The ROYAL Navy’s own special forces units was in founded North Ayrshire 80 years ago this month.

The Special Boat Service (SBS) was formed in July 1940 under the command of Captain Roger Courtney, at Glen Sannox, Arran, before relocating their base to Ardrossan.

Having had his idea for a specialised unit turned down, Capt. Courtney decided the only way to convince his superiors was a live demonstration.

He silently paddled a canoe along the Clyde and stealthily climbed aboard the HMS Glengyle, where he scribbled his initials on the captain’s door before stealing a deck gun cover marked with the ship’s name.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Glen Sannox, Isle of Arran. Credit Tom Richardson. (CC BY-SA 2.0)Glen Sannox, Isle of Arran. Credit Tom Richardson. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Undetected, he swiftly made his way to present his prize to the Admiral who was having a meeting with the Glengyle’s captain.

While still wet from his escapade, he was able to convince them of the need for a small team of men using collapsible canvas canoes, known as folbots, to carry out reconnaissance and sabotage raids along enemy coastlines.

The No. 1 Special Boat Section of 8 Commando, of 12 men, started training around the shores of Glen Sannox, Arran, where they had to master swimming, canoeing, navigation, survival skills, demolition skills and signalling amongst other skills.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Glenfoot, Ardrossan Credit George McGrattanGlenfoot, Ardrossan Credit George McGrattan

Travelling to the Middle East and operating from a submarine, the troop were involved in train wrecking and beach reconnaissance against enemy targets in Italy, Sicily, Libya and the surrounding coast lines.

In April, 1942, a second section was formed, the No. 2 Special Boat Section, and relocated to Ardrossan with Major Roger Courtney in charge. Their offices were in Seafield House, Eglinton Road, while accommodation for the men was arranged at Glenfoot Hotel on North Shore Road and their mess was in the Kilmeny Hotel, South Crescent Road.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Seafield House, Ardrossan. Credit George McGrattanSeafield House, Ardrossan. Credit George McGrattan

The Special Boat Section took part in Operation Flagpole in October 1942, then Operation Torch in November 1942 and later in raids and reconnaissance along the Mediterranean coast. In the final years of the war during 1944 and 1945 they had three teams, A, B & C operating primarily in the Far East with a fourth team ‘Z’ operating in the Mediterranean.

In 1946 the Special Boat Section was disbanded. However, this wasn’t the end.

Many of the soldiers joined the Royal Marines with its own SBS formed in 1948.

Specialising in maritime counter-terrorism, elite members of the SBS are recruited from the Royal Marine Commandos and undergo one of the toughest selection processes in the world.

They specialise in Maritime counter-terrorism.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Sannox Bay, Isle of Arran. Credit Ashley Dace ( CC BY-SA 2.0)Sannox Bay, Isle of Arran. Credit Ashley Dace ( CC BY-SA 2.0)