Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Special Boat Service
The forerunner of the SBS, the Special Air Service, was formed in World War II during the North African conflict. And from that they formed as eight man sections of divers and canoeists to recce enemy fortifications from land or sea, raid enemy ports or conduct sabotage operations against merchant shipping. Originally it was named Special Boat Section.
After the war the SBS was not disbanded but absorbed into the Royal Marines in 1946. They became part of the School of Combined operations under the command of Blondie Hasler. Another two squadrons were formed in British troops in West Germany in 1951. Two volunteer squadrons expanded them later. Their first missions were in Palestine (ordnance removal) and in Haifa (limpet mine removal from ships).
SBS and Royal Marines were in action in the Korean War, alongside the North Korean coast. They gathered intelligence and destroyed railways and installations. SBS operated first from submarines and then from islands off Wonsan, behind enemy lines. They used 2-man canoes and inflatable boats with a motor.
In 1952 SBS teams were in combat readiness in Egypt in case Gamal Abdal Nassers coup turned more violent than it did. They were also alerted during the Suez Crisis and during a coup against Libyan king Idris but did not see any action. Similar situations followed.
SBS teams did reconnaissance during the Indonesian Confrontation in 1961. They primarily gathered intelligence and trained other special forces during the Vietnam War. When Iraq threatened with the invasion of Kuwait for the first time in 1961, the SBS placed a detachment at Bahrain.
The SBS was later stationed in Gibraltar where they gathered intelligence in case Francos Spain decided to take over. They found themselves involved with anti-drug activities in the Caribbean. In 1972 the SAS and SBS came into the spotlight for a moment during their involvement with a bomb threat that proved to be a hoax onboard the Cunard liner RMS Queen Elizabeth II, in the middle of the Atlantic.
The SBS adopted a new form of its name in 1977: Special Boat Squadron. In 1979, 5 SBS become part of the Comacchio Company that protects North Sea oil rigs. In 1987 it became part of the UK Special Forces group alongside the Special Air Service and 14 Intelligence Company.
Throughout the Cold War the SBS was organized to perform a "conventional " special forces role for the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade. However in recent decades the SBS's role has become more and more involved in counter-terrorist operations.
SBS units have recently been involved in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The SBS is not an independent unit but part of the Royal Marines. To be eligible for SBS selection, a candidate must have served for at least two years in the Royal Marines or the Royal Navy, and then pass a rigorous selection course.
Those who pass the selection course then undergo a swimmer canoeist (SC3) training course. During this course the candidates still considered to be 'on probation'. The swimmer canoeist course includes survival training in the wilds of Scotland and diving training in cold water with poor visibility. In the diving phase they swim underwater for miles in the dark and mud. The course includes beach reconnaissance, canoeing, photography, underwater demolitions, and maritime counter-terrorism training.
On the 14th of March 2005 the Commanding Officer of the SBS was killed in a training accident in Norway.
The SBSs role is not confined to seaborne and maritime operations their responsibilities do not end at the tide line. SBS training concentrates on swimming, demolitions, diving, infiltrating ships at sea and oil platforms, and parachuting. Klepper canoes are a regular issue. They can also use parachute and high-speed rope deployments from helicopters.
The SBS is thought to have a complement of around 100 "swimmer canoeists" at any time. These are split into three main groups. C squadron is responsible for canoe and diving operations. M squadron concentrates on counterterrorist and shipboard operations. S squadron takes care of small watercraft and minisub insertions. In addition, inside M squadron there is a Black Group, a counterterrorist team that use helicopter assaults.
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