Special Reconnaissance Regiment

The Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) is a special reconnaissance unit of the British Army. It was established on 6 April 2005 and is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), which is under the command of Director Special Forces. UKSF also consists of the Special Air Service (SAS), the Special Boat Service (SBS) and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG).[1]

Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Cap badge of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Active6 April 2005 – present[1]
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
TypeSpecial forces
RoleSpecial reconnaissance
Covert action
SizeOne regiment
Part ofUnited Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF)
Garrison/HQStirling Lines, Hereford, United Kingdom
Colonel in ChiefThe Duchess of Cornwall

The regiment conducts a wide range of classified activities related to covert surveillance and reconnaissance. The SRR draws its personnel from existing units and can recruit male and female volunteers from any branch of the British Armed Forces.[3][4]


The Special Reconnaissance Regiment conducts surveillance operations mainly concerning, but not limited to, "counter-terrorism" activities.[5] It was formed to relieve the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service of that role and is believed to contain around 500–700 personnel.[6][7] Media reports state they are based alongside the Special Air Service at Stirling Lines barracks, Credenhill in Herefordshire.[3]

The SRR was formed to meet a demand for a special reconnaissance capability identified in the Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter published in 2002 in response to the 2001 September 11 attacks.[8]

The regiment was formed around a core of the already established 14 Intelligence Company, which played a similar role against the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.[9]

Operational history

Around 2006, a British special forces unit was formed called E Squadron, the unit was made up of members selected from the SAS, SBS and SRR, with a mandate to work closely with the intelligence services, such as SIS, on missions that required 'maximum discretion' in places that were 'off radar and considered dangerous'. The squadron was at the disposal of the Director Special Forces and the SIS; the squadron often operated in plain clothes, with the full range of national support, such as false identities at its disposal.[10]

Iraq War

The regiment was active during the Iraq War as part of Task Force Black/knight. Although members of other British Special forces units were sceptical of the value of the regiment, by mid-2006 a handful of SRR operators were operating in Baghdad. They formed Special Reconnaissance detachments that were commanded by SRR officers. The force was made up of Task Force Black/knight operators who carried out difficult surveillance missions throughout the city.[11]

Terrorism in the United Kingdom

In the aftermath of 21 July 2005 London bombings, the SRR attached one of its members to each of the Metropolitan Police Service's surveillance teams to provide additional capability to a seriously overstretched SO12.[12]

On 22 July 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by armed police officers on a London Underground train at Stockwell tube station. Three media reports carry unconfirmed assertions by unattributed UK government sources that SRR personnel were involved in the intelligence collection effort leading to the shooting and were on the tube train while the offensive action occurred. A partial Ministry of Defence response was reported by The Sunday Times.[13][14][15]

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

On 27 June 2006, a 16-man unit from C Squadron, Special Boat Service and the SRR carried out Operation Ilois: an operation that covertly captured four Taliban leaders in compounds on the outskirts of Sangin, Helmand province. As they returned to their Land Rover vehicles, they were ambushed by an estimated 60 to 70 Taliban insurgents. With one vehicle disabled by Rocket-propelled grenade fire, the team took cover in an irrigation ditch and requested assistance while holding off the Taliban force. The Helmand Battle Group had not been informed of the operation until it went wrong; a quick reaction force made up of a platoon of Gurkhas responded but ran into another insurgent ambush; one SBS member was seriously injured in the ambush. After an hour-long gunfight (some sources say three), Apache attack helicopters, the Gurkha quick reaction force and the 16-man unit, supported by a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt and two Harrier GR7s managed to break contact and return to the closest forward operating base; two of the four Taliban leaders were killed in the firefight while the remaining two escaped in the chaos. Upon reaching the forward operating base it was discovered that Captain David Patton, SRR, and Sergeant Paul Bartlett, SBS were missing – one was helping wounded out of a vehicle when he was shot and assumed killed, while the second went missing during the firefight. A company from the Parachute Regiment in an RAF Chinook took off to find them, a pair of Apaches spotted the bodies and the Parachute Regiment troops recovered them. One SBS member was awarded the MC for his actions in the ambush.[16][17][18][19]

Dissident Irish Republican campaign

In March 2009, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde informed the Northern Ireland Policing Board that he had asked for the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to be deployed in Northern Ireland to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) gather intelligence on dissident republicans. He claimed that they would have no operational role and would be fully accountable, as required by the St Andrews Agreement. Deputy First Minister and Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams condemned the move, but Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Ian Paisley, Jr. said the SRR "poses absolutely no threat to any community in Northern Ireland".[20][21] The SRR troops were reportedly withdrawn in 2011, but were sent back to Northern Ireland in 2015 to help detect and prevent attempted attacks by the Real Irish Republican Army and Continuity Irish Republican Army.[22]

