regiment, slipping into their camp at night and making off with tents, bedding, tables, chairs, a gramophone, cooking equipment, hurricane lamps, rope, washbasins and tarpaulins. They even took a piano and table-tennis set.
By morning, they had one of the best-appointed small camps in the Middle East.
Stirling was an officer different from any other. Most of the recruits were used to being disdained by their officers, bullied by their NCOs and generally treated as a lower life-form. Stirling was exquisitely polite to all.
The only thing he insisted on was complete secrecy. There was to be ‘no bragging or swanking’, and members of L Detachment should never speak about their activities outside their own ranks.
The training to survive the desert was intense, the ‘hardest ever undertaken in the Middle East’, according to military records.

6ft 6in gambler - with no respect for rules or authority 

In a short life, the aristocratic David Stirling had tried and failed at being an artist, architect, cowboy and mountaineer. World War II was his salvation.
His mother was the daughter of Lord Lovat, the chief of Clan Fraser, and his father a distinguished general, an MP and master of a 15,000-acre estate.
The parents drummed good manners into their six children, but otherwise largely left them to get on with their lives. They grew up stalking deer, hunting rabbits, fighting and competing.
By the age of 17, he was 6 ft 6 in tall, a gangly beanpole, wilful, reckless but also exceptionally polite and socially at ease.
He was sent down from Cambridge after misbehaving on a lavish scale and spending more time at Newmarket racecourse than on his studies.
Stirling went to Paris to become an artist. He wore a beret and lived a louche, Left Bank life, but displayed little talent for painting. The same went for architecture, his next choice of profession, as well as his ambition to be the first person to climb Mount Everest, even though he suffered from vertigo.
As he nonchalantly frittered away his dissolute life, unpaid bills mounted — from his bookmaker, his tailor, his bank manager and even from a cowboy outfitter in Arizona, seeking payment for a saddle.
When war broke out in 1939, he joined his father’s regiment, the Scots Guards, but was the most contradictory of soldiers: ambitious but unfocused, steeped in military traditions but allergic to discipline. He skipped parades and was always getting into trouble.
With the inbred confidence that comes from high birth, he regarded rules as nuisances and was blithely unconstrained by convention. He showed no deference whatever to rank.
It was when he gravitated to the Commandos, the special operations army unit dubbed ‘Churchill’s cut-throats’ for its undercover work, that his leadership qualities finally surfaced.
He had an adamant faith in his own decisions and did exactly what he wanted to do, whether or not others thought his aims were sensible or even possible.
The SAS came into being in part because its founder would not take no for an answer, either from those in authority or from those under his command.
On a personal level, Stirling was a romantic, with an innate talent for friendship but little desire for physical intimacy. He had many women friends but relaxed only among men.
A warrior monk, he craved action and the company of soldiers, but his boisterous exterior belied a lonely man prone to periodic depressions and inner turmoil. When the fighting was over, he embraced solitude.
 The men went on 100-mile route marches in full kit and load and with virtually no water. They would have to lie out in the midday heat covered by only a strip of cloth until, after three days of dehydration, some were hallucinating and close to collapse.
Anyone who could not cope was out and ‘RTUed’ (returned to unit). There were no second chances. A note in SAS files records that one private soldier ‘walked 40 miles across the desert in stockinged feet rather than fall out after his boots gave way’.
It was mentally challenging, too. One of the motors of success was the fear of failure. The only acceptable direction was forward.
‘Never run away,’ they were instructed, ‘because once you start running, you’ve stopped thinking.’
As numbers were whittled down, by death, drop-outs, illness and rejection, another kind of bonding began to emerge among these smelly, dirty, sunburned men: the sense of belonging to an elite unit barely 100 strong, tested by trial, selected for survival.
Even before it went into action, this mixed bag of individuals was forging a collective identity. Some were regular soldiers, others were not. Some were natural warriors, nerveless and calm, and a few were touched by a sort of martial madness.
None could claim to have been fully prepared for what they were about to do because no one had ever before attempted a night-time parachute assault in the North African desert.
But a peculiar camaraderie had already taken root, a strange esprit compounded of ruthlessness, guile, competitiveness and collective determination.
‘They weren’t easily controllable,’ Stirling later admitted of his ‘band of vagabonds’, but they were ‘harnessable’, if only just.
At the time of its founding, the SAS was an experiment, and an unpopular one among more traditionally minded officers in the British Army.
But as Stirling’s team parachuted into the North African desert, they pioneered a form of combat which, in time, would become an essential part of modern warfare, reproduced in such units as the U.S. Delta Force and Navy SEALs.
Yet throughout World War II, and for many years afterwards, its activities were a closely guarded secret. The only record was an internal SAS war diary, gathered together in 1945, bound in a single, leather-clad volume of more than 500 pages and held in secrecy for the next 70 years — until I was allowed unprecedented access to it to write its incredible story.
From its pages, it is clear that the first operation in November 1941, code-named Squatter, ought never to have taken place, given that 30-knot winds were predicted — twice the maximum speed for safe parachuting.
But Stirling himself took the decision to go anyway, believing it was now or never for the SAS. If he pulled out, enemies at Army HQ would seize the opportunity to disband his detachment altogether.
The objective was to parachute into the Libyan desert behind enemy lines, enter five airfields on foot and plant explosives on 300 German and Italian planes.
