Remembering the hero SAS units who ignored orders to rescue their own men

SAS raid convoy Basra 2005
Credit: MoD

On the 19th of September 2005 in Basra Iraq, 2 British soldiers were being paraded on Iraqi TV bloody and beaten - charged with the murder of Iraqi policemen.

The Iraqi authorities had made a serious mistake, these men were not only innocent but members of the SAS.

Why were the SAS falsely charged with murder?

Among the police force in Basra were a number of corrupt men who were aligned with the Mahdi Army - a significant force within the Iraqi insurgency. They had kidnapped these SAS men - The Madhi Army had a brutal reputation and were responsible for a number of heinous acts against the British Army. 

The Madhi Army wanted to stoke up tensions in the Iraqi capital which would lead to more aggression toward the Allied forces. Kidnapping these men and falsely charging them with murder was a great way to cause more chaos in a country already torn apart. 

The SAS Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the unit the kidnapped SAS men belonged to knew that the men were likely to be killed in a few days and knew that quick action was needed. 


The MoD refuse permission for the rescue operation

The unnamed SAS Lieutenant Colonel called another SAS unit located 300 miles away to request reinforcements. They immediately geared up and boarded a C-130 to join the other SAS unit. The Lieutenant Colonel made a number of phone calls with his Iraq contacts to find out where his men were being held. As he was drawing up a plan of attack he received a call from a General located in Northwood, UK. 

The senior officer denied the SAS the opportunity to rescue their comrades. He said “Permission not granted. There are more important things than the lives of soldiers.” The anonymous Lieutenant Colonel was shocked and repeatedly attempted to explain why the mission was necessary. The General refused to acknowledge his reasoning and repeatedly denied his request. The SAS Lt-Col knew that this order would have come from the MoD.

He called the other SAS unit’s C.O. and delivered the news, they made a momentous decision: “we’re doing it anyway.” He knew his career in the British Army would be in jeopardy - he would most-likely face a court-martial but he valued the lives of his men more. 


The SAS launch rescue operation

Before the second SAS unit landed, local officials, British Army officers and a Muslim lawyer attempted a peaceful release. A mob surrounded them and attacked the peaceful convey with Molotov cocktails  - destroying a vehicle. The convoy beat a hasty retreat - 3 soldiers were wounded in this attempt.

Meanwhile, the SAS units had joined together and formed a convey of their own along with attack helicopters. They set off for the police station holding their SAS comrades. After a substantial drive, the vehicles smashed through the walls of the police station before the SAS soldiers quickly left the vehicles and secured the compound after a firefight.

To the would-be SAS recuse operation the captured men are nowhere to be seen. They quickly received a tip-off that revealed that the men were being held in a nearby villa. They smashed through the walls of the villa compound and rescued their SAS comrades. 

The selfless decisions by each and every member of the 2 SAS units that day saved the lives of other British Heroes.

In 2015, TV's Colin Maclachlan revealed that he was one of the 2 captured SAS soldiers who was rescued in the operation.


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