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 SAS officer to be killed in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner.

He was in command of an eight-man plainclothes 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 Westmacott in the head and shoulder and 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 while preparing the unit's escape in a transit van. 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][5]

After his death Westmacott was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in Northern Ireland during the period 1 February to 30 April 1980.[6] He is buried in the churchyard of St. Michael's, Up Marden, West Sussex.

His 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 convicted in absentia of murder in June 1981 by the Northern Ireland authorities after they escaped from custody.[5][8][9]


  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" Check |url= value (help). 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. 
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