The Iranian Embassy Queen's Gallantry Medal group of three to Sergeant T.G.C.Palmer, Special Air Service, late Royal Engineers,
Lot 48
The Iranian Embassy Siege Queen's Gallantry Medal group of three to Sergeant T.G.C.Palmer, Special Air Service Regiment, late Royal Engineers,
Sold for £98,750 (US$ 153,417) inc. premium

Lot Details
The Iranian Embassy Siege Queen's Gallantry Medal group of three to Sergeant T.G.C.Palmer, Special Air Service Regiment, late Royal Engineers,
Queen's Gallantry Medal, E.II.R. (24189601 L/Cpl . Thomas.G.C.Palmer R.E.); Campaign Service 1962, two bars, Northern Ireland, Dhofar (24189601 Spr T G C Palmer RE); South Atlantic 1982, with rosette (24189601 Sgt T G C Palmer QGM RE). Good very fine. (Lot)

Footnotes

  • In addition to the medals the lot comprises a quantity of original items relating to him and the Embassy Siege comprising as follows: No.1 Jacket and Trousers with full complement of S.A.S. insignia, this uniform was worn by him at the private investiture held at Buckingham Palace. His burnt protective hood from the siege. Various correspondence which comprises letters from Lt Gen Sir T.Morony Vice Chief of the General Staff; Major General D.Boorman Director of Military Operations; General Sir Robert Ford Colonel Commandant SAS; Major P.H.Gullen; General Sir John Stanier HQ UK Land Forces; Brigadier P.E.de la Billiere HQ Diector of SAS and SAS Group; Lt.Col H.M.Rose SAS, all these letters are congratulating him on the award of the QGM. Photographs relating to his presentation of the QGM at Buckingham Palace, photographs taken during the raid and other military ones (31 photographs in total), newspaper cuttings from the time (45); Telegram; Map of the Iranian Embassy; Details of Terrorists (5); his Advance Driving Certificate; Fishing Memorial Posters; Family Letters (2) An oil on vanvas painting entitled Prince's Gate 'The Backdoor', by John Tidewell 40cm by 50cm, with personal dedication from all ranks of B Squadron 22nd SAS Regiment 5th May 1983; a David Shepherd Print entitled Action at Mirbat Dhofar 19th July 1972; Print entitled Laba Laba by John Tidewell which has been signed by the artist and dedicated to Tommy; Print entitled Adoo, by John Tidewell.


    Sergeant T.G.C.Palmer or "Tommy" was born in 1950 and came from Falkirk. He was brought up in Edinburgh and at the age of 8 was taken into care and was brought up by the Marian Fathers. He stayed with them until he reached the age of 16. He then moved in with his cousin, who despite having recently married and living in a small house, she set him on the straight and narrow. Before joining the army he worked as a coalman but decided early on that the Army would be for him. He joined up in 1970 with 33rd Field Squadron Royal Engineers. He applied to join the SAS in 1973 at the age of 22, one of the youngest ever then to apply. His first selection resulted in an injury and the Selection Team refused to let him continue, however he was back later that year and passed with flying colours and then went on to do his Parachute training.

    Prior to his most highlighted area of service Tommy served in Northern Ireland and did operational tours before and after the embassy siege, precise dates are unknown. The award of the Dhofar bar covered service up to the 30th September 1976, in the latter stages of this campaign in which Tommy was present, the SAS provided advisory teams to help train local forces. The exact period of service that Tommy completed in Dhofar is unknown.

    THE IRANIAN EMBASSY SIEGE

    The liberation of the Iranian Embassy on 5th May 1980 can be considered as perhaps the time when the Special Air Service Regiment was brought to the forefront of the public eye, at a time when it was being considered up for disbandment the resulting action changed the perception within the Government and to the public as a whole and reinforced the legend that is the Special Air Service. The following is an abbreviated account and makes reference to Tommy wherever possible and his important role within the siege.


    WEDNESDAY 30TH APRIL 1980

    The siege began on Wednesday 30th April 1980 at 11.20am, when six terrorists of the "Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan", their name for the oil rich Iranian province of Khuzestan, stormed the building. They were armed with pistols, sub-machine guns and grenades. Their demands included autonomy for Khuzestan and the release of ninety-two Arabs held in Iranian jails.

