Herbert Westmacott

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For the New Zealand farmer, soldier and memoirist, see Herbert Horatio Spencer Westmacott.
Herbert Westmacott
Birth name Herbert Richard Westmacott
Born 11 January 1952
Chichester, West Sussex
Died 2 May 1980(1980-05-02) (aged 28)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Captain
Unit Grenadier Guards
Special Air Service
Battles/wars Operation Banner 
Awards Military Cross
Relations Sir Peter Westmacott (cousin)

Captain Herbert Richard Westmacott, MC (11 January 1952 – 2 May 1980) was a British Army officer who became the first person to be awarded a posthumous Military Cross. As an officer of the Grenadier Guards (2nd Battalion)[1] on Extra Regimental Employment to the Special Air Service (SAS), he died in an encounter with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). He was the highest-ranking officer of the SAS to be killed in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner.

He was in command of an eight man plain clothes SAS patrol that had been alerted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary that an IRA gun team had taken over a house on Antrim Road, Belfast.[2] A car carrying three SAS men went to the rear of the house, and another car carrying five SAS men went to the front of the house.[3] As the SAS arrived at the front of the house the IRA unit, nicknamed the "M60 gang", opened fire from a window with an M60 machine gun, hitting Captain Westmacott in the head and shoulder killing him instantly.[3] The remaining SAS men at the front, returned fire but were forced to withdraw.[2][3] One member of the IRA team was apprehended by the SAS at the rear of the house, preparing the unit's escape in a transit van, while the other three IRA members remained inside the house.[4] More members of the security forces were deployed to the scene, and after a brief siege the remaining members of the IRA unit surrendered.[2] His death left him as the highest ranking SAS officer to be killed in Northern Ireland.[5]

After his death Westmacott was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in Northern Ireland during the period 1 February 1980 to 30 April 1980.[6]

Captain Westmacott's cousin is Sir Peter Westmacott, a British ambassador who facilitated the first meeting between Gerry Adams and Sir Patrick Mayhew.[7]

Several men including Angelo Fusco, Paul Magee and Joe Doherty were later convicted of murder by the Northern Ireland authorities.[5][8][9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.nivetsannex.com/ROH/certs/M1196.pdf
  2. ^ a b c Bowyer Bell, pp.487–488
  3. ^ a b c Murray, p.256
  4. ^ Dillon, p.94.
  5. ^ a b "Irish police arrest former IRA killer". BBC News. 4 January 2000. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48346. p. 14608. 20 October 1980.
  7. ^ Daily Mirror 29 August 2006
  8. ^ New York Times "Gunman of the IRA: A Five Year Wait". New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  9. ^ John Mullin (10 March 2000). "Dublin court bails IRA man wanted for murdering SAS officer 20 years ago". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2007.