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1980: Hostage rescue SAS-style

Five days of tension at the besieged Iranian Embassy in London ended in 15 minutes of high drama on 5 May 1980.

SAS commandos stormed the building at 1923 BST - shortly after the Iranian separatists, who have held the consulate since 30 April, finally carried out their threat to kill one of the hostages.

Five gunmen were killed and one was arrested during the operation. All but one of the hostages survived the SAS raid.

The dramatic events were watched live by millions of television viewers and gave the SAS regiment a worldwide reputation for lethal and ruthless efficiency.

Your stories

My dad was in the Diplomatic Protection Group. I was watching the telly, and have vivid memories of seeing dad on the roof. He has now retired to Dorset. A day I will never forget - four children and mum hoping our lives weren't going to be destroyed too.
Jo Howard, UK

I was playing pinball in the Imperial College halls of residence round the back of the embassy when the first grenades went off.

I'd nearly got the machine round the clock and was caught in a limbo between wanting to react to the explosion and hitting those last few bumpers.

When the second bang came I ditched the machine and ran to find out what was happening. I went up on the roof to report back to our college radio station - we had people on roofs and in windows directly behind the embassy and had a better view than the cameras out the front in Hyde Park.

I'll never forget the plume of smoke and the drama of the moment. The college radio broadcast a continuous update from the students, and the police were coming to us for information.
Graham Brand, UK

I was 11 at the time and had spent all day playing at a friend's house.

His mum had sent us out for chips and as we got back I remember walking back into thier sitting room just as it went live to Prince's Gate.

Possibly one of the most vivid television memories of my childhood.

I have to say I had paid no attention to the siege before that, or indeed any current affairs. The excellent coverage changed that, as I never realised how exciting the news could be!
Ken, UK

Has to be the best rescue mission ever in my opinion. Praise to the media for covering this as we would not have seen it otherwise. I actually stood in awe at seeing this. SAS is the best in the world bar none.
Jim, USA

This is the earliest memory I have of a television programme. It was two weeks before my seventh birthday and I remember I was watching a John Wayne film.

I remember, in the film, there was a train passing through some trees. Suddenly, the film was halted and the now famous news flash transpired, with the SAS soldiers, dressed all in black and carrying what I now know were HK MP5 sub-machine guns.

Then came the image which I think most people find it easiest to recall about the event: a soldier moving away just in time to avoid the blast from the massive explosion, from the bomb he had planted. Then they all "went in".
George Wallace, UK

I live quite close to Prince's Gate and we were watching a John Wayne film on the box. Suddenly there was the sound of small arms fire and a huge flock of birds flew over the house, away from the Embassy.

It was strange because John Wayne was not doing the shooting, or getting shot!
Nigel, UK

I remember being confused as to how the SAS boys were camouflaged in their black kit against the stone coloured embassy. "It's because they're being so still" came the explanation from my Dad...
Simon, UK

I was on detachment in Alberta, Canada. I was woken by my room mate who was watching cartoons on the TV when the programme was interrupted to show the historic event.

Fascinated I watched the explosions and fire, as my companion (plugged into a bottle of whiskey) demanded the return of the cartoons!
Tim Granger, UK

I remember sitting on my dad's shoulders watching the guys storm the building.

I was five and we were in Hyde Park near the Princes Gate building watching the hive of activity when all hell broke loose - something I never forget to this day.
Vince Bell, UK

I was an eight-year-old boy sitting watching the World Snooker Championship Final when a newsflash interrupted the programme.


" It sent a strong message to any terrorist group around the world that Britain would not be held to ransom "

Kevin McLeod, Britain

Originally annoyed at the interruption I watched in amazement as what looked like black frogmen swarmed all over the embassy. I had never seen anything like it and the fact that it was live on television made it all the more dramatic.

It was the talk of the school for days afterwards and ignited a keen interest in the regiment from a generation of schoolboys and fathers alike.

It sent a strong message to any terrorist group around the world that Britain would not be held to ransom and has undoubtedly reduced the number of similar situations arising since.
Kevin McLeod, Britain

I was watching a John Wayne film that was interrupted for the newsflash. The large explosions were thrilling to a 12-year-old, but I was disappointed that the film did not pick up at the point it was stopped. We missed an hour out of the middle... I never did see it again.
Ian Smith, Scotland


" Our whole family were glued to the snooker when suddenly the infamous BBC newsflash appeared "

Mike Bald, Canada

We lived in Scotland at the time the embassy was stormed. I was an impressionable 12-year-old watching the Embassy (no pun) World Snooker Championship on TV.

Our whole family were glued to the snooker when suddenly the infamous BBC newsflash appeared. Next thing we saw was the symbolic black clad figures setting up frame charges on the second floor window. The explosion was great - it certainly added some spice to the snooker.

Afterwards, I think every kid in my school was jumping off rooftops, diving over their parent's furniture or borrowing their older brother's Scouting Balaclava's.

Now in my thirties, I still feel a great sense of pride at having witnessed "the storming". On a national scale, I think it was a morale boosting tonic to the British public, knowing that we did the job right and that our lads succeeded where the Americans have often failed.

Ever since then, those images set a precedent in that no-one ever messes with Britain "...or else we'll send the SAS in!"
Mike Bald, Canada

I was doing my final exams at Imperial College while the siege was going on. Roads were closed so there was a lot of extra traffic noise and general commotion, making it hard to concentrate.
Steve Gregory, UK

I well remember watching the SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy. I recall the stunning explosion and the hooded men on the balcony. God bless the SAS - they are true professionals. We need more men of their character and dedication in this world gone mad!
Bob Darby, US

I was 16 and getting ready for O-Levels that year. I remember that I was watching TV with my younger brother and sister in our front room - if memory serves it was a John Wayne film.

Suddenly the film was stopped and we found ourselves watching the dramatic events unfolding in London. I remember yelling for our parents to come through from the living room because "something weird" was happening. It is the first event that I can recall where normal programming was interrupted by live footage of an unfolding drama.
Jane, UK, living in USA

I was a school-boy in Suffolk at the time. And I clearly remember watching TV and suddenly there was a news flash that broadcast the siege and subsequent SAS raid live.

The next day at school me and my mates all wanted to become SAS commandos.
Neil Rosier, New Zealand


" Not a lot happened after the troopers went in through the window! "

Tom, UK

I remember watching it on TV, like millions of others. Initially it was truly riveting stuff, but in fact not a lot happened after the troopers went in through the window!

I remember the commentators desperately trying to think of things to say. Then a long while later we saw them leading the arrested terrorist round the back, and after that the interview with Whitelaw.

In retrospect, that was one of the first times we got the feeling that there were organisations within the UK who were capable of determined action.
Tom, UK


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