Special Forces: In the Shadows

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Until November 2018

Special Forces: In the Shadows

Extreme training, secret missions, total dedication. Explore the hidden world of the Special Forces at our major exhibition.

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Explore Special Forces stories

Major Herbert 'Blondie' Hasler and a colleague paddling a canoe, c1942

Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler: A Cockleshell Hero

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler was an inventor, pioneering yachtsman and special forces canoeist. In December 1942, he led the daring ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ raid on Bordeaux harbour.

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Captain Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott, c1944

Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott: Covert beach surveyor

During the Second World War, Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott founded the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties to undertake covert beach reconnaissance. This proved vital for the success of Allied seaborne invasions.

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A British officer with the Armenians, Baku, August 1918

Dunsterforce in the Caucasus

In 1918, the British assembled a handpicked unit to carry out a daring secret mission to the Caucasus. Their aim was to unify into an effective force the various anti-Bolshevik and anti-Turkish groups fighting there.

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Captain Roger Courtney, 1943

Roger Courtney: SBS pioneer

Major Roger ‘Jumbo’ Courtney founded the Special Boat Section during the Second World War. This became one of Britain’s most important Special Forces and was a parent unit of the modern Special Boat Service.

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Lieutenant Colonel Robert 'Paddy' Mayne near Kabrit, Egypt, 1942

‘Paddy’ Mayne: An Irish Lion

Lieutenant-Colonel 'Paddy' Mayne is a legendary figure in the history of the Special Forces. A celebrated sportsman with a turbulent character, he played a vital role in the early successes of the Special Air Service (SAS), becoming one of its most important commanders.

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Andy McNab’s survival kit, c1990

The art of staying alive: McNab's survival kit

An SAS soldier's personal survival kit contains many everyday objects. These can be used in ingenious ways, demonstrating both the adaptability and the resourcefulness of the Special Forces.

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Lieutenant Jock Lewes, 1940

‘Jock’ Lewes: SAS mastermind

As the co-founder of the Special Air Service (SAS), Lewes played a vital role in establishing the unit’s ethos and high standards of training and discipline.

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Major David Stirling, c1942

David Stirling: The Phantom Major

David Stirling was a pioneer of British Special Forces. In 1941, he founded the Special Air Service (SAS) in Egypt to undertake small-scale raids behind enemy lines.

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An SAS soldier aims a light machine-gun, c2005

What are the Special Forces?

The Special Forces are made up of several elite military units with distinct areas of expertise. Personnel are drawn from all three branches of the armed forces.

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Special Boat Service badge

Special Boat Service

This is Britain’s maritime special forces unit. Since the Second World War its highly trained men have served around the world, on land and at sea, often carrying out daring undercover raids and engaging in marine counter-terrorism.

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Gun disguised as a pen for use by SOE agents, 1945

Special Operations Executive

Formed in 1940, SOE was an underground army that waged a secret war in enemy-occupied Europe and Asia. Its agents demonstrated incredible courage and resourcefulness in their guerrilla war.

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Special Air Service collar badge, c1973

Special Air Service

Created during the Second World War, the SAS operated behind enemy lines in North Africa and Europe. Today, its highly trained men are renowned for their skills in covert surveillance, close combat fighting and hostage rescue.

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Explore Special Forces events

Special Forces: In the Shadows
Exhibition

17 March 2018 - 18 November 2018

£8.00

Special Forces: In the Shadows

Extreme training. Secret missions. Total dedication. Explore the hidden world of the Special Forces.

find out more
Book launch: First Man In
Talk

30 May 2018, 2.30pm

FREE

Book launch: First Man In

Ant Middleton, Chief Instructor for Channel 4’s hit show, ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’, launches his new book.

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A cool and lonely courage: The women of SOE F Section.
Talk

1 June 2018, 11.30am

FREE

A cool and lonely courage: The women of SOE F Section

Join historian Dr Kate Vigurs to uncover the experiences of the Special Operations Executive’s female agents in France during the Second World War.

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Curator tour: Special Forces
Tour

6 June 2018, 6.00pm

£12.50

Curator tour: Special Forces

Join a curator on an hour-long tour of our major exhibition, 'Special Forces: In the Shadows'.

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Curator tour: Special Forces
Tour

20 June 2018, 11.00am

£12.50

Curator tour: Special Forces

Join a curator on an hour-long tour of our major exhibition, 'Special Forces: In the Shadows'.

find out more
Behind the scenes: Artists Rifles
Workshop

4 July 2018, 6.30pm

£15.00

Behind the scenes: Artists Rifles

Discover the history of the Artists Rifles in the Museum’s collections.

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Curator tour: Special Forces
Tour

4 July 2018, 6.00pm

£12.50

Curator tour: Special Forces

Join a curator on an hour-long tour of our major exhibition, 'Special Forces: In the Shadows'.

find out more
Curator tour: Special Forces
Tour

5 July 2018, 11.00am

£12.50

Curator tour: Special Forces

Join a curator on an hour-long tour of our major exhibition, 'Special Forces: In the Shadows'.

find out more
Operation Husky, 1943
Talk

13 July 2018, 11.30am

FREE

Operation Husky, 1943

Will Fowler discusses the amphibious and airborne assault on Sicily in 1943.

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Curator tour: Special Forces
Tour

25 July 2018, 11.00am

£12.50

Curator tour: Special Forces

Join a curator on an hour-long tour of our major exhibition, 'Special Forces: In the Shadows'.

find out more
Curator tour: Special Forces
Tour

1 August 2018, 6.00pm

£12.50

Curator tour: Special Forces

Join a curator on an hour-long tour of our major exhibition, 'Special Forces: In the Shadows'.

find out more
The Special Boat Squadron in the Second World War: A band of renegade cut-throats
Talk

31 August 2018, 11.30am

FREE

The Special Boat Squadron in the Second World War: A band of renegade cut-throats

Author Gavin Mortimer discusses the history of the Special Boat Squadron.

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Join the conversation

"First time @NAM_London today. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought the presentation & interpretation made the subject accessible..."