Stirling Lines, Hereford, England. 18th May 2000
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Dance, Officer Commanding 22 SAS Regiment, was at a table drinking coffee in the empty mess hall when James Fallon entered and joined him. Unshaven, his hair long and dressed in a battered khaki sweater, old cavalry twill trousers and running shoes, Dance was living up to his image as the scruffiest soldier in the British Army. “Good morning, James,” he said.
“Good Morning, Peter.”
“Ever been to Tunis?” He pushed a cup of fresh coffee across the table.
“Perhaps you should give it a try. I had a call from the Brigadier this morning. The Tunisian President has requested British help in resolving the seizure of the Libyan Embassy; it seems he remembered the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980. The big surprise is, the Prime Minister has agreed to his request. And the Defence Minister contacted the Brigadier who has tossed the ball into my lap. So, would you like to go?”
Fallon grinned. “Yes, I would. I’d like nothing better.”
“They’ve already killed one hostage. So it’s urgent.”
“What about a squad?”
“I’ll take Simon Pierce, John Curtis and Mike Maudsley.”
“That’s quick. They’ll go?”
“I’m sure they will.”
“It’s your call, but is four enough? You face ten, remember.”
“Too many cooks tend to mess up the soup.”
“I agree. So, get prepared. I’ve arranged for a C130 Hercules courtesy the RAF to be on standby.”
“I’d better get a move on then.” Fallon drained his cup and stood up.
Dance held out his hand. “I'll see you off, James."
Arriving in Tunis three and a half hours after leaving England and received by a party of three Tunisian military officers, Fallon’s squad was driven fast to the beleaguered embassy. Knowing they’d be facing the world’s media, they slipped on black silk balaclavas before emerging from the truck. Fallon requested a place to reconnoiter the building and make preparations and was offered corner rooms in an adjacent office block.
Six storey’s high, the building that housed the Libyan Embassy stood alone in grounds behind a high perimeter wall. The SAS team sought its weaknesses, using binoculars and utilizing architectural drawings and photographs.
“Entrance at ground level is out,” Fallon said. “The front door is immensely strong and has a steel security door immediately behind it. All the ground level windows carry armoured glass. But I see a way in at the rear.” He pointed to a drawing. “See that? There’s a sloping path leading down to a basement door. It’s no doubt used for moving things in and out, garbage and such. It’s possible, probable even, they’re unaware of it.”
“Even if they are aware, it’s still a sound way in,” Curtis said.
Pointing out an access door on the flat roof, Simon Pierce took the view that a rooftop penetration would have advantages. “Coming down on them in a descending attack will scare the shit out of them.”
Fallon nodded. “Yes, it would. Coming down behind stun grenades tossed ahead.”
“And CS gas.”
“I say we do both and hit them from above and below. Simon and John take the roof and come down like avenging gods with noise and fury providing a hammer while Mike and I come up silently from below supplying an anvil.”
“But how to get on the roof?” Pierce asked.
“The only sane way is by air. I’ll speak to the military and try to get a helicopter. You’ll drop down from that. For Mike and I getting to the rear basement door is also problematic. If we come over the wall, cutting through the razor wire and dropping in, we could be seen. So, it’s best we also come down from the chopper with you onto the roof, then continue down the back wall. There are few windows at the back that we can easily avoid.”
“A six storey abseil is long. We’ll need a lot of rope,” Maudsley said.
“We have enough. Now, Simon. Make noise coming down, lots of mayhem. Convince them that the attack is fierce and coming only from above.”
Pierce grinned. “No problem, James.”
“Now,” Fallon said. “Take no chances. But If they surrender, take them. We’re soldiers, not butchers. Any comments?” There were none.
“We’re agreed then? No dissension?” All nodded and smiled.
“Then, let’s do it.” The four men gripped hands. “Who dares wins,” they said in unison.
With a deafening roar, a Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter clattered over the front garden of the embassy and poised above the roof. In combat array, bearing Keckler and Koch MP 5 sub-machine guns, the four troopers came smoothly down onto the rooftop. The aircraft peeled away. Securing their abseil ropes to well-secured grappling hooks, Fallon and Maudsley began a careful descent down the building’s rear face.
