On April 30, 1980, 6 men approached the Iranian Embassy at Princes Gate, in South Kensington, London. They were Arabs, members of a little known dissident group called the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan, an oil-rich area of Iran that had ruled itself autonomously until 1925. Their goals were to reestablish independence from Iran, and as they pulled automatic weapons and rushed into the embassy lobby, soon they believed, the world would know of their cause.

Overpowering a lone British constable, Trevor Lock, the gunmen shouted at the embassy staff and fired their weapons into the air, forcing them to the floor. They worked their way up the stairs repeating the process until they captured the remaining personnel, but not before three people managed to escape by climbing outside across a parapet to the Ethiopian embassy next door. Behind them, 26 hostages remained.

Within minutes of the gunfire, police began arriving at the embassy and assessing the threat. An attempt to surround the multi-story building failed after one of the gunmen appeared in a window threatening to fire. Inside, the terrorists corralled their captives, unaware that one of them, Constable Lock, still concealed his service revolver even after being searched. As it turns out, Lock would later play a vital role as events came to a climax.

The Iranian Embassy Siege Begins

The terrorists issued their first demands, requiring Iran to release 91 Arabs from their prisons or they would blow the embassy up on May 1. What followed over the next few days were intense negotiations but little headway. The police did an admirable job of stalling the group as another plan to end the siege was formulated.

The 22nd Special Air Service (SAS), an elite British Army unit created during World War 2 and honed through insurgency battles in Malaysia and other hot spots, was chosen to carry out an assault that seemed tailor-made for the detachment’s Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing, men who specialized in Anti-Terror operations such as hostage recovery. In short order, Operation Nimrod became a reality.

On May 5th, the sixth day of the siege, one of the hostages were executed, resulting in the operation being moved into place. Prime Minister Thatcher placed authority for the situation under the British Army and Lieutenant Colonel Mike Rose, the 22nd’s commander, and soon, two teams, designated Red and Blue, involving about 35 men, crept into position atop the embassy.

Operation Nimrod

At 7:23 P.M., with a nationwide TV audience watching, the S.A.S commenced the assault. Black-uniformed operators wearing gas masks and carrying MP-5 SMG’s began rappelling down to breach windows on the second floor. A stun grenade detonated, starting a fire that began to grow as the SAS raced down the darkened halls, shattering door locks with full-auto fire, tossing stun grenades and clearing rooms. Their gun sights swept for targets and shredded them with quick bursts. They located the hostages, secured them, and led them away as an entrance for other SAS blew out the first-floor balcony with an ear-shattering burst.