In April 2011, the Telegraph reported that a surveillance team from the SRR had spent three weeks tracking a cell of 4 men belonging to the Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH)-a dissident Irish republican paramilitary group operating in Northern Ireland, it was made up of members who split from the Real IRA. The SRR members (who were reportedly working for Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command) watched the men, who photographed key roads and buildings in London, including the Olympic Stadium. Intelligence suggested that ONH and other dissident Republicans were not aiming to launch mass-casualty attacks but continue to target police and military targets, one source said the unit was not thought to have the capability of launching a terrorist attack on mainland Britain, although some dissidents have that capacity. The cell was not thought to be targeting the royal wedding.[23]

In late 2015, it was reported there were approximately 60 Special Reconnaissance Regiment plain-clothed and unarmed surveillance troops operating in Northern Ireland, and that unmarked vehicles were used.[22][24]

Libyan Civil War (2011)

By the end of July 2011, a 24-man British special forces team from D Squadron 22nd SAS Regiment, including members of the SRR who were expert in covert intelligence gathering had been deployed to Libya to train and mentor NTC units against the Gaddafi regime during the Libyan Civil war. These forces linked up with Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, the elite parachute regiment of the French Army, in Zuwaytinah, the command headquarters for the eastern front, 90 miles south west of Benghazi. From there they were sent to the west of the country via Tunisia to train rebels in the western mountains, in places like Zintan.[25]

Yemen and Somalia

In April 2016, it was revealed that members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment were seconded to MI6 teams in Yemen to train Yemeni forces fighting AQAP, as well as identifying targets for drone strikes, along with the SAS, they have been carrying out a similar role in Somalia.[26][27][28]

Uniform distinctions

Personnel retain the uniforms of their parent organisations with the addition of an "emerald grey" coloured beret and the SRR cap badge. The cap badge shares Excalibur in common with the other UKSF units, in the case of the SRR being placed behind a Corinthian helmet, surmounting a scroll inscribed RECONNAISSANCE.[9] The stable belt of the SRR is similar in style to that of the SAS, however, being midnight blue, it is darker.[29]

See also

British Army


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  2. "Special Forces cuts: once gone they cannot be quickly replaced". the telegraph. 3 March 2013.
  3. "Special forces regiment created". BBC News. 5 April 2005. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
  4. Rayment, Sean (4 September 2005). "Army reveals secret elite unit that puts women on front line". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  5. Ryan, Chris (2009). Fight to Win: Deadly Skills of the Elite Forces. Century. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-84605-666-6.
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  7. Giannangeli, Marco (22 July 2012). "A secret army of 'Amazons' guards Olympic Games". Daily Express. London. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  8. The Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 18 July 2002. ISBN 0101556624. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  9. Harding, Thomas (6 April 2005). "New Special Forces unit will spy on the terrorists". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 9 January 2007.
  10. Stuart, Mark Muller, Storm in the Desert: Britain's Intervention in Libya and the Arab Spring, Birlinn Ltd, 2017, ISBN 1780274521, ISBN 978-1780274522
  11. Urban, Mark, Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq , St. Martin's Griffin, 2012 ISBN 1250006961 ISBN 978-1250006967, p.167-168
  12. Neville, Leigh, The SAS 1983-2014 (Elite), Osprey Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1472814037 ISBN 978-1472814036p.12
  13. Smith, Michael (31 July 2005). "Could this 'police officer' be a soldier?". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 14 October 2007.
  14. Norton-Taylor, Richard (4 August 2005). "New special forces unit tailed Brazilian". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 January 2007.
  15. Cusick, James (21 August 2005). "An innocent man shot dead on the London Tube by police... since then everything we've been told has been wrong. A cover-up? And if so... why?". Sunday Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 14 October 2007.
  16. Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.239-241
  17. Macy, Ed, Apache, Harper Perennial, 2009 ISBN 978-0007288175, p.2-3; 8–9
  18. "Hero killed in Taliban ambush". The Sun. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  19. "Killed NI soldier 'was due home". BBC News. 6 July 2006. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  20. "Forces are a threat – McGuinness". BBC News. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  21. Kirkup, James (17 March 2009). "Gerry Adams: British Army Special Forces in Northern Ireland threaten peace process". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  22. Hinton, Joe (8 March 2015). "UK troops back in N Ireland: Crack troops launch secret counter-terror mission". Daily Star. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  23. "Special forces team tracked Republican terror cell in London". The Telegraph. 27 April 2011.
  24. "Special Forces going to Ulster in IRA crisis". Daily Express. 13 September 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  25. Stuart, Mark Muller, Storm in the Desert: Britain's Intervention in Libya and the Arab Spring, Birlinn Ltd, 2017, ISBN 1780274521, ISBN 978-1780274522
  26. "UK special forces and MI6 involved in Yemen bombing, report reveals". The Guardian. 11 April 2016.
  27. "Cargo bomb plot: SAS hunting al-Qaeda in Yemen". Daily Telegraph. 2 November 2010.
  28. "UK and US spend millions to counter Yemeni threat". The Independent. 30 October 2010.
  29. "Special Reconnaissance Regiment". Who dares wins. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
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