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John Thomas "Mac" McAleese, MM (25 April 1949 – 26 August 2011) was a Scottish soldier who took part in several late 20th century conflicts with the British Army's Royal Engineers and the Special Air Service Regiment, including the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London during a hostage taking siege incident in May 1980.[1][2]

John McAleese
Born(1949-04-25)25 April 1949
Stirling, Scotland
Died26 August 2011(2011-08-26) (aged 62)
Thessaloniki, Greece
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1969–1992
RankStaff Sergeant
UnitRoyal Engineers
22 SAS
Battles/warsOperation Nimrod
Falklands War
AwardsMilitary Medal


Early lifeEdit

McAleese was born in Stirling, Scotland, on 25 April 1949 and grew up in Laurieston, Falkirk.[3]

Military careerEdit

He joined the Royal Engineers in 1969, aged 20, and in 1973 passed the All Arms Commando Course (AACC), which earned him the green beret and transferred to 59 Independent Commando, Royal Engineers.

In 1975 he transferred into the Special Air Service Regiment. He was a lance corporal in 1980, serving in Pagoda Troop, 'B' Squadron, 22 SAS Regiment, when he led "Blue Team" in the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London during a hostage siege on 5 May 1980. McAleese fought in the Falklands War in 1982, and in Ulster. He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action at the Loughgall ambush in Armagh on 8 May 1987,[4] and was present at the Drumnakilly ambush in County Tyrone in August 1988.[5] He also served as a bodyguard for three Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom.[6] He was discharged from the British Army on 8 February 1992 with the senior non-commissioned officer the rank of staff sergeant.[1][3]

Post-military lifeEdit

After leaving the British Army McAleese worked for a short while as the landlord of a Hereford public house, was employed as a security contractor in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and became an advisor/interviewee on several British television programmes examining the working practices of British Special Forces soldiering. He sold his British Army service medals for an undisclosed sum to the Lord Ashcroft Collection.[7] He appeared in the British Broadcasting Corporation produced television documentary series 'S.A.S. Survival Secrets' (2003), detailing the organizational structure of the Special Air Service Regiment and the nature of the military and security roles in which it is used.[8] He also found employment in the corporate sphere of airsoft gaming, and as a spokesman for the corporate development of the martial art 'Goshinkwai'.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

McAleese married twice. On 20 August 2009 his elder son, Sergeant Paul McAleese of 2nd Battalion The Rifles,[10] was killed on active service in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol in Helmand Province.[3] At a funeral service for Sgt. Paul McAleese's repatriated body at Hereford Cathedral on 14 September, John McAleese was seen to be visibly distressed during the ceremony.

Four days after his son's funeral John McAleese was arrested by officers from West Mercia Police on charges of accessing indecent images of juveniles on the internet via a home computer. He had first been contacted by the British police in relation to the matter in 2007 whilst at his home in Greece, and had told them he would attend a British police station to assist with their enquiries when he was next back in the United Kingdom. After his son's funeral he had voluntarily attended a police interview, during which he had been cautioned, placed under arrest and bailed pending further enquiries, after which he returned to his residence in Greece. On a failure to attend the next bail appointment in the U.K., McAleese had been contacted by West Mercia Police at his home in Greece, whereupon he refused to return to England to attend the bail hearing. In March 2010 West Mercia Police applied for a European Arrest Warrant for John McAleese at Hereford Magistrates Court, which was granted, and in November 2010 the British Government formally requested McAleese's arrest by the Greek Government and extradition from its territory back to the United Kingdom. The matter was still legally ongoing at the time of McAleese's death.[11]


McAleese died on 26 August 2011 of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 62 in Thessaloniki, Greece, where he was residing. His funeral was held at Hereford Cathedral.[12] He was survived by his second wife, a daughter by his first marriage, and two children by his second marriage.


  1. ^ a b "John McAleese". The Daily Telegraph. 29 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Iran embassy SAS leader John McAleese dies". BBC News. 28 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "John McAleese: Leader of the SAS team that ended the 1980 siege of the Iranian embassy in London". The Independent. 30 August 2011.
  4. ^ 'Mourners pay tribute to fearless Scots soldier John McAleese who kept prestigious gallantry medal a secret', 'Daily Record' (Scotland), 23 September 2011.
  5. ^ 'Special Forces Heroes', by M. Ashcroft (Pub. Headline Review, 2008).
  6. ^ Obituary, The Guardian, 8 September 2011
  7. ^ 'Tribute to an S.A.S. hero', by Lord Ashcroft, 'Conservative Home' website, 30 August 2011.
  8. ^ 'SAS Survival Secrets' (2003-2004), entry in IMDb.
  9. ^ 'Daughter tells of how SAS hero John McAleese died of a broken heart', 'The Mirror', 7 February 2012.
  10. ^ Ministry of Defence obituary for Sgt. P. McAleese on the Ministry of Defence's website (2019).
  11. ^ 'SAS Hero John McAleese was facing extradition battle over child porn charge', 'Daily Telegraph', 18 September 2011.
  12. ^ Iran embassy SAS man John McAleese has cathedral funeral, BBC News, 22 September 2011