To Americans, who unlike the Brits are self-consciously class-indifferent, this piece might be a load of old nonsense, but here we are:
When your job involves abseiling out of helicopters, kicking down doors and taking out the bad guys, you might be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t really matter what school you went to.
But the SAS is getting worried that not enough posh officers are applying to command its high-stakes operations.
The elite regiment has typically been led by former public schoolboys whose privileged education is said to instil the leadership skills and poise required.
‘The typical SAS officer is confident, relaxed, bright and unflappable,’ said one of the regiment’s warrant officers. ‘Many of the most successful officers have been to the top public schools, but recently we have seen a number of guys coming forward who just don’t cut it. It’s a shame, but they are just not posh enough. The bottom line is that the officers shouldn’t be speaking like soldiers. We don’t want officers who are shouters or know-it-alls.’
Former officers of the SAS include General Mark Carleton-Smith, the head of the Army, and Major Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former Private Secretary to Princes William and Harry, who one source described as ‘the archetypal SAS officer’. Both were educated at Eton, while other recent commanding officers attended Winchester and Harrow.
Over There, the term “officer and a gentleman” used to be something of a redundancy — one could only become an officer if one was of the privileged class — but it seems like it has been somewhat undermined, and not to everyone’s liking, either. Imagine taking orders from this guy…
Round about now, Mr. Free Market (who was an officer in the Paras under the old regime) is chuckling into his whisky.