SAS founder's Purdey shotguns aim for the top spot at sporting guns auction

The SAS is famous round the world for its bravery, and frightening effectiveness in getting the job done. Despite being at the cutting edge, it may surprise some that the service is only as old as WWII.

Originally named 'L-Detachment' as part of a tactic to give the impression to the Axis that there were many paratrooper units operating in the area, the force was the brainchild of one David Stirling.

David Stirling, known as the founder of the SAS, sold the concept of a small active unit working behind enemy lines to army chiefs. After a rocky start it proved its value with many significant actions to its credit. 

William Stirlings Purdey shotguns
William Stirling's Purdey shotguns
(Click to enlarge)

Now a pair of Purdey shotguns once owned by Colonel William Stirling, who formed 2 Special Air Service in 1943, is due to be sold by Bonhams Sporting Gun Department.

The pair of 12-bore self-opening sidelock ejector guns by J. Purdey & Sons are offered for sale with an estimate of £18,000 to £25,000.

The makers have kindly confirmed that the guns were completed in 1949 for Colonel W. Stirling, and were re-barrelled by the makers in 1975. They have remained in the same family since new.

William Stirling was the eldest son of Brigadier Archibald Stirling of Keir, and was educated at Ampleforth College and Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1932. He joined the Scots Guards, and during the Second World War commanded 62 Commando before forming 2 Special Air Service in May 1943 in Philippeville, Algeria, four months after the capture of his brother David in Tunisia.

William Stirling shooting
William Stirling using a shotgun

2 SAS saw service in both Sicily and Italy before returning to Britain in 1944, where the two SAS regiments were joined with two French and one Belgian unit to form the SAS Brigade of the Army Air Corps which was then deployed during the Normandy invasion, working behind the lines up until the end of the war.

William Stirling later became Honorary Colonel of the Scots Guards. The auction takes place on December 8th in London, and comes not long after SAS founding member Jack Byrne's medals sold for a triumphant total at Dix Noonan Webb.


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