Then, as the bombs went off, they were to head back to base, fleeing south to a rendezvous point deep in the desert where they would be picked up by trucks of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), a deep-penetration reconnaissance unit whose rugged, experienced drivers were known for good reason as the ‘Libyan Taxi Service’.
Two hours before take-off, the RAF had laid on a banquet for them, with as much food as they could eat and a bottle of beer apiece. Served by RAF officers, this dinner was intended as a tribute to the parachutists, but some felt they were treated ‘like men going to the gallows’.
It was a bad omen. Now, in the desert, every one of them was struggling to stay alive.
ON the ground, Stirling counted his casualties, bemoaned his lost weapons and re-drew his plans. He decided he and a sergeant would continue and reconnoitre his group’s target airfield, while the rest trekked to the rendezvous — a shallow hollow marked by two hurricane lamps, where the LRDG would be waiting.
The two most badly injured men could not be moved and were left behind, huddled in blankets with a supply of water and two revolvers, in the hope the Germans would find them. They were never seen again.
Stirling and his sergeant went north and managed to reach the coastal escarpment. They located the coast road but were unable to find the airfield. Disconsolate, they turned back and made for the rendezvous, the mission a failure.
Other teams were also in deep trouble. Their pilots, unable to see properly, had guessed the right moment and altitude to drop the men, and they had landed ‘all over the bloody shop’. Not one of the ‘sticks’ of 11 men landed within ten miles of its intended drop zone.
One plane was shot up by a Messerschmitt and crash-landed in sand hills, with many casualties trapped beneath the burning fuselage. The soldier who had walked 40 miles in his socks during training was among the dead. The survivors had no choice but to surrender.
Another team lost its leader, a 20-year-old, who broke his neck on landing and never regained consciousness. His men buried him in the sand and then set off into the desert. Lost, they wandered on to an airfield and were captured by Italian guards.
Even those soldiers who made it down successfully were hard-put to find the canisters containing bombs and guns that had been dropped with them.
None of them had much idea of where they were. All they could do was head north, in what they hoped was the direction of the airfields. Meanwhile, above them, black clouds were rolling in and the worst storm in the area for 30 years was about to overtake them.
Suddenly, the skies opened in a blinding, soaking deluge. In minutes, dry riverbeds were raging torrents. ‘The water was up to your chest,’ one man recalled.
Worse still, there was no sign ahead of their target, just an endless damp horizon of desert.
They huddled together for a sodden, freezing, hungry, sleepless night, broken only by the occasional sip of rum and constant wringing of wet blankets.
As dawn broke, the rain eased, but it was clear that the operation would have to be aborted: the explosives were soaked and useless.
The closest anyone got to their target was the team led by Stirling’s deputy, the truculent and dangerously unpredictable Paddy Mayne, a celebrated international rugby player and notorious bar-room brawler.
The group marched through the night and laid up in a wadi about five miles from its target airfield — until the downpour turned their wadi into an instant lake. The men were soaked to the bone; even their cigarettes — a lifeline for most soldiers — were waterlogged.
Worse still, their sabotage equipment was now useless.Reckless but mannered: David Stirling raved action and the company of soldiers, but his boisterous exterior belied a lonely man prone to periodic depressions and inner turmoil
Reckless but mannered: David Stirling raved action and the company of soldiers, but his boisterous exterior belied a lonely man prone to periodic depressions and inner turmoil
With ferocious reluctance, Mayne aborted the mission and as night fell, he and his men set off on the 35-mile slog south to the rendezvous point.
By now, all the groups had been forced to admit defeat and were trudging into the desert in the hope of rescue.
An exhausted Stirling stumbled into the meeting point at dawn after a 50-mile trek, asking: ‘Have you seen any of my chaps?’
No one had. The rest of his ‘chaps’ had been captured after taking a wrong turn and stumbling into an Italian patrol.
Stirling remained at the desert rendezvous for two more days, scanning the horizon in the hope that other stragglers might eventually emerge. None did.
There was no disguising the grim truth: Operation Squatter had been an unmitigated disaster. Of the 55 men who had parachuted into the gale on November 16, 1941, just 21 had returned. The rest were dead or injured, missing or captured.
What was really devastating was that the SAS had lost most of its strength without firing a shot, attacking the enemy or detonating a single bomb. They had been defeated, not by force of arms, but by wind and rain.
The mission had done nothing to support the main British offensive against Rommel. Worse than that, the failed operation had alerted the enemy that the British were conducting active operations behind the lines.
British code-breakers deciphered a message sent to Luftwaffe and Panzer commanders of the Afrika Korps alerting them to ‘sabotage detachments’ having been dropped.
The survivors of the SAS’s first mission tried to look on the bright side. Yes, it had been a fiasco, but they had encountered some cruel ill-luck.
Stirling pointed out that he had personally reached the coast road and seen the sea, which proved that, given the right conditions, an approach to those vulnerable enemy airfields from the desert was possible.
Mayne reported that his men, ‘although lacerated and bruised by their landing and wet and numb with cold, remained cheerful’. In reality, they were deeply demoralised, not least because every one of them had lost a close friend.
‘There was so much talent in those who died,’ Stirling reflected. ‘It was tragic.’
What should have been a triumphant first mission, he conceded, had been ‘a complete failure’. He had feared that cancelling the operation might jeopardise the future of the SAS, but by pushing ahead, he had very nearly destroyed it. The reduced detachment now seemed likely to be disbanded.