    In the process of storming the embassy they took 26 people hostage including 2 BBC employees who were trying to speed the process of their Visa applications, these being Sim Harris and Chris Cramer, they had come to see Abbas Lavasani the press attache who was later to be an unfortunate casualty of the siege as it panned out. The other hostages were six other visitors, together with PC Trevor Lock from the Diplomatic Protection Group who was not expecting to be there but had replaced another Officer who was called away. PC Lock went for the first terrorist but was later overpowered as more came into the building. He had a concealed pistol which despite being searched by one of the terrorists remained unnoticed and remained on him throughout the siege. One gunmen fired a shot through the glass panel above the front door sending glass everywhere. Lock in the confusion sent out an emergency call alarm.

    A PC Gray who happened to be in the area contacted the SAS HQ at Hereford, an ex SAS D Squadron member himself he had recently retired to join the Metropolitan Police. Having spoken to Lt Col Mike Rose, Rose in turn spoke to Brigadier Peter de la Billiere who was Director SAS Group. Rose then contacted the Ops Officer Major Ian Crooke to contact the Special Projects team with the live operation code.

    B Squadron had just taken over as Special Projects team from D Squadron, this team comprised two teams, Red Team and Blue Team, Red Team were training at the base, whilst Blue were at home with families or at least not at the base.

    At 11.48am Crooke sent out the 'Live Op' alert code 9999 and the pagers were instantly alerted the members of 6 Troop B Squadron, who were on duty at the time as part of the Special Projects Team, were called together for a briefing. Tommy was part of this team, Major Hector Gullan gave a resume of what had happened, their orders were to get packed and ready to move to Regent's Park Barracks in London. The SP team command group left Hereford and at 17.00 they arrived at the Defence Situation Centre in London for a briefing. They made it to Regent's Park Barracks at 18.30, the barracks were to be the main base for the whole operation, now known as 'Operation Nimrod'.

    The SP Team Range Rovers left Hereford at 19.30 in several pairs at different intervals and arrived at the Army School of Languages in Beaconsfield, and 'persuased' the chef to cook them some dinner.

    In the meantime Lt Col Mike Rose and Major Gullan had flown down by helicopter to RAF Northolt having flown over the embassy to survey the situation, having landed they went by car to the Embassy, dressed in plain clothes they went inside the police cordon and made a preliminary reconnaissance of the outside of the building.

    Meanwhile, surveillance cameras were tactically being drilled into the walls from the neighbouring buildings, aircraft landing at London Heathrow were made to fly lower to increase the noise and hide any sound from drilling. Sadly the walls were thicker than anticipated, and this proved fairly ineffective.

    The terrorists had implied that they would blow up the building at 12pm on the Thursday if their demands were not met.

    THURSDAY 1ST MAY 1980

    Red and Blue teams arrived at Regent's Park Barracks at around 3am and after an initial briefing Mike Rose had decided that a team be moved close to the Embassy for an Immediate Action plan, Red team were the lucky ones. Regent's Park Barracks was over three and a half miles away, too far for a quick response. They carried out a detailed reconnaissance and based themselves next door ready for an Immediate Action assault.

    The Iranian Government rejected the idea of prisoner release and the leader of the group Oan Ali Mohammed "Salim" said he would kill all the hostages at midday. The BBC man Chris Cramer who had began suffering with a serious stomach complaint was released to seek medical treatment, PC Lock had subtley told him to tell the authorities about all the terrorists and weapons they were carrying. He in turn on his release briefed them with good detailed descriptions.

    Before midday a Superintendent Luff of Special Branch appeared at the front of the building and appealed with them to extend the deadline, Salim agreed to a 2 hour extension.

    The Embassy's caretaker was found and he gave a huge amount of information relating to the layout of the building but importantly let it be known that the Ground and First Floor Windows had armoured glass which ruled out any sledgehammer attack for an Immediate Action assault. This helped with the construction of a mock-up of the building at Regent's Park Barracks to an exacting detail.

