Friday 18 September 2020


The Provisional IRA tried to kill a former governor of Gibraltar in a revenge attack.  Two years earlier an SAS operation took place on the island in which three IRA terrorists were shot dead.  The Governor who authorised Operation Flavius was Sir Peter Terry.  After the inquest ruled that the SAS had acted lawfully in killing the unarmed terrorists, Sir Peter told reporters: "Even in this remote place, there is no place for terrorists".  His tenure came to an end in 1989 and he retired with his family back to his native England where they settled in the Staffordshire village of Milford.  Sir Peter was at home when the IRA came calling.

At around 9pm he was sitting in a downstairs armchair when a gunman crept up to a rear window and fired around 20 shots in his direction.  He was struck at least nine times, but miraculously survived, albeit with serious injuries.  His wife, who was in another room, was hit by a stray bullet that penetrated an interior wall.  The couple's daughter was treated for shock.

Sir Peter's injuries were so severe that doctors could not clearly ascertain precisely how many times he had been shot.  Two bullets were lodged millimetres from his brain and his jawbone was shattered by another.  He was also hit in his right side and left leg.  Surgeons said it was a miracle that none of his major organs were struck.

The 63-year-old endured months of reconstructive plastic surgery to rebuild his face and numerous bullet fragments would remain lodged in his body for the rest of his life.  He died in 2017 at the age of 91.  Before he became Governor of Gibraltar he had a distinguished 38 year career in the Royal Air Force and rose through the ranks to become Air Chief Marshal, one of the most senior officers in the RAF.

Sir Peter Terry and his wife pictured before the attack

The deadly SAS operation that had been authorised by Sir Peter Terry set off a chain of events which resulted in a further five deaths.  The joint funeral for those killed on Gibraltar was attacked by a loyalist gunman who killed three mourners.  At the funeral of one of those mourners two British soldiers who strayed into the procession were abducted and shot dead by the IRA.