Pierce and Curtis sprinted across to the box like structure that carried the service door to find it locked. “Shit,” Curtis hissed.
Pierce produced a stubby shotgun loaded with a breaching-round. He blew the lock apart. “They will have heard that. They’ll know we’re coming.”
“That’s what we want, Simon.”
“Yes, but be on guard, John.”
They went through the door and down the service stairwell. The top floor was empty. Its rooms devoid of furnishings, its carpets filthy with discarded litter, it stank from lack of use. Chaotic noise, shouting, came from below. They pressed on down. At the fifth floor level, hearing voices, Curtis eased open the door and threw a stun grenade inside. After the flash-bang detonation, they rushed in to find three men reeling in disorientation, their weapons discarded on the floor carpet. After Pierce had fired a five round burst through the floor, they dragged the men down and restrained them in plastic restraint cuffs, hands and feet. Pulling on gas masks, they continued down the stairwell.
Below them, Fallon and Maudsley broke through the flimsy basement door. After clearing the basement and cellar, they moved up to the ground floor to find the double doors locked. A burst from Maudsley’s MP5 destroyed the lock, and they pushed through, Fallon turning left, Maudsley going right, both surprised to find the floor empty and unguarded. But Maudsley’s gunfire had brought attention as two men in black balaclavas came fast down the main staircase firing wildly almost hitting Maudsley, who threw himself prostrate. Fallon crouched and fired, raking the stair at waist level killing both men. He watched them crumble down the stairs. From above, the boom of CS gas canisters detonating were followed by screams and gasping cries. After several short fusillades, Pierce and Curtis appeared prodding three men before them their arms raised and reported to Fallon. In a fourth floor engagement, Pierce had killed a man and Curtis nailed another one coming up the service stairwell, making four dead and six captives. Fallon checked his watch. Nineteen minutes had passed since they’d touched down on the embassy roof. The four shook hands.
Breaking open the doors of the reception room, they found the hostages. Weary, hungry and needing showers, the prisoners greeted their rescuers with cries and smiles of relief. The troopers guided them from the room and out the front door into the sunlight to a rising roar from the crowd. And as if on cue, perhaps to gain some credit, the police forced the gates, poured through and rushed in a wave across the lawn to take charge.
After cleaning up and a change of clothes, the squad had dinner and a short meeting with a grateful President at Government House before leaving for home. On board the C130, Fallon called Colonel Dance and gave him a brief report.
“Good work, James. Of course I watched it on BBC World along with millions of others.”
“They suspect it’s us I suppose?”
“The news media? Oh yes. The MOD will deny our involvement, but it won’t hold for long. The cat will be out of the bag all too soon which will suit the Brigadier. So hurry back or you’ll miss the party.”
“The Brigadier’s orders. He’s pleased as Punch.”
“Is he coming?”
“He’s on his way. See you boys later.” The line closed.
The squad settled down around a table and played poker and drank cold beer from cans, a gift from the flight crew.
“I suppose there’s going to be a piss-up,” Pierce said.
Fallon grinned. “It’s already started, Simon. The Brigadier ordered it. He’s coming up from London.”
Maudsley laughed. “If Jack Lacey’s coming, it’ll be one huge piss-up.”
"It's about time," Curtis said. "It's been awhile."
At six o’clock in the evening, the Stirling Lines mess hall was packed
and the mission celebration party two hours old when Fallon led his team
in. The DSF, Brigadier John “Big Jack” Lacey, had taken the train from
London and was sitting with Peter Dance at the head table. He stood and
gave each of the four men a bear hug. Dance shook their hands, and they
sat down to a table laden with whisky and beer.
A five piece Irish folk band was on the stage delivering a repertoire of folk songs. Four boys on instruments with a girl lead singer, they’d been doing gigs at the Hereford pubs and been dragooned in. After a haunting version of Danny Boy, they took a break and left the stage. Urged on by Peter Dance, Fallon and Pierce took their place and, accompanied by Mike Maudsley on an upright-piano, performed the old Flanagan and Allen music hall number, Underneath the Arches.
Underneath the arches
We dream our dreams away
Wearing ill-fitting jackets, flat caps and using Cockney accents they linked arms, swayed and tap-danced across the stage.
