A grandad has rejoined the SAS at the age of 51.
He became the Who Dares Wins regiment’s oldest serving member after top brass appealed for ex-soldiers to rejoin.
The UK Special Forces group – which is composed of the SAS, the SBS and the Special Forces Support Group – is facing a manpower crisis with more troops leaving than joining.
But to boost numbers former members of the SAS – including those in their 40s and 50s – are being urged to rejoin a special unit called L-Det – for L-detachment.
The unit is unique within the British Army and is a specialist reservist unit composed of former full-time members of the SAS.
Unlike the regiment’s two reservist units 23 and 21 SAS which are composed entirely of part-time soldiers, apart from regular full-time staff who run the battalions, L-Det is composed entirely of ex-regular SAS soldiers.
It is understood that the soldier, who has served in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq , Afghanistan and numerous other war zones around the world, is now the oldest serving member of the black-clad force.
Members of L-Det can be called up in times of emergency to undertake roles in the UK, including intelligence work and training ,to free-up regular members of the SAS . But the reservists can also deploy on operations as well.
The soldier who answered the call of duty told friends: “I was regarded as being old when the Iraq War kicked off and I deployed in my mid-30s. There were all these young blokes calling me old timer and grandad. Now I really am a grandad and I’m rejoining.
“The SAS has been a major part of my life and I loved serving in it. But everyone knows that the clock is ticking and you only have a certain amount of time before you have to leave. It was a real blow but I knew it was coming.
The soldier, who can’t be named for security reasons, like all members of the special forces – said: “When I walked out the camp gate I thought it was best to put the regiment behind me and concentrate on getting on with life. But I missed the job, the people and the craic.
“The SAS is always understrength and because it’s an operational unit the manpower demands are always high.
“I’m up for the challenge and although I might not be as fast as a 25-year-old, I still train every day, running half marathons and hitting the gym.”
Most soldiers who join the SAS will remain in the unit for the rest of their military careers and can serve up 20 years. But with around 10 to 15 soldiers retiring from the SAS every year the loss in terms of years of experience is seen as too high.
One former SAS officer said: “The SAS, and it’s the same with the other special forces units, can lose up to 15 soldiers with over 150 years of operational experience between them.
“At a time when manning is low across the entire armed forces that is a loss the SAS cannot afford and so those who can still offer the regiment something are invited to rejoin. A 50-year-old soldier today is far fitter than a 50-year soldier 30-years ago so we still have a lot to offer.”