However, the BBC series now shedding light on the regiment’s earliest, often bonkers but deadly missions is helping to boost demand.
Demonstrating a sense of timing akin to surprise attacks, laying fuses and scarpering sharpish, on October 26 Kent auction house C&T (22% buyer’s premium) offered an item that belonged to one of the founding fathers of the Long Range Desert Group/Special Air Service.
The officer’s khaki service dress peaked cap belonging to Major John Martin Wiseman MC was estimated at £3000-5000 but instead took a £16,000 hammer price from a private UK bidder. It had been purchased by the vendor from a seller who had been tasked with disposing of items for the family.
C&T director Matthew Tredwen told ATG: “The bidding was pretty hectic, with bids coming through on the internet bidding platforms and with our telephone bidder trying to get a bid in; I think it was then two bidders, one online and the eventual telephone bidder who took the cap from £11,000 to the eventual winning bid of £16,000.”
He added: “I certainly think that the new BBC drama [SAS Rogue Heroes] may have played a part in the eventual hammer price; however, any items relating to the SAS have always performed well at auction.”
The road to the special forces
Wiseman was born to Jewish parents in 1916. When war broke out he was sent to north Africa with the North Somerset Yeomanry and fought against the Vichy French. Due to his knowledge of languages, he was put forward for officer training in Cairo and was given a commission in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
However, on hearing of David Stirling’s intention to form the SAS, he sought Stirling out at his Cairo apartment. Wiseman joined up and was present at their training camp in Egypt. He was involved in many of the early operations with the SAS/LRDG in north Africa.
Thanks to his SAS experience, he was given command of a section of the Special Raiding Squadron under the legendary - and lethal - Paddy Mayne in Sicily.
Wiseman's unit scaled the cliffs of Cape Murro di Porco on the morning of July 10 1943, to assault a coastal battery defending beaches where the main Allied force would land. His small force killed, captured or wounded 40 of the enemy, while suffering no casualties themselves.
For this action, Wiseman was awarded the Military Cross.
By the time of the Allied operations in Italy, Wiseman was a lieutenant and a section commander within 1 Troop.
During a German counterattack on Termoli on the east coast of southern Italy, Wiseman was the only survivor after a shell (probably a stray shot) killed 17 of his men in a direct hit on their truck - he had been leaning out the window in the passenger seat talking to a runner.
By the time of the Normandy landings, Wiseman had reached the rank of captain commanding 1 Troop, A Squadron, 1 SAS. He was one of three troop commanders in A Squadron (the direct descendant of L Detachment).
In June 1944 he was involved in Operation Houndsworth, parachuting behind the German lines near Dijon, disrupting reinforcement of German forces in Normandy, aided by the French Maquis. A Squadron was sent back to England in September 1944. Wiseman was awarded the Croix de Guerre and on promotion to major was given command of SAS Headquarters.
After the war, Wiseman returned to the family optical instruments business. He died on August 23, 2005. His MC and a recording of his history is held at the Jewish Museum London.