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Special Air Service (SAS) Company

The Canadian Special Air Service (SAS) Company was an elite force created in 1947 and provides the historian with some continuity between the wartime parachute units and the later Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Prospective members were assembled in the spring and summer of 1947 at the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre (CJATC) at Rivers, Manitoba. The unit had its headquarters located there for administrative purposes but was considered an independent unit directly under control of Army Headquarters in Ottawa.

The Company was formed as a standard infantry company, with a company headquarters, three rifle platoons, and a total strength of approximately 140. (In late 1948, a "services" platoon was added as a fourth sub-unit). The Company was commanded throughout its existence by Captain Guy D'Artois of the Royal 22e Regiment (and also wartime member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA), and each platoon drew its strength from one of the three Active Army infantry regiments (RCR, PPCLI, and R22eR). Many members are reported to have served in the wartime Canadian parachute units, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and the First Special Service Force. Prerequisites for service with the Canadian SAS Company were "superb physical condition, and have demonstrated initiative, determination and self-reliance."2 As well, each soldier had to be unmarried.

The role of the SAS is unclear to historians, Grimshaw suggests it may have been patterned after the British SAS, formed during the Second World War and a special operations unit, carrying out tasks such as long range reconnaissance, deep penetration raids through enemy lines in conventional warfare situations, and liaison with and support of guerrilla or irregular forces in unconventional warfare situations. All members were taught a broad variety of disciplines, and each individual received instruction in packing parachutes and aspects of air supply and air portability to support Airborne operations, by both C47 aircraft and CG4A glider. All members were also taught the basics of a variety of weapons, vehicles, and skills such as unarmed combat, first aid, radio communications, "ropework", survival skills, mountaineering, improvised demolitions, physical fitness, skiing, and "some foreign language training."

Exercises were reportedly rigorous, with scenarios usually involving an airborne raid on a fixed enemy installation. At least one member of the Company was killed during a public parachute demonstration. These demonstrations were commonly held across Canada, and usually involved low-level jumps of between 500 and 700 feet.

The company only had two operational tasks during its short life, and arctic rescue mission in 1947, in which Capt D'Artois participated and was decorated, and flood relief efforts in 1948 in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia which involved the entire Company.

In Sep 1949, defence planners disbanded the Company in favour of the creations of the Mobile Striking Force, a much larger (and more conventional) airborne formation. Individual members of the Company were retained for their experience in an instructional role, augmenting existing training establishments until the MSF was formed. Some individuals not used in the instructional role returned to their parent regiments.



The Canadian SAS Company had no distinctive insignia, and members of the unit seem to have retained their previous regimental insignia. The Denison Smock and maroon beret were worn.

The badges at right were posted at the forum with the following post:


Well, I've finally got around to posting this fale material. I do not collect "special forces" stuff and when I ran accross this collection of stuff I thought I'd hit the jackpot. I spoke with Lou Grimshaw and he burst my bubble on my "score." Anyway, all this stuff is fake. There was a Canadian SAS, which existed for a very short time post WW2. This insignia was designed by a member of the Cdn SAS in the 1980's as a fund raiser for the regimental association. I've also included a white metal and bimetal Canadian Parachute Corps badge as these are now recognized as fakes from Gaunt.

Enjoy and collect what you know!


Lou Grimshaw wrote the book - literally - on The Badges and Insignia of the Canadian Airborne Forces. He reports that the Canadian Special Air Service (SAS) Company never had distinctive badges.



  1. According to The Badges and Insignia of the Canadian Airborne Forces by Major Louis E. Grimshaw, CD, no specific date is known.

  2. Ibid, p. 23 1999-present