    By 14.30 Salim said he would extend the deadline to 16.30 if the phones were reconnected, and he wanted various Arab Ambassadors to broker a deal to get him the other terrorists and hostages to Heathrow and get safe passage out of the UK. As time went by more demands were given and deadlines came and went unfulfilled.

    FRIDAY 2ND MAY 1980

    Blue Team were expecting to move to relieve Red Team who had now been on standby for 24 hours, they set off and arrived at 0330 to meet up with Red Team at the holding area next door to the embassy. After a briefing Blue Team went to inspect chosen entry points on the roof only in an event when they had to go in to release the hostages.

    Negotiations now rested on getting an aeroplane to fly the terrorists and the hostages out of London, however the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided that it was going to end where it began in Prince's Gate. Much dialogue and negotiation took place with small concessions over the telephone raising hopes by telling them that their demands would be met within a day or two at the most but then stalling them.

    SATURDAY 3RD MAY 1980

    Negotiation continues, but the release of two hostages was agreed for the broadcast of their demands, the first was released at 20.21 a Mrs Hiyech Kanji the Embassy secretary. The Nine o'clock news on Radio 2 gave a brief statement of the demands but Salim fortunately had listened to the World Service which gave the full wording that he had wanted. The second hostage Ali Guil Ghanzafar was released at 21.20.

    The SAS knowing that given the release of the hostage, morale was better in the embassy, they in turn went onto the roof of the embassy having found the skylight they were able to open it and enter into what was a small bathroom below, a guaranteed entry point.

    An original plan mooted at the time was to go in through the skylight in the middle of the night, with night vision goggles and silencers fitted to the weapons and take out the hostages while the majority were asleep. However that was not considered to be the done thing on British soil.

    In addition to the two teams planning an eventual assault on the building, the possible assaulting of a coach was done if the terrorists and hostages were to be transported to Heathrow.


    SUNDAY 4TH MAY 1980

    The terrorists begin to write and comment about the Ayatollah which the Press Secretary Abbas Lavasani and Afrouz took great exception to, at one point Lavasani charged across the room to one of the gunmen, the gunmen cocked his weapon and gave an indication that he would shoot. Lavasani was restrained and eventually calmed down but was now a marked man.

    At 17.06 the negotiators called Salim and gave him the bad news that none of the Arab ambassadors wanted to help mediate, Salim's response was to threaten to kill the hostages.

    Throughout the day another hostage Mustapha Karkouti had been suffering from stomach pains and despite having received medicine it was decided by Salim that he would be released, which he did at 20.20, but he had intimated to him that something bad would happen and to tell the authorities this and to sort out a meeting with the Arab ambassadors.

    The negotiators thanked Salim for his generosity and despite offering this and food, Salim wanted neither just still the meeting with the ambassadors.

    MONDAY 5TH MAY 1980

    At 11am Salim ordered PC Lock to shout to the police to tell them that the terrorists would begin killing in thirty minutes if there was no news of an ambassador's meeting.

    Salim moved the men to the Telex room and after hearing Superintendent Luff say that it was being worked on, as well as a bland message on the midday news, Salim began to get agitated. At 12.15 he got Lock and Harris from the Telex room at the same time Lavasani wanted to go to the toilet so the three of them and the gunmen went down to the ground floor.

    When Lavasani finished he came out and had three gunmen pointing at him, Salim then told Lock to tell the authorities that they would kill a hostage in five minutes, which he duly relayed over the telephone, Lavasani had been tied to the bannisters, the negotiator said that this would not get them anywhere which Salim overheard, he grabbed the phone from Lock. Lock and Harris were then led upstairs passing Lavasani who was then with the phone pressed to him pleading with the negotiators to save him. Shortly after this three shots were fired.

    The SAS were ready to go in instantly but were restrained by the formula arrived at by the advisers to the Home Secretary William Whitelaw, this being that only when two hostages had been killed only then could armed intervention begin.

    At 13.25 Lock was taken back downstairs and was instructed to tell the authorities that one hostage would be shot every forty-five minutes. Lock said that one man had been shot and another one would be killed in thirty minutes.

    Further comments were made to Salim which put the deadline back to 5pm but he stated that if he did not get safe passage another person would die.

