Robert Blair "Paddy" Mayne's story starts much in the same way as the opening scene of the first Gears of War game – the grizzled, jaded, ludicrously-muscular hero sits alone in a dark, rat-infested cell with no hope of escape and only his own violent angstiness to keep him company, when suddenly, a light appears at the door, and an old friend shows up with a double-edged proposition – sit here and rot to death like a chump, or undertake a mega-dangerous mission so insurvivable and ultra-violent that the only way you're coming home is in a Chinese restaurant take-out box.
In the case of Major Mayne, a 6'2", 200-pound British Commando with a thirst for violence rivaled only by his thirst for Guiness, rotting in a prison cell in Egypt awaiting court-martial wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Sure, it was for an incident in which he coldcocked a superior officer and then chased that motherfucker out of the officers' mess while swinging a bayonet like a knife and unleashing an epic stream of profanity so withering that it caused the guy's mother to spontaneously burst into tears from three thousand miles away, but a little bit of Colonel-punching should be enough to keep him from tearing Nazis in half with his fists. Of course, this hadn't been the Ulsterman's first run-in with authority either – a few months before the attempted stabbing of a superior asshole, Mayne had gotten some less-than-stellar service from a bartender, and instead of just stiffing the dude on the tip he grabbed the guy by the throat, dragged him to the middle of the crowded nightclub, and made the guy "dance" while emptying his revolver around the guy's feet – but it was certainly looking like this would be the one that was going to send Paddy Mayne packing back home to Northern Ireland with a dishonorable discharge, a criminal record, and a probably-unhealthy amount of pent-up rage.
That is, until the intrepid Sir Colonel Captain Lord Master of the Sith David Stirling showed up at Mayne's prison cell with an inescapably badass Dirty Dozen-style offer: I can get the charges dropped for you old boy, but only if you agree to serve as my second-in-command in a dangerous new covert unit I'm developing. The mission? Leading a small, elite squad of 8-10 battle-hardened soldiers on foot through the Sahara Desert, infiltrating deep behind German lines, fucking shit up, and hopefully getting back to base before Jerry gets his act together and chops you into ground beef with a large assortment of various machine guns. The unit? Simply known as "L" Detachment – though today we know it by a different name – the British Special Air Service.
SAS guys looking hard as fuck.
As a founding member of the SAS, it was Paddy Mayne's job to lead small, fast-moving teams of hard-hitting demolitions experts through the fucking Sahara, brave 130-degree temperatures during the day and sub-zero temps at night, climb hundred foot-high dunes, endure bugs, sandstorms, flash floods, dehydration, and enough sand in the underwear to build a friggin' award-winning sand castle, then infiltrate Rommel's airfields and do battle with a superior force without any hope of reinforcement or rescue. The task was super fucking dangerous – on the SAS's first mission, six teams of 10 men parachuted into a desert storm in the middle of the night and only a third of the men ended up escaping with their lives, but that didn't deter Mayne from kicking ass. This guy was the 1936 Irish Universities' Heavyweight Boxing Champion and a man who had made a name for himself playing international rugby tournaments for the British and Irish National Team, and he wasn't about to back down just because he lost 40 of his 60 soldiers on his first mission, no matter how much that sounded like it might have been a good idea.
Realizing that skydiving into sandstorms bit a giant goat nutsack, Mayne and Stirling changed their tactics and started taking open-top jeeps behind enemy lines, approaching German installations on foot in the middle of the night, sabotaging all the aircraft they could find, and then escaping back to their vehicles and hauling ass through the sands road rally style. When this proved to be super successful and the Germans and Italians stepped up their defenses, the SAS started equipping their jeeps with twin-linked Vickers machine guns and making their raids even MORE fucking balls-out, riding a squadron of these machine gun cars in formation right onto the fucking enemy airstrip in broad daylight, guns blazing, shooting up the planes on the runway, and then hauling ass outta there while the Fascist ground crews tried to figure out their dicks from their spanners.
