Some say that to join special forces you need something extra. You need to be a little bit naughty some say. A lack of fear to live by the rules and go after and do what you choose to do.
So What About the Men in Charge?
The officers don’t tend to stay in special forces units as long. They have careers to think about more than NCO’s so they often do their draft and move on. Surely there are some officers that have that little bit extra that they look for in the men that join their ranks?
Let me introduce Major John Edwardes. From jumping on stolen cars to taking home 25ft pythons. He fits the bill.
John Sherrard Maxwell Edwardes was born on May 27, 1926, in Darjeeling. He spent his childhood in India where his father and earlier generations spent time in the Indian Army. John didn’t. He moved to England and when he was 15 years old he ran away from school to join the Royal Marines. He’s already a legend. The Royal Marines rejected him at first but a few months later let him join.
Edwardes was 17 when bosses granted him a commission, serving as a detached commander and beach reconnaissance officer in a variety of areas including Java, Sumatra and Ceylon. He spent time with the Special branch in Jerusalem and when in Egypt he was with the Security Intelligence Middle East. I think it would be damn near impossible for anyone to spend that much time with different countries intelligence units in today’s world. Fuck, they probably wouldn’t even let you in the country when they check your past.
A few years later he moved to England to marry. He joined the Metropolitan Police and bosses assigned him to ‘F’ Division, where he patrolled around Kensington High Street, using his observation skills to look for bad guys to smash up.
Well, those observation skills came into play one day. He spotted a Jaguar pulling out of a side street, the driver didn’t look like a regular Jaguar driver to him so he checked the number plates against his list of stolen vehicles.
Jackpot, the man had stolen the car. Now to hand out some Edwardes style justice. He stepped out in front of the car, raised an arm and ordered him to stop. The driver, his pants filling fast as he was about to be caught, attempted to pull away from the side street as Edwardes knocked on the window and tried to open the door. Edwardes jumped onto the running board of the car because the door was locked.
The driver must’ve surely thought this man was crazy. He sped off, swerving side to side in an attempt to remove him from the car. The car scraped against another vehicle and continued through red traffic lights, increasing in speed along the way.
Edwardes knew he had to stop him. He pulled out his truncheon, this was 1951 remember so their tools weren’t the shiny canisters of pepper spray that we have nowadays. He used it to smash the windscreen and bang the driver on his knuckles. A move like that would cause most drivers to stop I think, but not this one. Edwardes was grabbing hold of the ariel as the car swung around a junction, hitting a traffic island on its way through where the driver then accelerated and slammed the brakes on, throwing Edwardes onto the road.
Just Jump Back On!
He jumped back on to the car as it drove off again, colliding with a parked car before crashing head-on into fencing surrounding Earls Court. The impact threw Edwardes from the car into some bushes. He climbed to his feet, dusted himself down and arrested the man. He was awarded the George Medal for his actions.
In 1952 he joined the 1/10th Gurkha Rifles and during his time in Malaya was a company commander. He spent some time as a training officer at the Jungle Warfare School before joining the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Edwardes started to get involved in counter-terrorism during a posting for the Fusiliers in Cyprus.
In 1961 he joined the SAS before taking command of ‘A’ Squadron 22 SAS and then the Cross-Border Scouts. Covering a border that was 900 miles long with a handful of men was a task and a half but they performed admirably like the SAS always do.
The patrols improved the maps of the area, adding to the map the water courses, routes and tracks that were previously unknown, also building a deep knowledge of the tribes that lived in the area. From what they ate to what their health was like. They detailed the weapons and equipment like boats that were available and where they got the pigs, buffalo and chickens from that were regularly eaten by the locals.
The men added important information such as ambush positions, enemy entry points to the local area, helicopter landing sites and places where parachutes could be dropped.
A fascination Edwardes had was with snakes. He would pick them up and carry them around with him in his bergen, keeping others on edge whilst not giving a fuck about the danger himself. One time, his wife had to guide him to the door to eject a spitting cobra that blinded him. Another time his wife lit the area by candlelight as he wrestled with a 25ft python called Georgie Girl.
After his time with SAS, in 1966 Edwardes joined the Royal Scots Regiment and served in BAOR, France, Canada and Libya. He then spent time in Cambodia, Malaya, Thailand and Vietnam during a three year posting back at the Jungle Warfare School.
1972 saw Edwardes return to the SAS. He commanded the training wing, being rewarded for his hard work with an MBE. He retired from the Army in 1977 and finally settled in Cheltenham after a brief period spent on the Isle of Wight.
Major John Edwardes passed away on 9 June 2003, aged 77. A legend and a hero with no doubt many inspiring stories being told for future generations.