Born: June 30, 1942;

Died: March 16, 2021.

IT was the moment, Charles Moore recollects in the first volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, when the SAS, previously relatively little known, became a household word for heroism.

On May 5, 1980, teams from 22 SAS stormed the Iranian embassy in Princes Gate, in South Kensington, London, dramatically ending a siege that had begun on April 30 when six heavily-armed terrorists had taken 26 people hostage.

The gunmen had demanded the release of 91 Arabs imprisoned in Khuzestan, a region in southern Iran for whose independence they claimed to be fighting. They threatened to blow up the embassy if their demands were not met by noon the following day. Police closed off the area and took over neighbouring buildings.

Mrs Thatcher delegated responsibility for the rescue operation to Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw. Mr Whitelaw asked for her agreement to support the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s request to send in the SAS, Moore records.

Major Phipps, one of the two operations officers in charge of Operation Nimrod, as it was known, methodically assembled intelligence about the layout of the building’s interior and put together a rescue plan while the police had lengthy negotiations with the terrorists.

From the many subsequent accounts of this fraught situation Phipps has been much praised for his calm attitude throughout. His charm and ability to get on with those under his command and other officials proved invaluable.

Surveillance devices were drilled through into the embassy from the office of the adjoining offices of the Royal School of Needlework, and vital information was gained. Major Phipps’s military expertise helped to co-ordinate procedures throughout a tense and dramatic situation.

By the time of the rescue operation, Major Phipps had given operational control to his colleague, Major Ian Crooke. SAS personnel abseiled from a roof at the rear of the embassy, while an explosive device distracted the terrorists.

One hostage was killed by the terrorists, but five terrorists were killed and all the remaining hostages were freed unharmed. BBC employee Sim Harris, one of them, afterwards told the SAS: “Thank you for my life”.

Major-General Phipps, who has died of lung cancer aged 78, was a determined, flamboyant and committed soldier in the SAS who took pride in serving his Queen and country. He did so with much grace, charisma and loyalty to his colleagues.

Jeremy Julian Joseph Phipps was born at Beauly, Inverness-shire. His father, Alan, was a Royal Navy officer and his mother, Veronica, was a daughter of the 14th Lord Lovat, chief of Clan Fraser, and sister of “Shimi” Lovat, who famously led 1st Commando Brigade on D-Day.

Phipps’s father was killed in action in 1943. After the war his mother married MP Fitzroy Maclean, who had served with distinction in the SAS in North Africa and was Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s envoy to President Tito in Yugoslavia.

Phipps was baptised a Catholic, attended Ampleforth and was brought up at Strachur, beside Loch Fyne. After Sandhurst he joined the Queen’s Own Hussars and was commissioned in 1962.

His first command was in Germany serving with the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), then in the Middle East and Aden.

In 1967 he joined the SAS and served in Oman before returning to serve with the Hussars in Berlin and in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. He returned to the SAS and was stationed at their HQ in Hereford when the Embassy siege occurred.

Phipps attended the US Armed Forces Staff Course in Virginia, before assuming command of the Queen’s Own Hussars in the BAOR (British Army of the Rhine). He was promoted to brigadier and commanded the 11th Armoured Brigade in Minden.

In 1989 he was appointed Director, Special Forces – a post that required much diplomatic negotiations with ministers and officials at the Ministry of Defence.

During the 1991 Gulf War he arranged for Special Forces troops to operate covertly behind enemy lines. Much vital information was established and enabled frontline troops to destroy strategic posts.

Phipps also displayed extraordinary bravery during the disastrous 1979 Fastnet Race. Buffeted by a Force 10 gale, he was held by the heels over the side of a boat with a knife in his mouth to cut a fouled line as his boat went to the aid of a French crew.

In 1989 he was promoted to Major General and posted to Oman as Senior British Loan Service Officer. In 1997 he retired from the army and made a CB (Companion of the Bath).

His busy retirement consisted of several appointments in the field of security. He became head of security at the Jockey Club but stepped aside after making remarks during a conversation with his predecessor, which was covertly recorded by the BBC’s Panorama programme.

In 2010 he and his wife moved near Jedburgh ,where they were active within the community and created a fine garden. He remained a keen shot and angler and was much involved with such charities as Venture Scotland.

In 1974 Phipps married Susan Crawford, an equestrian artist, whose father had been a naval cadet at Dartmouth with his father. She survives him, along with their son and daughter.