A somewhat irregular British Army small unit of World War II, attached to the British Eigth Army. Created and headed in Egypt by Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff (nicknamed Popski), P.P.A. did mostly behind the lines sabotage and recon work, blowing up depots, gathering information about German materiel and movement and pointing out targets for the RAF.
P.P.A. saw service first in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (currently part of Lybia and Tunisia), in collaboration with the Long Range Desert Group.
In 1943, after the victory on Rommel's forces, the unit moved to Italy and started again its dangerous work. P.P.A. took part in fighting on the Adriatic coast in the Po area (close to Venice) and linked up with the Russians in Austria.
The unit started with a headcount of sixteen and was, at its biggest, slightly over one hundred; it always remained a small unit, because Popski wanted to know personally each one of his men.
The unit could be compared with the Special Air Service and the Lovat Scouts. P.P.A. appears to have excelled at collaborating with partisans and local forces.
Their badge was a silver astrolabe - the reference was navigation in the desert - worn on a black beret. Apparently Popski was not very particular about uniforms, as long as they were not enemy uniforms.
Reference: Private Army, by Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff, published by Jonathan Cape Ltd. in 1950, republished by Corgi.