Laurieston memorial to SAS hero John McAleese unveiled

An SAS hero who took part in one of Britain’s most famous counter terrorism operations has been honoured in his home village.

By Jill Buchanan
Friday, 27th August 2021, 5:43 pm
Updated Friday, 27th August 2021, 9:13 pm

The community of Laurieston joined invited guests and former members of the Armed Forces as a memorial bust to John Thomas McAleese was unveiled on Thursday afternoon.

John McAleese was among Special Air Service soldiers involved in ending the Iranian Embassy Siege in London in 1980.

The plan for a memorial was originally to see it unveiled on the 40th anniversary of the siege ending, but delays in the project due to the pandemic saw the organisers instead hold the moving ceremony on the tenth anniversary of John’s death, aged only 62 on August 26, 2011 in Greece.

Provost William Buchanan and Lord-Lieutenant of Stirling and Falkirk, Alan Simpson unveil the bust of SAS hero John McAleese

It is over 41 years since six Iranian gunmen forced their way into the embassy, taking 26 people hostage, including BBC staff, in a protests against their perceived oppression of the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan.

However, it remains one of the most memorable moments of live television as the country, as well as others around the world watched as the assault, labelled Operation Nimrod, saw the embassy stormed.

The gunmen called themselves the Democratic Revolutionary Front for Arabistan and were demanding the release of 91 political prisoners, as well as a plane to fly themselves and the hostages out of the UK.

John McAleese's son Kieran McAleese, 24, daughter Jess Savage, 32, and twin brother Billy McAleese.

The SAS had been called in after on the sixth day of the siege one hostage had been killed by his captors.

With five others already freed, the SAS assault teams rescued the remaining 19 hostages and killed five of the terrorists in a 17-minute operation which was captured live on TV.

John McAleese led Blue Team and was seen on the first-floor balcony of the embassy when he attempts to place an explosive charge on the door.

His career also saw him serve in the Falklands in 1982 and he received the Military Medal in 1988 for his service contribution in Northern Ireland.

Invited guests at the start of the unveiling ceremony

The idea for the memorial came from the charity Ancre Somme Association (ASA) Scotland two years ago as a way of recognising the soldier and others who took part in Operation Nimrod.

After approaching the McAleese family, including John’s twin brother Billy who still lives in Laurieston, they set up the John McAleese MM Commemoration Society to fundraise for the £30,000 memorial.

The unveiling was carried out by Provost William Buchanan and Alan Simpson, HM’s Lord Lieutenant Stirling and Falkirk.

Sculptor Helen Runciman from Denny

The ceremony also included the raising of the Colours, prayers, music, including Laurieston-born opera singer Cheryl Forbes singing Bring Him Home, and wreath laying.

Sculptor Helen Runciman from Denny created the bronze which shows John in his SAS beret.

She said: “It was an honour to work on a project to commemorate a local hero. I hope my work provides a fitting tribute to the memory of a brave Scottish soldier.”John Jenkins, chairman of ASA Scotland said: “This memorial will remember the bravery and heroism of John, the team and everyone who helped rescue 19 hostages, 41 years ago

"I would like to thank everyone who has assisted, promoted and supported this memorial.

"Finally, on behalf of ASA Scotland we say a massive thank you to our Special Forces UK who have kept us safe at home or abroad.

"We will never forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for Sovereign and nation.”Among those attending were John’s son, Kieran McAleese and his daughter Jess Savage, who both live in Brecon , Wales. His other daughter, Hayley McAleese-Lewis, lives in America and was unable to attend.

Tragically John’s eldest son, Sgt Paul McAleese, was killed on active service in Afghanistan in 2009, by a roadside bomb while he was on patrol in Helmand Province.

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.