Following international military trends, a requirement was identified for a Special Forces capability within the South African Army. Initial planning and formation was done, including studies of and visits to foreign Special Forces, formulation of appropriate structures and techniques for an African context and formation and training of a core group of founder members.
A small group of eleven men under the command of Commandant Jan Breytenbach, all handpicked by him, starts the first unit. They commenced their training in Oudtshoorn and all 11 men did specialised courses for skills they were not qualified for as yet. E.g. Divers, Demolition, Parachute Jumping, etc. The group was divided into two teams and they also did courses in France in that year. Their first deployment took place into Angola.
Special Forces is formally established as an entity in South Africa, with the establishment of the first Special Forces unit – 1 Reconnaissance Commando – in Oudtshoorn and thereafter moved to Durban.
1 RECCE Insignia
Special Forces Headquarters is established in Pretoria. In 1980 it moves into premises at Swartkop Park in Pretoria – since then unofficially referred to as “Speskop”.
SF HQ Insignia
2 Reconnaissance Commando, the Special Forces Citizen Force (Territorial Army) unit is established in Johannesburg.
2 RECCE Insignia
5 Reconnaissance Commando of Special Forces is established at Durban and Duku Duku in Natal and moved to Phalaborwa in 1980.
5 RECCE Insignia
|1976||Special Forces School is established in Durban, as part of 1 Reconnaissance Commando.|
4 Reconnaissance Commando, the seaborne Special Forces unit, is established in Langebaan.
4 RECCE Insignia
3 Reconnaissance Commando – consisting of former Selous Scouts – is established in Phalaborwa, and 6 Reconnaissance Commando – consisting of former SAS – is established in Durban . Attempted integration into the South African Military is largely unsuccessful. The units were amalgamated with 5RC and 1RC respectively.
The Special Forces Reconnaissance Commandos are re-designated as Special Forces Reconnaissance Regiments, as follows:
The Special Forces Citizen Force unit, 2 Reconnaissance Regiment, is also based in Pretoria. During this period, the Special Forces Supply Unit is also established to provide technical and logistical support to Special Forces.
During the period of Rationalization, Reorganization and Integration from 1991 to 1995, the Special Forces Reconnaissance Regiments undergo several names changes, firstly to Directorate Reconnaissance, thereafter to 45 Parachute Brigade, and finally to Special Forces Regiments. During this period, the Citizen Force 2 Reconnaissance Regiment is retired due to rationalisation and the discontinuation of the Citizen Force unit concept. During integration, all personnel from the Reconnaissance Regiments and the former non-statutory organisations all re-do the Special Forces Operators Training Cycle to ensure a consistent standard throughout Special Forces.
The conclusion of the period of rationalisation, re-organisation and integration results in the re-designation of the Special Forces Reconnaissance Regiments as Special Forces Regiments, as follows: –
1 Special Forces Regiment is retired due to rationalisation. Its personnel are incorporated into the other Special Forces Regiments. Special Forces School is transferred to 5 Special Forces Regiment.
Special Forces School is moved from 5 Special Forces Regiment and is established as an autonomous unit at Murrayhill, north of Pretoria.
Special Forces consists of: –
Retired Special Forces personnel now form part of the Special Forces Reserve, and they are dealt into the strengths of the various Special Forces Regiments as and when required. The Special Forces Supply Unit is now based at Walmansthal, North of Pretoria.