SAS troops with sniper rifles and heavy machine guns have killed hundreds of Islamic State extremists in a series of deadly quad-bike ambushes inside Iraq,
Defence sources indicated last night that soldiers from the elite fighting unit have eliminated ‘up to eight terrorists per day’ in the daring raids, carried out during the past four weeks.
Until now, it had been acknowledged only that the SAS was operating in a reconnaissance role in Iraq and was not involved in combat. But The Mail on Sunday has learned that small groups of soldiers are being dropped into IS territory in RAF Chinook helicopters – to take on the enemy.
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DRONES PATROL IRAQ TO SEEK OUT TARGETS: Drone operators study footage of the terrorists’ positions which are then relayed to SAS commanders at their secret base so they can plan missions 
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DRONES PATROL IRAQ TO SEEK OUT TARGETS: Drone operators study footage of the terrorists’ positions which are then relayed to SAS commanders at their secret base so they can plan missions
Targets are identified by drones operated either from an SAS base or by the soldiers themselves on the ground, who use smaller devices.
The troops are also equipped with quad bikes – four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles that can have machine guns bolted on to a frame. They then seek out IS units and attack the terrorists using the element of surprise and under the cover of darkness.
The missions have taken place on a near daily basis in the past four weeks and the SAS soldiers have expended so much ammunition that regimental quartermasters have been forced to order a full replenishment of stocks of machine-gun rounds and sniper bullets.
An SAS source said: ‘Our tactics are putting the fear of God into IS as they don’t know where we’re going to strike next and there’s frankly nothing they can do to stop us.
SAS SNIPER UNITS SCRAMBLED IN CHINOOKS: The heavily equipped troops are flown deep into IS territory aboard RAF transport helicopters, their quad bikes stowed on board, before touching down 50 miles from their target 
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SAS SNIPER UNITS SCRAMBLED IN CHINOOKS: The heavily equipped troops are flown deep into IS territory aboard RAF transport helicopters, their quad bikes stowed on board, before touching down 50 miles from their target


