John McAleese – a famous SAS operator

Operation NIMROD: Siege of Iranian embassy in London, 1980 John McAleese and his team on the balcony
Operation NIMROD: Siege of Iranian embassy in London, 1980 (Photo: XY)

John McAleese was a famous SAS operator who fought in several conflicts in the late 20th century. He also took part in Operation Nimrod, a famous Special Air Service (SAS) raid at the Iranian embassy in London in May 1980. The Iranian embassy was under siege and its employees were held hostage for almost a month. The siege was ended with a daring SAS full-scale assault.

Introduction

John Thomas “Mac” McAleese, was born on 25 April 1949 in Scotland. He grew up in Laurieston, Falkirk. McAleese joined the British army in 1969 and soon was deployed to 59th independent command, Royal Engineers. He was just 20 years old. Six years later, he moved to Hereford in 1975 after he passed the selection course for the SAS. He served in the rank of Lance Corporal in the B squadron, 22 SAS Regiment.

Military career

As John Mac told in the TV show, the moment which changed his life was the hostage crisis in the Iranian embassy. McAleese became famous after he was spotted with members of SAS Blue Team live on television. John McAleese was seen on the first-floor balcony of the Iranian embassy, just at the moment when he attempts to place an explosive charge on the door. It was moments before they stormed the building on 05 May 1980.

John McAleese - a famous SAS operator
John McAleese: Leader of the SAS team that ended the 1980 siege of the Iranian embassy in London (Photo: XY)

In the further SAS career, John McAleese served also in the Falkland War in 1982, and he received the Military Medal in 1988 for his service contribution in Northern Ireland. He also served as a personal bodyguard for three major British ministers. He left the army in 1992 in the rank of Sergeant and after the army, he was appointed as a security consultant in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also was an instructor of Airsoft.

SAS: Are you tough enough?

John McAleese becomes famous when he told his life story in the TV Show named SAS: Are you tough enough? With his mustaches trademark in the shape of a horseshoe, he was shortly recognized as the legend of the World’s special forces. The show was aired on British television and had a certain success.

It was produced from 2002-2004 exposing volunteer members of the public to the experience of the British Army’s Special Air Service’s selection process. It was presented by Dermot O’Leary, alongside already mentioned John Mac. The TV show is filmed in Southern Morocco – and the contestants will be staying in a makeshift training camp within a 150-year-old Kasbar, or fortress, in the foothills of the mountains.

The life and death of John McAleese

John Mac died on 26 August 2011 in Thessaloniki, Greece, from a heart attack. The funeral was held in the cathedral in Hereford with military honors.

He was married twice. His heart weakened in 2009, when his son, then 29-year old Sergeant Paul McAleese was killed on duty in Helmand, Afghanistan when his vehicle was hit by IED. He was a member of 2 Battalion The Rifles and his only wish was to be like his father. He wanted to join the Special Air Service. John McAleese had his second wife, a daughter from his first marriage, and two children from his second marriage.

Sergeant Paul McAleese, son of famous British soldier and SAS hero John McAleese, killed on duty in Helmand province, Afghanistan
Sergeant Paul McAleese, son of a famous British soldier and SAS hero John McAleese, killed on duty in Helmand province, Afghanistan (Photo: XY)

Call of Duty: Captain Price

John McAleese also was honored in 2003 when he was featured in the popular video game Call of Duty, where he gave the concept of the character Captain Price. Price had a large mustache which was directly inspired by John McAleese who was also well known for his large mustache. He was also the man behind the character Shug Mcdonald in the Thief Mistress books. He appeared in many sequels ever and was recognized by millions worldwide.

Still bearing a large moustache, this modern take on Captain Price drew further inspiration from British SAS soldier John McAleese,[2] who was involved in the Iranian Embassy siege and also co-hosted the television series SAS: Are You Tough Enough? in 2003.
Still bearing a large mustache, this modern take on Captain Price drew further inspiration from British SAS soldier John McAleese,[2] who was involved in the Iranian Embassy siege and also co-hosted the television series SAS: Are You Tough Enough? in 2003. (Photo: Call of Duty)
The story of John McAleese lives. Despite he died almost 18 years ago, people from the SAS community still remember this great warrior.

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