It´s not every day that you find a new book about the SAS in Norway and discover one more Nordic in the ranks of the SAS. Well, With the SAS Across the Rhine is mainly about final operations on German soil. Still, it is well worth getting and now for some details.
Unlike some SAS books this one by the late (he died in 2002) Colonel Ian Wellsted OBE, MA, is very personal, it has plenty of details about his love life. This may put off some readers, but should not – because Wellsted´s memoir highlights something probably quite common – how a turbulent emotional conflict at home can follow a soldier to the battlefield and affect his behaviour a lot.
In January 1945 Ian Wellsted is trained in the French alps for operations in Norway together with a Danish SAS member I had never heard of before. No, I am not talking about Anders Lassen VC. Every Nordic reader into SAS history knows about Lassen. Wellsted writes about Paul Jensen, a former Spanish Civil War volunteer who after the German invasion of his homeland had become active in a Danish resistance organization until he had to flee to the UK, where he joined the SAS. No year for this is given but Wellsted writes about the man on several pages and Danish history buffs should thus be able to track him down. Would love to find out more about Paul Jensen, or perhaps that was not his actual name? Let me know, dear Danish readers.
To get into the right shape for Norway the SAS men are helped by French alpine rangers, chasseurs alpins, and the part about them was for me extra enjoyable as I have had the pleasure of observing them on an exercise. To be precise I was skiing with the 27thAlpine Ranger Battalion. I thus relate to Ian Wellsted´s warm feelings for his cool French hosts.
After about a month in the alps the SAS skiers were told Norway was no longer a top priority (but Norway will come back on the agenda) and they were instead sent to Germany to there constitute an advance party with armoured jeeps. So, all you SAS jeep fans, here is a book you will definitely want to read. Wellsted´s jeep battle accounts are supported by 16 photos, not always top quality but none of which I have seen before, and some tactical maps.
In Germany the author confronts not only German snipers but also a most tense situation with one of his own that obviously is suffering from extreme battle fatigue.
Once Germany has fallen Norway returns on the SAS agenda. Of course, we now all know that this also broke the German will to fight on in Norway. But at the time things were not so evident, and Wellsted paints a vivid picture of what Norway was like just after the general German surrender. One only wishes this part had been a bit longer and that there had been more photos from it. But the one photo that there is, is of particular interest, with many nice jeep details.
With the SAS Across the Rhine (155 pages) ends with a very modern take on what the WWII SAS was all about and lessons to be learnt from them. This part has been written by one of New Zealand´s greatest SAS history buffs, Terence Gardiner, a retired air commodore, and is in itself worth your time.