1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment

1 NZSAS Regt badge


Who Dares Wins


1 NZSAS Regt was first established in June 1955 for service in Malaya. At that time they were placed under the command of the British Special Air Service (22 SAS (UK)), from which it drew many of its distinguishing accoutrements and insignia, as well as its operating principles. After a short period of disestablishment, the NZSAS was re-formed in December 1959.


1 NZSAS Regt conducts strategic and tactical intelligence gathering, limited offensive operations, recovery operations, and counter-terrorist operations beyond the range or capability of conventional Army units. The Unit may also provide selected personnel for the provision of military advice and assistance to indigenous forces in the conduct of unconventional warfare. As such, the Regiment is employed (as directed) to achieve strategic, operational or tactical level objectives across the military spectrum.

Unit Elements

Unit elements include:

  • Headquarters
  • Special Forces elements
  • Commandos
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal
  • Support elements
  • Training elements
  • Reserves



The Regiment insignia depicts a flaming sword – Excalibur – and was designed in its original form towards the end of 1941 by Sergeant Bob Tait, originally with ‘Strike and Destroy’ as the motto, which was substituted by David Stirling for ‘Who Dares Wins’.

The insignia is often referred to as the ‘Winged Dagger’, and occasionally as the flaming sword of Damocles. However, accounts from the original members of the Special Air Service during World War II suggest that this was not the intent of the original design. Rather, it was to represent Excalibur, and thus represent a sword that would win freedom from the invader.

Excalibur is the mythical sword of King Arthur. The sword was forged out of goodness and therefore was only to be used against evil. The Lady of the Lake gifted the sword to Arthur so he could cast out evil where good dwelt. Once grasped by King Arthur, Excalibur became part of him and advanced his combat skill. However, the sword’s origin in goodness presented a catch for any warrior who took it up. Excalibur would lend its power to its master as long as it was used for good. Should it ever be used for evil, Excalibur would be removed and the user left in eternal agony.

The flaming sword Excalibur is the insignia of the NZSAS. The right to wear this badge is hard-won and strictly governed. Once earned, this right can easily be forfeited if an individual seeks self over service or fails to maintain the values, ethos or standards required.

This page was last reviewed on 2 October 2014.