Although Curry did not receive a gallantry award for the operation that successfully ended the siege and gained the Special Air Service a worldwide reputation for daring and military efficiency, he earned campaign medals for his service in Northern Ireland and the Falklands War. These, his SAS beret, belt and winged badge and a remarkable collection of personal memorabilia, including many photographs of the embassy siege, are expected to fetch £20,000 to £25,000 at the Dix Noonan Webb auction in London. Some of the photographs, including one showing Curry climbing through the embassy window, have a signed dedication to him from Soldier ‘I’ – a fellow SAS team member since identified as Pete Winner.
Explaining his decision to sell, Curry, now 62 and living in Hereford, the home of the SAS, says: “I am knocking on a bit now and you never know what life has in store. What happens to the medals and memorabilia after I am gone? Do they end up in some junk shop? I would rather they went to someone who appreciates them.”
Pierce Noonan, a director of Dix Noonan Webb, says: “Bob Curry was one of an elite team of men who carried out an operation that epitomised the SAS motto ‘Who Dares Wins’. This small group of highly-trained soldiers was responsible for quite literally exploding the SAS into the modern era. The operation was more than just a spectacular military success – it was played out live on television, something that had never happened before, leaving a whole nation glued to their television screens. Prior to the events of that day few of that generation would have been aware of the existence of the Special Air Service – by the following day everyone had heard of them and they were the envy of the world."
The siege lasted for six days after gunmen from an Iranian Arab group campaigning for greater sovereignty for their region of the country stormed the embassy in South Kensington. Having taken hostages, they demanded the release of prisoners in Iran and safe passage out of Britain. On the sixth day, they killed one of the hostages and the British Government ordered the waiting SAS to take the building.
Curry was in Blue Team tasked with attacking the lower half of the embassy. The plan was to blow in a rear window with explosive but this could not be detonated because another SAS man was trapped on a rope above it. Curry, who had been given a sledgehammer to smash in the window if necessary, later wrote in his autobiography: “We waited for the big bang. It did not happen. Instead I got a slap on the head from one of the team. Go, go. I thought it must have been a misfire.”
A misfired device could have gone off at any moment. Curry was not told why the plan to detonate it had been aborted. He continued in his book: “I kicked the charge out of the way thinking ‘well, if it goes off, I won’t know anything about it, I’ll be all over the park’. And then I started to make an entry point through the window to my front. It had wooden shutters behind it, which were closed, and heavy draped curtains behind those. It didn’t take me long, as obviously the adrenalin was rushing…..I climbed in. We were in.” His SAS colleague Rusty Firmin later recalled: “There was an almighty crash as the head of the sledgehammer punched clean through the windows. Splinters of glass and wood flew to all sides. If the six gunmen inside the embassy didn’t know the SAS were on their case now, they never would.”
In the 17-minute operation that followed five of the six terrorists were killed and the other captured and all but one of the 20 remaining hostages rescued. One SAS man was awarded the George Medal and four the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Curry wrote in his book: “It would have been nice to have that medal, but obviously we hadn’t shouted loud enough. But then it wasn’t about medals; it was about saving lives. And I think that we had done this quite well.”
Curry was born in Cambridgeshire in 1953 and enlisted in the Royal Anglian Regiment as a 15 year-old junior soldier in 1968. After serving in Northern Ireland, he passed the tough selection course for the SAS in 1979, training as an assault team member specialising in storming buildings held by terrorists. After the Iranian Embassy siege he served with the SAS in the Falklands War and Northern Ireland. Discharged in 1985, he spent three years working for the Al Fayed family, including one year as the personal bodyguard of Dodi Al Fayed, later killed alongside Diana, Princess of Wales in a Paris car crash.
Today he runs a successful locksmith training company in Hereford. Following a serious road traffic accident in 1996 and the death of a close friend, Curry discovered that he has what he calls “mediumship capabilities” enabling him to communicate with the spirit world. His autobiography The Psychic Soldier was published in 2014.
Dix Noonan Webb Ltd is one of the world’s leading specialist auctioneers and valuers of coins, tokens, medals, militaria and paper money of all types. Established in 1990, the company boasts over 250 years' combined experience in this field and stages regular auctions throughout the year.
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