Forty Years Anniversary Of The Iranian Embassy Siege, London, England.
For those of you who frequently read my blog posts, you’ll have seen and understood why I’ve posted on more than one occasion, little snippets leading up to the 40th anniversary of this particular operation.
I’ve always been shy of expressing opinions on any SAS operations. However, 40 years before this one, the SAS didn’t even exist. As I’ve mentioned in the past, putting time and distance of SAS history into some perspective.
I’m personally against lads writing books about operations that they took part in, that are not long in the past. I believe that writing books about ops past 30 years or so is fine today, as it’s no longer compromising the present young lads operating, just so long as nothing critical is given away. The modus operandi of what is now UKSF has moved forward significantly in the last 20 years or so.
The Embassy Siege has been talked over, walked over, filmed, written about, signed photos sold, and some people out there believing that all who took part could walk on water.
Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
We’re British Army soldiers…nothing more, however, nothing less.
There were no heroes that day. Every individual stepped forward and gave his all to the best of his ability as part of a team. That’s because there was no room for individuals in the SAS back then. It was a team event, and thankfully on that day, it was a complete team game that led to that success. If something went wrong, which it did on more than one occasion, then someone stepped in immediately and instinctively, in order to put it right. Improvisation at it’s finest. That’s what we were good at, backing each other constantly.
There were no leaders of the total assault from the middle or junior ranks. The system was broken down through management exactly as per the management in the squadron that previously stood before leaving for London. Therefore, the Officer Commanding and the Squadron Sergeant Major were the key individuals calling the shots, and rightly so.
Yes, we all had a say leading up to the day of the assault…that back then was the SAS way.
There was sub unit (small teams) commanders just as there are sub unit commanders leading small patrols within other theatres of SAS ops. Those sub units were left alone to get on with their entry and assault drills when not training as a bigger entity.
I’ve recently seen many prints and sketches for sale of Operation Nimrod. Many have nothing to do with those days within 22 SAS Regiment. They even have nothing to do with the ethos of the Regiment back then.
An example of that, is a sketch that is covered with “winged daggers” with the words: “Its God’s job to forgive terrorists. It’s our job to arrange that meeting.”
Nothing further from the truth back then, at the time that was nothing to do with B Squadron.
Our job was to save lives. Our job was never to arrange any meeting with God.
However, like many situations, if our lives or the lives of others are threatened, then life will be taken, and it will be taken swiftly.
This type of wording that is today for sale on the internet, was not our thinking way back then.
With that,we are professional soldiers of the British Army as mentioned, and I’m extremely proud of that status. We trained day in and day out for such an operation. Our mentality back then was that we can step forward and take on any anti terrorist task handed to us, and we can face any enemy home or away…never ever in doubt.
In the holding area, I had written on a small card and kept it in an inside pocket.
Between the many “stand to’s” and “stand downs” I’d pull the card out and it helped to clear my clogged memory and reset. A bit like an old time boxer sniffing smelling salts.
It read: “Move forward with silence, then act with extreme violence. Observe absolutely everything, yet assume nothing.”
A lead on from “Speed, Aggression and Surprise.”
Words drilled into us from our earliest days in the Regiment by those who knew.
However, that aggression must always be controlled aggression. Controlled by the knowledge of one’s situational awareness. When to switch it on…and just as importantly, when to switch it back off again.
I don’t need to write about what happened in those precious 17 or so minutes of the assault, it’s all out there. And it’s been out there for many years now. A connoisseur of all things SAS could drown in the amount of info out there today.
This Tuesday 5th will be an extremely important day for me. Not only is it a milestone of 40 years. But I know deep down inside, that if and when I’m around for the 50th, very few of us will be left. In fact way too many of us have gone already.
I’ll be at home on Tuesday, thousands of miles away from Hereford in New York. My head and my heart will be with every lad, including our attachments from that day. I’ll be thinking of lads already gone, and the lads who are still around today spread all over the world. Some of us will get in touch over social media.
We’re all old now, we’ve all softened, we’re going senile and losing our marbles…a wee bit anyway. But to a man, those who operated on that day in London all those years ago, while all in our prime, I still have the utmost respect and humility towards today, and I still miss the presence of every single one of them.