Peaky Blinders might have come to an end but SAS Rogue Heroes, a new BBC drama from Steven Knight which charts the formation of the Special Air Service during World War II, is upon us.


Knight drew comparisons between the characters in his upcoming series and those in Peaky Blinders at a recent Q&A, where he said the two programmes seem to have similar 'themes'.

"It does seem that there is a sort of a theme with Peaky and this, where it is a group of men who are probably not the easiest people to fit into conventional society," he explained. "I think that all of the people who are the heroes in this, if there had not been a war, they would have ended up in jail and ended up in trouble because they weren't equipped for normal society.

The series stars Sex Education's Connor Swindells as David Stirling, the unit's founder, while Jack O'Connell, Alfie Allen, Sofia Boutella and Dominic West all also play important roles.

But is SAS Rogue Heroes series based on real British history, like Peaky Blinders was? Read on for everything you need to know.

SAS Rogue Heroes true story: Is the BBC drama based on a book?

Connor Swindells as David Stirling in SAS Rogue Heroes.
Connor Swindells as David Stirling in SAS Rogue Heroes. Kudos, Robert Viglasky

SAS Rogue Heroes is based on the 2017 Ben Macintyre book Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain's Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War. The book has since been retitled SAS Rogue Heroes to align with the series.

The show's creator Steven Knight spoke about drawing from the book for the show, admitting that he did have to make some changes.

He said: "To create a drama from this amazing story, I had to sculpt a world where things are a little bit heightened, much like how war and the absurdity of it heightens every emotion."

However, he also said that "bringing characters to life to inhabit this world, especially ones that are not archetypical heroes, was made so much easier by leaning on the facts and the truths".

Are the characters in SAS Rogue Heroes real people?

Sofia Boutella as Eve Mansour in SAS Rogue Heroes.
Sofia Boutella as Eve Mansour in SAS Rogue Heroes. Kudos, Robert Viglasky

The majority of the characters in SAS Rogue Heroes are based on real people - David Stirling, Paddy Mayne, Jock Lewes and Dudley Clarke were all real.

One major character who has been created specifically for the series is Eve Mansour, the Deputy Head of French intelligence in Cairo played by Sofia Boutella.

Boutella said of the character: "Even if Eve is a fictional character in comparison to David Stirling or Paddy Mayne, she is very much a character that existed at the time. There were spies like Noor Inayat Khan or Virginia Hall.

"So many incredible women who were a part of the liberation during the Second World War. Eve, like a lot of them, used methods that were born within her instinct and her intelligence."

Boutella continued: "Considering their backgrounds, a lot of men at the time had all these pre-made ideas about the capacities of women like Noor Inayat Khan or Virginia Hall.

"My character also uses her background and her physical aspect in order to lure people, in order to get what she needs to free the exiled Free French government and North Africa from the Nazis."

How closely does SAS Rogue Heroes stick to reality?

Alfie Allen as Jock Lewes, Jack O'Connell as Paddy Mayne and Connor Swindells as David Stirling.
Alfie Allen as Jock Lewes, Jack O'Connell as Paddy Mayne and Connor Swindells as David Stirling. Kudos, Robert Viglasky

As with all series based on true stories, some adjustments have had to be made for the real history to be brought to TV. However, the team behind SAS Rogue Heroes has stressed that they have tried, where possible, to stick to the reality of what happened.

When asked about the series' authenticity to real history at a recent event for the show, attended by and other press, executive producer Karen Wilson said: "We have taken that very seriously. We have been in touch with all the surviving members of the families and we have tried to do everything as authentically as possible.

"We sought the advice of the SAS Regimental Association, who were super supportive throughout the process. We can only use the information that we've got, but I think with Ben's book, with the research that Steve's done with the team, and the way they approached authenticity, just the costumes, they were, as much as possible, authentic World War II costumes."

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Meanwhile, creator Steven Knight said: "It's such an amazing, unbelievable, incredible story. We all think we know who they are but when I read the Ben Macintyre book and started researching around, what gets me is how young they were, like 19, 20, 22, 23-year-old boys that were in this incredible pressure cooker situation.

"And they just decided among themselves to do something different. And it's just amazing. They changed the course of the battle."

Knight revealed that the team tried to keep the series "real" and this meant dramatising the unit's failures as well as their successes.

He said: "In the book, there’s lots of failure and disaster. And characters who, as a dramatist, you would love to keep going and so you make a choice. And so I’ve chosen that when that character dies, they die and it's a shock. And hopefully will be quite emotionally affecting. The choice has always been for me keeping to the real story in terms of the tempo.

"Through the writing I tried not to refer to other fiction, and tried where possible to refer to first hand accounts. I think there’s a sort of smoothness about fiction about war, but everything I've learned from people who have experienced it is it's just chaos.

"Individuals can take control of a few moments and that changes everything. So I tried where it was possible to refer more to first hand accounts rather than fiction."

SAS Rogue Heroes arrives on BBC One on Sunday 30th October at 9pm. Visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight, or check out the rest of our Drama coverage.


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