Underneath the arches
On cobblestones we lay.
It brought the house down.
But the highlight, and surprise, of the evening, occurred just after ten when Chantal, Fallon’s French wife came through the door. Decked out in an ivory trouser suit, a matching hat and carrying a bottle of champagne, she smiled and waved a hand, acknowledging a greeting of whoops and yells.
At the head table, she embraced the men; Fallon first and ending with a special hug and kiss for Brigadier Lacey. She opened the bottle, filled glasses and a toast was drunk. She then whispered in Fallon’s ear, giggled and went up on the stage.
Taking up the microphone she sang
Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. She sang it well and with passion,
ending on a long vibrato. After a standing ovation, she wiped tears from
her eyes, waved her thanks and quickly left the mess. And the party
went back to its male roots.
Around midnight, a weary Fallon left the mess to find Chantal waiting with the car. He got in beside her.
“How do you feel,” she asked, moving off.
He shrugged. “Tired. I need a good long sleep. So, take me home, sweetheart.”
“You look OK.”
"That’s because I didn’t drink much tonight.”
“The mission debriefing.”
“The the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow we rest.”
“Good. We’ll have a riverside lunch at the Saracen’s Head Inn.”
“When will you tell Colonel Dance that you’re quitting?”
“After the debriefing.”
“He will be upset I think.”
“I very much doubt it. We’ve often discussed it. My timing may surprise him, but I believe he’s expecting it.”
“He’s always encouraged me. Peter has ambitions of his own, though I’m not sure what they are. Global Solutions was his idea; the name I mean. I thought Fallon Security Incorporated or Fallon Security International or some such would be fine. He called them dull and boring. And he was right.”
“What about the big boss? Does he know?”
“Big Jack? I’m not sure. He barely knew me before, but our little excursion in Tunis has changed that. It made his day. Jack Lacey has a lot on his plate. He’s constantly at war defending the Regiment against those in the Ministry of Defense and what he calls spotty faced politicians who want to cut spending. Tunis has given him ammunition.”
After thirty minutes they reached the village of Symonds Yat. Chantal passed through and onto the river road and parked by a cottage on the west bank of the Wye River. “Home sweet home,” he said and got out.
In the kitchen, Fallon poured a malt Scotch whisky and went into the living room. Chantal joined him with two cups of espresso coffee.
“James, you’re aware that Britain absolutely teems with security companies. I checked on the internet today. I couldn’t believe it. You face considerable competition.”
Fallon grinned. “Yes, I agree if I were contemplating a run of the mill security firm. But I wouldn’t even think about opening such a company. Global Solutions will be in a different league.”
Chantal smiled. “Explain.”
“OK. If you want security guards for your company premises or some such, you go to Securicor. If you want to protect a valuable shipment, such as gold or diamonds, you go to Brinks. But if you want to protect your ship from a risk of piracy attack you go to Global Solutions.”
She laughed. “Piracy?”
“That’s history, a 17th Century problem.”
He smiled. “It’s very much a 21st Century problem. And it’s a big problem costing the shipping lines and insurance companies big money. And Global Solutions is going to tackle it head on.”
“You think you can, James?”
Fallon took a long sip of whisky. “Just watch me.”
The debriefing covering the Tunis operation, now code named Operation Arabesque, opened a 8.00am. Chaired by RSM Watson with Colonel Dance attending, it was recorded on video camera. The session was informal and satisfactorily wrapped up inside four hours, after which Fallon took Dance aside and gave him notice of quitting.
“Good for you, James.”
“You’re not surprised?”
“Not in the least
Fallon grinned. “Expecting it?”
“I was. And the great thing is you go out on a high note. And I’ll do all I can to help you get Global Solutions going.”
“Thanks, Peter. I know I can rely on you.”
“What about finance?”“I’m working on a credit line with my bank manager. But I’m fortunate as my father has offered to help me there.”
“It’s always nice to have rich Daddy, James.”
Back with the others, Fallon told them he’d resigned and suggested lunch and a celebration rink at the Spread Eagle Arms in Hereford.
Pierce laughed. “Not another bloody piss up.”