When it came to being awesome desert-combat style, the hard-drinking, hard-fighting Paddy Mayne was the fucking shit. Like on one mission this guy crawled through barbed wire (probably shredding it apart with his teeth in the process), personally destroyed 24 German fighter planes with thermite grenades (not to be confused with Thermal Detonators), then kicked in the door to the pilots' rec room and hosed the entire place down with a Tommy Gun until all that was left was dead bodies and half-eaten lasagna. While expressionlessly walking away from the fiery carnage in super slow-motion (not looking at the explosions, of course), Mayne happened to find one Me-109 that somehow hadn't been blown to shit, so, realizing that he was out of handheld explosives, the big Irishman just casually walked over to the aircraft, ripped the fucking control panel out of the cockpit with his bare fucking hands, and walked out into the desert holding it like it was the severed head of a slain enemy. And no, I'm not making that part up – this is seriously a thing that happened in real life. A week later, Mayne drove his jeep army onto a different airfield and personally destroyed another 27 fighters, giving him 51 aircraft kills in two days. If he had done that shit from the cockpit of a Spitfire Mark I, he'd have been a fighter ace 10 times over. By the time the SAS was done, they'd leveled over 100 enemy aircraft.
After doing this shit for a few months/years and battering the German and Italian war machine from deep behind their own lines, Colonel Stirling ended up getting captured during a raid and Paddy Mayne took over as commander of the 1st SAS Regiment. 1 SAS folded in with the Special Boat Service to form the Special Raiding Squadron, and as the leader of the SRS Mayne undertook a shitload of insanely dangerous missions to spearhead the Allied landings on Sicily and mainland Italy in 1943. On one raid, Mayne and his team hit the beach, climbed up a sheer cliff face in the middle of the night, attacked an Italian coastal defense base, captured 700 soldiers, destroyed all of their artillery, and drank all their best wine. Another time he went a little less with the sneaky, personally led the SAS and Royal Marines off an assault craft under heavy enemy machine gun fire, captured the town of Termoli, and held out for three days against an intense series of counter-attacks by elite German infantry units.
Once Italy was under control, Mayne continued his streak of being involved at the center of every fucking military operation in the Western Theater by parachuting into France to sabotage rail networks, coordinate missions with the French Resistance, and destroy German communications and transportation lines so that the Nazis wouldn't be able to bring reinforcements to their units on the Normandy coast (this was a pretty important mission, BT-Dubs). Mayne's commander had initially told the gung-ho Lieutenant-Colonel that he was way too high a rank to be infiltrating deep behind enemy lines, but Mayne managed to convince his boss to let him go by promising that he wouldn't get involved with any direct-fire actions.
A few months later, Mayne single-handedly captured the town of Oldenburg armed only with a fucking jeep and a Bren gun.
Paddy had been leading 1 SAS ahead to clear a path for the Canadian 4th Armored Division when he heard reports that the lead vehicles in the convoy had been ambushed. Mayne hauled ass to the front lines to find that the Germans had cut off a large element of his force and had them surrounded, outnumbered, and pinned down by a large force of Nazi knob-goblins.
Mayne immediately jumped out of the jeep, ran into the closest house, cleared it out with his fucking Colt .45 pistol, grabbed a Bren machine gun off a dead dude, and sprinted back to his jeep. He jumped in, ordered a guy to man the Vickers on the back of the jeep, and then hauled ass right into the middle of the fucking ambush like the Master Chief tearing through a Covenant-Flood warzone on a goddamned Warthog. Blowing through the Germans, Paddy Effin' Mayne held the wheel with one hand and rested the Bren gun on the dash so he could shoot and drive at the same time and in the most Xtreme baller way possible. When he reached the cut-off section of his unit, Mayne had his gunner provide covering fire while he personally loaded his wounded men into the jeep, and once everyone was on board he burned rubber out of there and got his boys back to friendly lines.
Oh, and then he regrouped his unit and personally led an attack that flanked the German defenders, wiped out their entire force, and captured the town.
"What the fuck is that?"
"That's me Bren gun."
"Couldn't you have thought of something a little more practical?"
After a long and glorious career kicking the shit out of Nazi cocksuckers everywhere he could find them and somehow managing to survive through the most hellaciously ass-sucking environments and missions the Second World War could throw at him, Mayne finally retired from the SAS in 1945 and took up a much tamer career as a chicken farmer / Antarctic polar explorer. He remains the only person in the British military to receive the Distinguished Service Order four times.
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Scholey, Pete and Frederick Forsyth. Who Dares Wins. Osprey, 2008
Shortt, James. The Special Air Service. Osprey, 1981.