SAS reconnaissance - George Babbington

Submitted by Editorial team on Tuesday, 20 May 2008 - 11:16am

Extract from an interview with Claire Hall, 31 January 2008

Reproduced with permission of George Babbington

With the SAS you couldn't talk, like, once we were on operations there were long periods that you never spoke to anyone. Everything was transmitted by hand signals. We had a hand signal for everything.

So how long would you be out in your five-man groups?

We could be out probably maximum of about two weeks, sometimes three weeks. And we carried all our food, we weren't re-supplied, we carried everything, we were just like a pack horse. All our radios, all our explosives, our medical gear, everything.

What was your role on those operations?

Our main role with the SAS was actually reconnaissance. Which meant that what we would do is, the intelligence people up in the battalion headquarters, they would be receiving all this information about troop movements and that, suspected troop movements here or whatever. They would identify areas, then we would go into those areas to confirm whether those people were there, or whether there were camps there. And we would do a lot of sitting and watching people. Really, really tough, tough to do. And in one case, we had actually stopped for lunch; well not so much lunch, we just stopped for a meal. And there were people just walking past us, about 5, 8 metres, so that was really, really... But because of the wavy movements, it was so quiet and that, they didn't know we were there.

So just the five men and we'd just pack up and move on. We didn't cover great distances at all, probably about a thousand metres, maximum three thousand metres a day, just from first light to last light. Nearly about 8-9 hours covering about three kilometres, because we walked very, very quietly, you know, and it's slow, really, really slow, you couldn't make a noise, you couldn't cough, you couldn't brush past vegetation. Any sound you made could give you away. And because we're in such small numbers, you know, we were at a disadvantage straight away if we were attacked by a bigger force, and we had no back up, just no one.


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage

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