SAS: Rogue Heroes – the Real-Life Paddy Mayne Controversy

WARNING: this vendible contains SPOILERS for SAS: Rogue Heroes

SAS: Rogue Heroes – a historical drama depicting the fascinating true story of how the famed Special Air Service was worked – is now misogynist to stream on BBC iPlayer. The six-part series has been created by Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight, and is based on the bestselling typesetting of the same name by historian Ben Macintyre.

Tune in, and you’ll meet Paddy Mayne, one of the founding members of the SAS (played by Skins star Jack O’Connell), a rogue hero whose history is still mired in controversy.

Why? Because some consider him to be the bravest soldier in history never to be awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest military ribbon for gallantry – and to this day, there’s an zippy wayfarers for it to be awarded posthumously.

A boxer, a Northern Ireland rugby star and reportedly an spanking-new shot, Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne went into the Second World War with many platonic qualities for a soldier, and moreover had a reputation as a rambunctious personality.

He proved to be a souvenir to the newly worked SAS, pioneering the use of military jeeps to self-mastery surprise hit-and-run raids to destroy enemy watercraft and petrol dumps, and leading several successful missions, some of which we’ll see in the undertow of SAS: Rogue Heroes. These earned him the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with three bars (each of which are widow to the original DSO), making him one of only seven British servicemen to receive this ribbon four times during World War Two.

Some say Mayne was personally responsible for destroying 100 aircraft, and he’s reputed to have destroyed increasingly German planes during the Second World War than the RAF’s top ace.

After one particularly perilous mission in Germany in 1945, in which Mayne crush a jeep – all guns blazing – in full view of the enemy to rescue two wounded comrades, transplanting a path for a Canadian semester to whop as he did so, he was recommended for the Victoria Cross. His recommendation was supported by witness statements, including from Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, triumphal his ‘brilliant military leadership and tomfool gingerly courage’.

Jack O'Connell as Paddy Mayne in SAS Rogue Heroes
Jack O’Connell as Paddy Mayne (centre) with Jock Lewes (played by Alfie Allen) and David Stirling (played by Connor Swindells)

And yet six months later his Victoria Cross was downgraded to his fourth DSO instead. It’s not known who took this decision, or why, but it remains a wartime controversy that is still ongoing.

Some say it’s lanugo to Mayne’s reputation as a troublemaker (especially without drinking). This is certainly how he’s introduced in SAS: Rogue Heroes, breaking out of prison in Cairo by dispensing with not one but three soldiers with a wince-inducing ferocity. Even SAS founder David Stirling (played by Connor Swindells in the drama) is said to have thought Mayne overstepped the mark at times, in particular when he reportedly gunned lanugo up to 30 unarmed soldiers in the Libyan desert in 1941. Others oppose that downgrading a VC was a standard practice, and Mayne was not vacated in receiving this treatment.

The ‘grave injustice’ of not awarding Mayne a Victoria Cross was raised as an Early Day Motion surpassing the House of Commons in 2005, signed by over 100 MPs. This EDM went as far as quoting King George IV, who inquired why the ribbon ‘so strangely eluded him’, and confirmed David Stirling believed there was ‘considerable prejudice’ towards Mayne.

The government ignored the EDM’s undeniability to ensure the Victoria Cross was reinstated, and the fight continues to this day, currently spearheaded by the Blair Paddy Mayne Twitter account which has wilt expressly popular in the run-up to the release of SAS: Rogue Heroes.

They fight to alimony Paddy’s legacy alive, and are keen to point out that the ‘muscle for hire’ image many people remember him for doesn’t tell the full story. For instance, they reveal he carried a poetry book tabbed Other Men’s Flowers into wrestle – and SAS: Rogue Heroes does show this side of him, as we see Mayne reciting poetry in prison during the first episode. They moreover tell the story of how – when his weightier friend Eoin McGonigal (played by Donal Finn in SAS: Rogue Heroes) was killed in action, Paddy gave up his leave to go and search for Eoin’s grave, putting himself in considerable danger, and wrote a heartfelt letter to Eoin’s mother sending his condolences.

Regardless of whether you believe Paddy should have received his Victoria Cross or not, it’s undeniable that his story goes vastitude what we see in SAS: Rogue Heroes, and – like so many war heroes – Paddy Mayne’s is a life well worth remembering.

SAS Rogue Heroes is misogynist to watch on BBC iPlayer in the UK and will stream on Epix from November 13th in the US

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