‘We’re degrading their morale. They can run and hide if they see planes in the sky but they can’t see or hear us. Using so many snipers takes the fear factor to another level too; the terrorists don’t know what’s happening. They just see their colleagues lying dead in the sand.’
The SAS’s guerrilla-style raids are targeting IS’s main supply routes across western Iraq and vehicle checkpoints set up by the terrorists to conduct kidnappings and extort money from local drivers.
The operations start with SAS commanders studying hours of footage of potential target sites recorded by drones – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – and listening to enemy communication intercepts in a bid to identify IS leaders.
Once the regiment’s senior officers have identified a target, the soldiers gather to receive their operational orders. They then leave their secret base and climb aboard a fleet of helicopters – with the quad bikes already safely secured in the cargo hold.
As the SAS soldiers strap themselves into their seats, the pilots tap in the co-ordinates for the area of desert where the Chinook will land.
As the helicopters’ engines are so loud, the Chinooks take the SAS soldiers to a laying-up point as far as 50 miles from the target. The troops disembark aboard the quad bikes and prepare their general- purpose machine guns (GPMGs) and Barrett sniper rifles.
IS PICKED OFF IN GUERILLA-STYLE RAIDS: Using precision sniper rifles, machine guns and surprise tactics, the SAS take out their IS targets before disappearing back into the desert 
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IS PICKED OFF IN GUERILLA-STYLE RAIDS: Using precision sniper rifles, machine guns and surprise tactics, the SAS take out their IS targets before disappearing back into the desert
The SAS’s raids are intended to degrade Islamic State’s fighting capability ahead of a spring offensive by 20,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops next year, with the UK providing additional training for these soldiers.
In the next fortnight, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is expected to receive a report from British military planners setting out what needs to be done.
The plans could see up to 300 UK trainers leading a programme of intensive training for the Kurds and Iraqis, with an emphasis on infantry drills and techniques to defuse enemy explosive devices.
When the spring offensive starts, British trainers may remain with the Iraqi and Kurdish units but are not expected to get directly involved in the fighting.
Earlier this month, Mr Fallon held meetings with political leaders in the region, assuring them that the UK was committed to defeating IS and improving the training of their soldiers.
The Defence Secretary also visited Kuwait, where it is expected that US and British commanders will set up a spring offensive planning centre.
The mission to defeat the 200,000-strong IS forces will be led by a senior US officer, Lieutenant General James Terry. It is likely that his second in command will be a senior British officer, Lieutenant General Tom Beckett.
Next month Lieut Gen Beckett will take over as Defence Senior Adviser for the Middle East (DSAME), a post vacated by Lieutenant General Simon Mayall, who is retiring after four years in the role.
Defence sources indicated last night that soldiers from the elite fighting unit have eliminated ‘up to eight terrorists per day’ in the daring raids, carried out during the past four weeks 
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Defence sources indicated last night that soldiers from the elite fighting unit have eliminated ‘up to eight terrorists per day’ in the daring raids, carried out during the past four weeks
But Middle East experts are questioning whether the UK’s strategy to defeat IS stands any chance of success. Professor Gareth Stansfield from Exeter University told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Not only is the Islamic State stronger than previous organisations, it has also learned lessons from them.
‘For example, IS has few fixed operational centres and its chain of command remains mobile. British policy options at this stage are burdened with problems and complications and also bring with them a range of unintended consequences that could draw Western powers into further engagements in the region.
‘With regard to the spring offensive, the Kurds would not be able to push further south into Iraq without upsetting the Sunni tribesmen in these areas and the Iraqi army is regarded as a Shia militia. So we are a long way off a practical solution to the problem of IS.’
The Mail on Sunday has learned that since IS began its campaign in Syria and Iraq, more than 35 British jihadists have lost their lives. It is believed the most recent UK citizens to die fighting for the extremists – known as Abu Abdullah al-Habashi, 21, and Abu Dharda, 20 – were from London. They are understood to have been killed in US air strikes on the Syrian border town of Kobane.
Our tactics are putting the fear of God into IS
Al-Habashi grew up in North London in a British-Eritrean family and converted to Islam when he was 16. In August, al-Habashi told the BBC he had gone to Syria nine months earlier and had been fighting both there and in Iraq. Al-Habashi is thought to have appeared in at least two IS videos posted online.
Dharda comes from a British-Somali background and grew up in West London. He travelled to Syria in December 2013, entering via Turkey. It is believed that Dharda was questioned by counter-terrorism police at a British airport as he left but was allowed on his journey because they were satisfied with the explanation he gave for the purpose of his trip.
Intelligence sources have indicated that more than 500 Britons are currently fighting for IS, with the vast majority active in Syria.
Yesterday, the widow of murdered British aid worker Alan Henning told a memorial service he was killed ‘for being what we should be, selfless and caring’.
A video showing the beheading of the 47-year-old taxi driver was released by IS last month.
A private memorial service at Eccles parish church in Greater Manchester was held yesterday, with audio relayed outside.
His widow Barbara and daughter Lucy walked in with Bethany and Michael Haines, the daughter and brother of David Haines from Scone, Scotland, also murdered by IS.
Mrs Henning told the memorial: ‘We must never forget the reason why he went to Syria and the reason he was taken from us – for being what we all should be, selfless and caring.’ 
Meanwhile, IS militants have killed at least 25 members of a Sunni Muslim tribe in a village on the eastern edge of Ramadi in Iraq, in apparent revenge for tribal opposition to the radical Islamists.
Local officials said the bodies of the men from the Albu Fahd tribe were discovered by the Iraqi army when it launched a counter-offensive on Saturday against IS near Ramadi, capital of Anbar province.
'Red Cap tragedy' General set to lead offensive
NEW MAN: Lieut General Tom Beckett
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NEW MAN: Lieut General Tom Beckett
A former Parachute Regiment officer who was in charge of six Red Caps brutally killed by a mob of extremists in Iraq is in line to become the second in command of coalition operations against IS.
Lieutenant General Tom Beckett has been appointed Defence Senior Adviser for the Middle East (DSAME) and will take up his position as the UK steps up its efforts to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces to defeat Islamic State.
Softly spoken Lieut Gen Beckett first deployed to Iraq in 2003, when the tragedy of the Red Caps marked the beginning of an insurgency against the British presence in the country’s southern provinces. At the time, the Red Caps, or Royal Military Policemen, were attached to the Parachute Regiment’s 1st Battalion led by Beckett. Eleven years on, families of the Red Caps still blame senior officers for their deaths.
Lieut Gen Beckett is taking over as DSAME following the retirement of Lieutenant General Simon Mayall – an officer who was considered the British Army’s leading expert on Arab affairs. Lieut Gen Mayall served as DSAME for four years but his retirement comes only three months after the Prime Minister also appointed him to serve as his special envoy to Kurdistan – a key role during the IS crisis. Last night, Middle East expert Professor Gareth Stansfield described Lieut Gen Mayall’s retirement as a ‘blow’ because of his understanding of regional politics and jihad philosophy. 
























