    Permission to put the assault force on 'notice to move' - the final stage before the authorisation of the actual attack- was eventually given at 3.50 and by 5.00 they were in position in the building next door to the embassy, ready to go when given the order.

    The police had brought Dr Darsh who was a Muslim Imam from the Regent's Park Mosque to talk to the terrorists, confirming that no harm would come to them if they surrendered peacefully. Despite Dr Darsh speaking to Salim, Salim slammed the phone down having already confirmed that one hostage had been killed and that others would follow. Darsh phoned back and told Salim the Ambassadors were still in a meeting, he then put the deadline back to 7pm, but would now kill two hostages if the situation had not been resolved slamming down the phone again. Shortly afterwards he was back on the line and said he would kill in two minutes. Darsh then said he would go to the ambassadors himself, Salim then fired three shots and the phone went dead.

    Shortly after this Lavasani's body was pushed outside. The authorities thought that with the recent shots another hostage must have been killed.

    The Home Secretary felt unable to make the decision for the final assault, it was referred to the Prime Minister and she gave her immediate consent. The senior police officer Assistant Commissioner John Dellow handed over control to Mike Rose at 7.07pm that evening. Red and Blue teams were both ready and moved to final assault positions.

    The basic plan was for Red Team to clear the top section of the building from the roof downwards working through the fourth floor to the second floor. Blue Team were to work upwards clearing the basement, ground and first floors, with the two teams meeting in the heart of the embassy. Each team was split into sections Red Team into Romeo One and Romeo Two etc and Blue as Bravo One and Bravo Two. Tommy was part of Romeo Two. Each was allocated a particular task and area to clear and secure. Their gas masks and weapons had small sections of tape attached for distinguishing purposes, otherwise they looked identical in relevant assault equipment. Tommy's Team were to abseil off the roof down to the balcony on the Second Floor and assault from there on in. The latest intelligence reports had hostages and terrorists in the Telex Room on the Second Floor, therefore this part of the attack was critical.

    The various other teams were preparing to assume positions and at 19.14 the distraction team, who were to blow the main skylight above the stairwell, and Tommy's Romeo Two team began moving onto the roof. The explosive was lowered into place above the skylight and the team of 8 clipped onto the abseil rope, which had been positioned ready several days before on the Saturday night, to descend as two groups of four. The ropes were thrown over and down. At 19.23 Major Gullan transmitted the codeword "Bank Robbery" and the first wave of abseilers assumed position, they needed a few extra seconds above all the other assault teams, Gullan then called "London Bridge" and the first pair of abseilers set off, Tommy was on the right hand rope and his Team leader on the left. The leader's rope snagged and he desperately tried to free it, but despite frantic efforts it would not budge. Tommy had similar bad luck the rope swayed slightly involuntarily towards the embassy, not a great deal but enough to break a pane of glass in the tall vertical window.

    Meanwhile at the same time Police negotiators continued to talk to Salim, promising him that his demands would be met and that a coach was on its way to transport the terrorists and hostages to Heathrow, this kept Salim busy and upbeat, this conversation was expressly dragged out to give the SAS time to get into position. Salim wanted Lock to drive the bus to Heathrow, both he and Lock were on the first floor. The remaining hostages were still held in two rooms on the second floor.

    During the phonecall with the negotiator Salim claimed to have heard suspicious noises, the negotiator on the phone tried to convince him nothing suspicious was going on, Salim went to check, as the sound of breaking glass was heard.

    This noise alerted Salim and as Major Gullan was listening on this the order to launch the assault was given a few seconds early. It was 7.24pm.

    The remaining two abseilers in the first wave went down separate ropes and desperately tried to help Tommy and the team leader down.

    Given this major problem Gullan shouted 'Go Go Go' and these extra seconds counteracted the fact they had been rumbled, the explosive charge above the skylight was detonated.

    A few seconds later Blue Team's frame charges blew out the first floor window at the front of the building, followed by stun grenades thrown through the window.

    By now the other four abseiliers of Romeo Two had reached the balcony, Tommy having seen that the curtains had been drawn and saw that the room was in darkness he kicked out the rest of the glass and threw in two stun grenades, as the abseilers would have been very easy to pick off.

