Summer vacation begins with a trip to Britain’s counter-intelligence HQ

HQ of Britain’s SAS, the elite special forces unit, on Google

HEREFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND —  I had planned to begin our 2017 summer vacation at a B&B in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England’s West Midlands, the 16th century birthplace of Shakespeare.

But our son had a better idea. Although he also wanted to visit to Shakespeare’s childhood home (he read Romeo and Juliet in Mr. Bishop’s high-school freshman English class this fall), he first wanted to check out the headquarters  of the SAS.

The SAS, for most of us who don’t know, is Britain’s elite special forces unit, the Special Air Service. The unit’s roles include covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action and hostage rescue. The SAS began in World War II under Winston Churchill, our son learned in a big report he wrote for his world history class.

Being “all teenage boy,” he is interested in this sort of thing, at least more than most of us. He told me the SAS based at Credenhill, on the outskirts of Hereford. This village is about 50 miles west of Stratford-Upon-Avon, near the boarder of Wales.

And so our summer vacation began: Reno-JFK-Manchester, England, and off to Credenhill in our rented car.

After taking 15 roundabouts — yes, 15, according to Google maps — we landed in this affluent little burg in the English countryside. It was dark but I noticed a big Land Rover dealership in town.

The SAS is a low-profile headquarters, because secrecy is absolutely vital to its operations. But Google maps changed that in the internet era: “Military chiefs and MPs blasted internet giant Google after its Street View service included detailed pictures of the headquarters of the SAS,” according to an article we found in the Daily Mail from 2010. “Internet users can peer around the entrance to Credenhill, Herefordshire, which has never before appeared on maps for security reasons.”

We used the street-view service to peer around the entrance to the SAS headquarters too. There’s not much to see from the road.

SAS Memorial

Afterward we visited a new SAS memorial at the Hereford Cathedral. “To honour and celebrate this relationship, the SAS Regimental Association has commissioned artist John Maine RA to create an inspirational new sculpture and stained-glass window for Hereford Cathedral, which will be installed over the winter and unveiled in April 2017,” the Cathedral said.

We are over our jet lag and looking forward to visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon and Oxford University before turning in the rental car and riding the train to London, one of our favorite destinations.

We’re looking forward to attending a ceremonial event called “Trooping the Colour,” an annual event honoring the Queen’s birthday; as well as tours of Parliament, the Churchill War Rooms, the British Museum, Harrod’s, the Tower of London, “Phantom of the Opera” on the West End, Indian and British restaurants and other things you’d do with an inquisitive teenager. Like all tourists, we are mindful of the recent terrorist attacks in London and will be vigilant ourselves.

We’ll share some of our experiences along the way, along with insights of the local political scene, which is in turmoil since last week’s British election. Have a great week!

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

3 thoughts on “Summer vacation begins with a trip to Britain’s counter-intelligence HQ”

  1. Both SAS and French special forces are in Iraq and Syria looking for their citizens who have joined ISIS. They aren’t there to arrest them, they are there to make sure they never come back.

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