SAS 
SAS troops with sniper rifles and heavy machine guns have killed hundreds of Islamic State extremists in a series of deadly quad-bike ambushes inside Iraq, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Defence sources indicated last night that soldiers from the elite fighting unit have eliminated 'up to eight terrorists per day' in the daring raids, carried out during the past four weeks. Until now, it had been acknowledged only that the SAS was operating in a reconnaissance role in Iraq and was not involved in combat. But The Mail on Sunday has learned that small groups of soldiers are being dropped into IS territory in RAF Chinook helicopters - to take on the enemy.

 

Former British infantryman joins Kurdish fighters in Syria defending beleaguered town against ISIS

  • Afghanistan veteran James Hughes reported to have travelled to Syria
  • Former infantryman from Reading left the Army this year after five years
  • Jamie Read, from Newmains, North Lanarkshire, has also travelled to fight
  • He has been pictured in Kurdish militia social media accounts
  • They join a number of fighters from the West travelling to join the Kurds


A former British soldier is fighting with the Kurds against the Islamic State in Syria, according to reports.
James Hughes from Reading, Berkshire, is said to have travelled to Rojava, northern Syria, to volunteer in the fight against militants laying siege to Kobani.
Mr Hughes' Facebook profile suggests he left the British Army this year after five years service, including three tours of Afghanistan. His age is unclear.