    Tommy tried desperately to free the Team Leader but flames were now coming up from the Second Floor as a result of the Stun Grenades setting light to the curtains, and these were now setting light to them both. Tommy managed to get down his rope to the balcony and then the Team Leader had his rope cut, despite falling around 12 feet and being burned he got up and carried on.

    Tommy and the other three drove through the smashed windows as one, they met no gunmen or hostages. There were two doors ahead of them, one led to the small cipher room where the female hostages were supposed to be. The door to this room was locked but they blasted the locks to it and found the four female hostages who by now were hysterical.

    The second door was to lead to the landing and stairwell, again this was locked, Tommy put a blast into the lock and the Team Leader kicked the door despite his injuries, it moved a fraction, the terrorists however had blocked it with furniture, despite repeated kicks and shoulder barges it would not move. Tommy then remembered there was another window on the balcony which led to another room and thought he would try that room as a means of entry. By now all the curtains and paint on the windows was on fire. He climbed through this burning mass and felt the intense heat all over, on climbing onto the balcony he pulled off his respirator and smouldering NBC hood (included with the lot), and slapped at his head and shoulders to extinguish the flames. He looked through the left hand window and saw a figure crouching at the back of this room. Tommy thought that he had not seen him and began to enter from the balcony, he noticed that the terrorist Hassan was trying to set light to the carpet, Tommy took aim and fired, but his sub machine gun performed the "Dead Man's Click" where the mechanism clicked but no round fired, no doubt an horrendous experience given the situation, Hassan no doubt was in a similar state of bewilderment as Tommy. Hassan fired back with his pistol but missed. Tommy then dropped his gun and reached for his Browning pistol which was in a quick draw holster strapped to his thigh, the terrorist then fled. Tommy gave chase and saw him run into the Telex Room where all the male hostages were being kept, as he kept running he could hear shooting and screaming, when Hassan ran into the room he made for the far left-hand corner and took out a hand grenade with his hand positioned to remove the pin, when Tommy entered the room he caught sight of Hassan and took note of the grenade, in a split second he shot him dead with a single round. In the split second between Hassan coming in and Tommy arriving the other gunmen despite firing and killing a hostage had thrown their weapons down. Red Team leader spotted the combat jacket of one of the men in the room and despite protesting he was a student he was searched and during this a pistol magazine was found, he began to turn over and given that the SAS man saw a holstered pistol he instantly shot him because he had begun to go for a grenade which subsequently appeared.

    Meanwhile on the First Floor Salim was distracted by the noise and confusion and it was with this opportunity that PC Trevor Lock wrestled him to the ground and held his concealed pistol to his head, while this was going on two stun grenades had detonated in the room and the SAS burst in. One Trooper shouted "Trevor" and told him to roll out of the away, then Salim was quickly dispatched by sub-machine gun. With a further terrorist shot on the first floor. There were two other terrorists still unnacounted for, these having secreted themselves within the main body of hostages in the Telex Room.

    The main briefing for the operation was to get the hostages out and with the burning and confusion the hostages were rough handled down the stairs, passed along from hand to hand along a human chain searching for any clue that a terrorist was hiding amongst them. Suddenly a trooper spotted a fragmentation grenade in a man's hand, he could not fire without hitting others in the line of fire as the ammunition was high powered, but pointed out to the others further down the stairs that there was a "Bad Guy" coming down. A trooper further down the stairs smashed the stock of his weapon into the back of the terrorist's neck. He tumbled to the bottom of the flight of stairs, where two SAS men riddled him with fire, he released the grenade, fortunately the pin of the hand grenade was still in.

    The rest of the hostages were shoved and pushed along the chain and out into the back garden, where they were told to lie face down, they were tied up, whilst their identity was checked. A further terrorist Fowzi Nejad was found amongst them and taken prisoner, he was the only one to survive. He was subsequently imprisoned, and was released in November 2008.

    The hostage shot in the first moments of the assault in the Telex room was the only one to die apart from the press attache Abbas Lavasani whose body was dumped outside the building. The second shooting by Salim turned out to be a bluff.

