SAS Rogue Heroes: Meet the ‘fearless’ Special Forces unit portrayed in BBC series

BBC Two’s new primetime Sunday night drama, SAS Rogue Heroes, will follow the adrenaline-fuelled origins of the SAS during the Second World War.

Written and directed by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, and based on bestselling author Ben Macintyre’s book, SAS Rogue Heroes stars Jack O’Connell, Alfie Allen and Connor Swindells as the fearless real-life soldiers who formed the Special Forces unit.

Knight, meanwhile, previously shared that he had to tone down the script to make the true tories of the war heroes seem more plausible, with the series carrying a disclaimer that the events in the show “seem most unbelievable” but “are mostly true”.

Macintyre told The Times that the new TV adaptation of his book has a “rocking modern soundtrack, gripping action and some superb individual performances”.

“Knight’s script [depicts] a group of courageous warriors who teeter on the edge of madness, revelling in warfare, and deeply, irrevocably damaged by it,” he said.

So who are the real-life war heroes portrayed in the forthcoming drama?

David Stirling (Connor Swindells)

Sex Education star Swindells plays Stirling, the founder and creator of the SAS.

The series follows the eccentric young officer and his comrades after he grows increasingly frustrated by the army’s operations and imagines the beginnings of the special service.

Swindells plays SAS creator David Stirling (BBC)
Swindells plays SAS creator David Stirling (BBC)

Stirling “fights for permission to recruit the toughest, boldest and brightest soldiers for a small undercover unit that will create mayhem behind enemy lines”.

Knight shared that while researching Stirling, who died in 1990, he found that he and his fellow soldiers did not seem to fear death, with the series depicting them blowing up planes and throwing hand grenades for fun.

In his later life, Knight said Stirling still wanted “the possibility of death” and would even go as far as to close his eyes when crossing main roads, according to his secretary.

Blaire Mayne (Jack O'Connell)

O'Connell, who is best known for playing Cook in Skins, stars as Mayne in SAS Rogue Heroes.

Also affectionately and commonly known as Colonel Paddy, Mayne was a British army officer from Newtonards, Ireland, and was one of the founding members of the SAS.

O’Connell plays Blaire ‘Paddy’ Maybe (BBC)
O’Connell plays Blaire ‘Paddy’ Maybe (BBC)

O’Connell told The Telegraph that Mayne, as “a man who went to war”, was “required... to be violent”.

“These are the lads that society probably does want to lock up in peacetime. But when it comes to situations of conflict, they’re your heroes,” he explained.

Mayne was also a poet and a rugby player, and there is debate about the late soldier’s sexuality, which O’Connell said he “enjoyed” playing the ambiguity of. The war hero died in a car accident in 1955.

Jock Lewes (Alfie Allen)

Allen, who starred as Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, will play army officer Jock Lewes.

Born in Kolkata, India and raised in Australia, Lewes co-founded the SAS with Stirling and Mayne and established a gruelling programme of physical exercise, parachute training and desert survival for recruits, expected to be explored in the series.

Alfie Allen (L) and Theo Barklem Biggs (R) in the series (BBC)
Alfie Allen (L) and Theo Barklem Biggs (R) in the series (BBC)

Lewes was killed in combat in 1941. It is not known if the series will show Lewes’s death.

SAS Rogue Heroes begins on 30 October at 9pm on BBC One.