Ready for battle: Jamie Read, right, from Newmains, Lanarkshire, alongside Jordan Matson, a former U.S. army soldier who travelled to fight alongside the Kurds in October
Britons 'in Syria': Former British Army infantryman James Hughes, left, has reportedly travelled to join Kurdish forces fighting in Syria. He is Facebook friends with Jamie Read, right, from Lanarkshire, whose picture alongside a U.S. fighter already in the country has been widely spread on social media
Pictures distributed on pro-Kurdish Twitter accounts meanwhile have shown another British volunteer ready for battle alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
Jamie Read, from Newmains, North Lanarkshire, who is friends with James Hughes on Facebook, is pictured alongside Jordan Matson, 28, a U.S. veteran who travelled to Syria and volunteered with the YPG in October.
His Facebook profile suggests he's trained with the French army. In the days running up to his departure from the UK, Mr Read wrote on Facebook: 'Well boys and girls.... It looks like all the hard work has payed off I got my good news, most of you know what i'm doing for those that don't you will have to wait haha can't really say on here but all I can say is this time next week i will be living the dream.'
Claims Mr Hughes had travelled to Syria were made in The Observer today.
Pictures on the Kurdistan Army Twitter account show Mr Read with Mr Matson, both armed with Kalashnikov rifles and dressed in unmatched army fatigues, posing together in bullet-scarred buildings.
Another shows Mr Read giving a thumbs up in front of a poster of a Kurdish freedom fighter.
The two Britons are the latest Westerners believed to have travelled to Syria to join Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State group, which is trying to carve out a Muslim caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of Britons are believed to have travelled to join the Sunni Islamist insurgency.
It is understood anyone travelling overseas to join in an armed conflict - on whatever side - could face prosecution under both criminal and terror laws. A Home Office spokesman said: 'The UK advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq.
'Even people travelling for well-intentioned humanitarian reasons are exposing themselves to serious risk. The best way to help the people of these countries is to donate to registered charities that have ongoing relief operations.'
The Kurds have long-established communities in the north of both countries and have resisted any attempts to extend the violence of Syria's civil war into the areas they inhabit.
Despite support from a U.S.-led bombing campaign however they have suffered a number of setbacks against the well-armed and fanatical Islamic State forces and, like their Islamist adversaries, are now actively recruiting for fighters from overseas.


Kurdish fighters in the battle for Kobani: More than two months into its assault on Kobani, the Islamic State group is still pouring fighters and resources into trying to capture the besieged Syrian Kurdish town
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Kurdish fighters in the battle for Kobani: More than two months into its assault on Kobani, the Islamic State group is still pouring fighters and resources into trying to capture the besieged Syrian Kurdish town
People's Protection Units: The Kurds have long-established communities in the north of both Iraq and Syria and have resisted any attempts to extend the violence of Syria's civil war into the areas they inhabit
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People's Protection Units: The Kurds have long-established communities in the north of both Iraq and Syria and have resisted any attempts to extend the violence of Syria's civil war into the areas they inhabit
Mr Matson has helped to manage The Lions Of Rojava Facebook page which the YPG has used to advertise the recruitment of volunteers from the UK, the U.S., Germany and elsewhere.
The 28-year-old food packaging worker from Sturtevant, Wisconsin revealed last month how he contacted the Kurdish militia - known as the People's Protection Units or YPG - through Facebook.
'I prayed about it for about a month or two,' Matson, a Christian, told CNN. 'And I really soul searched and said, "is this really what I want to do?" Eventually, I decided to do it.'
Matson flew to Turkey and was taken to Rojava, a Kurdish-controlled area of northern Syria. For the past month, he has been a volunteer fighter helping to defend three small statelets in the area.
During his two years in the U.S. military, he never served abroad - but on the second day fighting in Syria, he was struck by a mortar round during a firefight with ISIS.
As he recovered from his injuries - which sometimes still cause him to squint - he helped out the militia by taking to social media to recruit others, CNN reported.
More than two months into its assault on Kobani, the Islamic State group is still pouring fighters and resources into trying to capture the besieged Syrian Kurdish town, but the drive has been blunted.
Helped by more than 270 airstrikes, the border town's Kurdish defenders are gaining momentum, the Associated Press reports - a potentially bruising reversal for the extremists who only a few weeks ago appeared to be unstoppable.