    The team handed control back to the police, handed their weapons back for forensic examination and returned to Regent's Park barracks. Despite great celebration later that day, and a visit from the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Tommy was quite sick as a result of the huge stress placed on him over the days prior to and the eventual assault. With the job done it was back to Hereford.

    The Queen's Gallantry Medal was awarded to 3 Troopers of the SAS of which Tommy was one. A further 2 George Medals were awarded for the siege, one to a Trooper of the SAS and the other to PC Trevor Lock of the Metropolitan Police.

    The Queen's Gallantry Medal was presented to Tommy by H.M. The Queen in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in June 1981.


    THE FALKLANDS CAMPAIGN

    On the 2nd April 1982 at 4.30am Argentian Special Forces landed on the East Falklands, having engaged the Royal Marines two hours later, the main force followed and landed at 8am at Port Stanley, the Royal Marines knew they could not carry on and the Governor Sir Rex Hunt ordered a surrender at 9.15am.

    Early in the morning of 5th April an RAF VC-10 flew out of Brize Norton with 60 members of D Squadron SAS as well as 20 support staff and plenty of firepower, they were heading for Ascension Island. It was to be the forward mounting base for the planned task force and a refuelling stage for southbound aircraft. Tommy at the time was serving with B squadron and this was to be held in reserve at Hereford. D Squadron left Ascension Island on the 9th April as part of the South Georgia Task Group, the job was to retake South Georgia which had also been overrun by Argentine forces.

    The island was retaken relatively swiftly on the 26th April, and B Squadron feared they were not going to be used at all. However the Exocet missile threat was too much to bear and B Squadron were to be sent to the Argentine air base to destroy the jets that carried them. B Squadron having trained for the impending assault set off for Ascension. The plan was to fly on from Ascension in two C130's land at Rio Grande air base and destroy all the planes and cause total havoc then escape and slip over the border into Chile. However on their arrival they received some terrible news.

    On the 20th May men from D and G Squadrons were moving by helicopter from Hermes to Intrepid and tragically the helicopter suffered a bird strike and it crashed into the sea killing 20 people of which 18 were from the Regiment. The following day B Squadron began priming grenades and loading ammunition in preparation for the impending raid. However the raid was cancelled at the last minute and the Squadron was stood down. Within 24 hours they were on board the C130's in diver's dry suits and with paletted equipment were to be flown down, parachute into the water and be then collected and put on board Andromeda to then boost D Squadron. After several hours looking for a missing palett of equipment Andromeda headed to San Carlos water for the following morning. Their role was to operate behind enemy lines, setting up observation posts, ambushes etc.. Having been moved to Sir Lancelot which had been set up as the SAS Quick Reaction Force base, despite having been hit, Tommy and others set off in the Sea King to West Falkland, they were put down at the DZ and having checked the coast was clear began the trek for their ambush point. The point they made for had been used before as a recce point and had observed regular Argentine patrols. The conditions made the whole experience a testing time, no hot food, no fires, no cigarettes, no talking. Eventually having not seen anyone they pulled out and headed off for the Landing Zone to be picked up by the Sea King. It could be viewed that Tommy had a fairly quiet Falklands campaign as other elements of D Squadron were involved in a multitude of activity, it could have course been very different if the original operation had been given the green light.

    At the end of the campaign Tommy and his colleague Pete Winner decided to organise a major celebration, having acquired an Argentine Mercedes wagon Tommy persuased a Royal Naval colleague to supply some beer and from another source some steak rather than Army rations. The party was a great success.

    Tragically Tommy died on 8th February 1983, aged 31 near Lurgan in Northern Ireland when he and another SAS soldier whilst on a covert operation died when the car they were driving overturned and struck an embankment on the M1.

    In his spare time he loved to fish and as a mark of respect there was a special Memorial Cup held in his memory in Hereford, this ran for a number of years after his death. The lot includes correspondence and posters relating to this popular event.

Saleroom notices

  • The Campaign Service Medal has been found to be a later official replacement claimed by Sergeant Palmer personally. The following items have been withdrawn within the lot but photocopied replacements have been supplied: Advance Driving Certificate, Fishing Memorial Posters, Family Letters.
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