Special Boat Service (SBS)


Special Boat Service (SBS)
Home NationUnited Kingdom
Motto‘By Strength and Guile’
Date FoundedJuly 1940. Renamed the Special Boat Service in 1987.
Key StatisticsOrganisation and size: There is little verifiable information in the public domain as the Ministry of Defence does not comment on special forces matters. The SBS is under the operational command of Director Special Forces and based in Hamworthy barracks in Poole, Dorset. Military sources in 2020 number the SBS at about a couple of hundred people.

Diversity: Women were only allowed to apply to join the SBS in 2018, it is not clear if any have joined yet.

Most members of the SBS are recruited from the Royal Marines, which does not accept those without a British or Commonwealth passport.

Funding: Official information about funding is vague.2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) the government pledged to double investment in Special Forces. This amounted to £2 billion of new investment in the capability of UKSF in the 2015 Spending Review.
Regimental RemitThe UK Special Boat Service is based in Poole, Dorset and is responsible for maritime counter-terrorism.

The principal activities of the SBS are surveillance and reconnaissance, offensive action, support and influence including training overseas, and immediate counter-terrorism response including hostage rescue operations. It has broadly similar capabilities as the SAS however has capabilities to operate primarily in maritime environments.

Since being renamed the ‘Special Boat Service’ in 1987 the SBS has operated extensively internationally. They were active in the Gulf War including the liberation of the British Embassy in Kuwait. They also backed Australian forces in East Timor.

In the 21st century the SBS have operated in Sierra Leone and extensively in Afghanistan. The SBS were active in several operations in Iraq.

The SBS have participated in two small  evacuations and hostage rescue missions in Libya and Nigeria.

Within the United Kingdom, the SBS have participated in hijack missions primarily on ships, most recently in October 2020 when SBS personnel stormed an oil tanker in the Isle of Wight under suspected hijacking by Nigerian stowaways seeking asylum in Britain.
Noteworthy OperationsOperation Ellamy – enforcement of a no-fly zone in Libya in 2011.

Fanning Head- Falklands

Afghanistan Operations: hostage rescues, capturing Mullah Dadullah, Qala-I-Jangi Fort Uprising

Any ScandalsCriticism over care – Cpl Alexander Tostevin inquest after soldier committed suicide, military criticised for not providing enough care. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/nov/23/opportunities-missed-alexander-tostevin-soldier-who-killed-himself)

Criticism of cowardice- They were accused of cowardice by some members of the SAS after a failed mission in Iraq whereby they were shot at by the Fedayeen. The exact events remain unclear. (https://www.eliteukforces.info/articles/uksf-gulf-war-2.php)