Battleground: A fighter can be seen running through the streets of Kobani. It has been under attack since mid-September, when the Sunni Muslim extremists seized a series of villages and much of the town
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Battleground: A fighter can be seen running through the streets of Kobani. It has been under attack since mid-September, when the Sunni Muslim extremists seized a series of villages and much of the town
Counterattack: A combination of concentrated airstrikes and the arrival late last month of a group of 150 Iraqi peshmerga forces with advanced weapons blunted the edge of the Islamic State offensive
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Counterattack: A combination of concentrated airstrikes and the arrival late last month of a group of 150 Iraqi peshmerga forces with advanced weapons blunted the edge of the Islamic State offensive
The setback in Kobani is 'a statement of IS group's vulnerability,' said David L. Phillips, an expert on Kurdish issues.
Retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State militants, said the group continues to mass around Kobani, creating more targets for the U.S. and its allies.
'ISIL has, in so many ways, impaled itself on Kobani,' he said in an interview Wednesday in Ankara with the Turkish daily Milliyet, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
Kobani has been under attack since mid-September, when the Sunni Muslim extremists seized a series of villages and much of the town. Most of Kobani's 60,000 residents fled to neighboring Turkey in the first few days of the offensive, amid expectations that it would fall quickly.
But the fate of Kobani soon became tied to the success of the coalition campaign against the Islamic State group. A combination of concentrated airstrikes and the arrival late last month of a group of 150 Iraqi peshmerga forces with advanced weapons blunted the edge of the IS offensive.
The U.S. has also dropped weapons and other supplies to the Kurdish fighters, the first time it has done so in Syria in the course of the country's four-year conflict.
Kobani-based activists say Kurdish fighters have made small but steady advances in the past two weeks following the arrival of the peshmerga forces. Last week, Kurdish YPG fighters seized a hill that overlooks part of the town. On Tuesday, they captured six IS-controlled buildings and confiscated a large amount of weapons and ammunition.
'THE LIONS OF ROJAVA': WESTERNERS NOW FIGHTING FOR THE KURDS
They call themselves the Lions Of Rojava and boast, 'It is better to live one day as a Lion that a thousand days as a sheep.'
They are the foreign fighters who have travelled to Syria to fight, not for jihad, but on behalf of the Kurdish communities who are defending their communities from the advance of Sunni Islamists.
Just as hundreds of young Europeans have gone to fight for the radical Islamists of Islamic State, so increasing numbers are now travelling to fight for their avowed enemies, the Kurds.
Westerners in Kurdistan: A photo of Western fighters from the Lions Of Rojava Facebook page
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Westerners in Kurdistan: A photo of Western fighters from the Lions Of Rojava Facebook page
Jordan Matson, a former U.S. soldier now with Syrian Kurds' People's Protection Units (YPG), operates The Lions Of Rojava Facebook page openly calling for volunteers to travel to join the fight.
Just as many of the Islamic State's foreign volunteers have been drawn from the ranks of Sunni Muslim youth worldwide, many of the initial YPG volunteers have come from the Kurdish diaspora.
In August a hairdresser from South London was reported to be the first Briton to travel to fight alongside Kurdish forces. Ethnic Kurd Mama Kurda from Croydon, 26, travelled to Iraq to join the Kurdish peshmerga as they desperately tried to halt Islamic State's lightning advance.
But since then many others have been inspired to take up arms against Islamic State, perhaps also inspired by the radical socialist experiment underway in the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava. Inspired by the social ecologist and anarchist Murray Bookchin it has adopted a vision of 'libertarian municipalism' calling for Kurds to creat free, self-governing communities.
Last month it was reported that a currently serving British marine had been questioned by police on suspicion he was travelling to fight with Kurdish militias during his leave. The 22-year-old Royal Marine Commando was quizzed after he prepared to fly from California on a one-way ticket to Turkey. He was suspected of being in contact with Kurdish militant groups.
Two women, Canadian Jew Gill Rosenberg, 31, and Danish Kurd Joanna Palani, 20, have also reportedly travelled to fight with the Kurds, inspired perhaps by the images of female fighters on the front line against Islamic State terrorists.
It is perhaps the only place in the world where women are fighting on the front line of armed conflict.
There are also claims that a number of European biker gangs have travelled to Syria and are helping to assist the resistance.
Leaders of the Cologne-based Median Empire Motorcycle Club, which has strong Kurdish links, have posted images of their German riders posing in the city - some of them carrying weapons.
The news came just days after three members of a notorious motorcycle gang from the Netherlands were told they had not committed any crime by travelling to Kobane to join the fight against ISIS.

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