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Special Boat Service

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Special Boat Service Motto

In the world of special operations forces, one unit is considered as one of the most lethal and most capable. At the first, you’ll think about Navy SEALs, Delta Force, SAS but these bunch of warriors are publicly relatively unknown. They are known as Special Boat Service or just SBS. SBS operating under United Kingdom Special Forces alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) and the Special Forces Support Group. The United Kingdom Special Forces are under control of Directorate of Special Forces (DSF).

Through history, they were relatively unknown to the public. They were formed in 1940, and for long they have operated under 22nd SAS as their amphibious troop also referred as Boat Troop. Then they were ‘adopted’ by Royal Navy where they had become a Special Boat Section and later Special Boat Squadron.

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United Kindgom Special Forces: SBS members during the exercise at undisclosed location

Despite their similarity with Special Air Service, it is completely different and independent unit described as the naval special forces of the United Kingdom and the sister unit of the already mentioned SAS. The operational capabilities of both units are broadly similar, however, the SBS (being the principal Royal Navy contribution to UKSF) has the additional training and equipment to lead in the maritime, amphibious and riverine environments. Both units come under the operational command of HQ Directorate of Special Forces (DSF) and undergo an identical selection process, enjoy significant interoperability in training and on operations.

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Members of the SBS (Special Boat Service) during the training

So far, they have operated under same acronym but with different names, from 1940 until 1977 they were known as Special Boat Section. In 1977, their name was changed to the Special Boat Squadron. In 1987, they were renamed Special Boat Service and became part of the United Kingdom Special Forces Group alongside the Special Air Service and 14 Intelligence Company.

Operational roles

The unit is responsible for operating in small parties in the enemy-controlled territory in case of armed conflict and war. Usually, these types of missions require an excellent training, tactical awareness and of course courage and high moral of the operators.

They are tasked with various operations and missions which include:

  • Surveillance Reconnaissance (SR)
  • Offensive Action (OA)
  • Support and Influence (SI)
  • Military Counter Terrorism (CT)
  • Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT)

Engagements in armed conflicts

Through history, the unit was involved in every conflict where United Kingdom had its influence, from World War II up to the latest War on Terror. Today, they are engaged in War in Afghanistan, Iraqi War and unofficially in Syria and Libya where they are tasked with various operations.

Motto and headquarters

The unit’s motto is ‘Not By Strength, by Guile’ which literally describes their personality. The unit headquarters is located in Poole, Dorset. One of their most publicly known members was a British hero, Major Anders Lassen, VC, MC and two bars, who served as an SBS commander during the Second World War.




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