1981: Tony Geraghty in freefall from 26,000ft in a HALO (high altitude-low opening) jump favoured by the SAS

 

 

1970(approx): Sibson airfield, near Peterborough, kitting up for the next skydive.

 

 

Canal Zone of Egypt 1951: taking part in a heavy drop which did not go according to plan.

 

 

Canal Zone of Egypt 1951: part of the British army of occupation, serving with 16 Independent Parachute Brigade Group.

 

 

17 April 1941 : Sutherland Terrace, Pimlico, about 200 yards from Geraghty's childhood home, the morning after it was hit by two German parachute mines and three high explosive bombs. In 19944, Geraghty was buried by debris from a V1-flying bomb. He was aged twelve and a war veteran by then. (Picture copyright City of Westminster Archives)

 

 

As war reporter during the Biafran/nigerian civil war 1968, marching with warriors of the Tiv tribe.

 

 

Taking a break from skiing, 2008.

 

 

At the workface, as an author, 2009.

 

 

Preparing for a Remembrance Day parade.

You’ve arrived at the website of Tony Geraghty FRSA, AE, journalist, author, former soldier and airman.

Early Life

Education

Career

Military Service

Author

Journalist

About Myself

Born prematurely on 13 January 1932, the illegitimate son of Margaret Flynn, a feisty, argumentative Dublin waitress, at Walton Hospital, Liverpool, a newly-decommissioned workhouse, during the worst days of The Depression. Birth initially registered in name of Joseph Flynn, no father identified. Later legitimised (birth re-registered) by biological father, ex-Serjeant-Major Anthony Garrity, an ex-coalminer and remarkable survivor of The Somme, 1916-1917.

Religion

Former Roman Catholic. Now Pantheist.

Family

Wife; two daughters; two grandsons.

Early Life

Around 1936 I moved with my parents to Pimlico, London. On 7 September 1940, parents took me on a ghoulish sightseeing in the East End of London to gawp at the damage caused by early Luftwaffe raids. They had chosen a day later known to survivors as Black Saturday, the massive onslaught of the London blitz: 250 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters dropped 625 tons of high explosive bombs on the surrounding dockland area of Silvertown. Around 440 civilians were killed and 1,600 injured that night. With many others we took refuge in the crypt of St Anne’s Church, Limehouse, emerging next morning to a world we did not recognise: one of fire, water and desolation.

Pimlico, in central London, soon became one of the most intensively bombed areas in attacks on London lasting eight months (243 days and nights). On the night of 16 April 1941 two parachute mines and three high explosive bombs wiped out a block of streets adjoining our home, a basement in Cumberland Street. To add to the chaos, a gas main was on fire. In the later, V1 flying bomb blitz on 30 June 1944 one of these missiles destroyed a building across the street from our home, killing thirteen people and wounding 165. I was buried by debris for some time, and tunnelled out with my pet terrier, Peggy. Aged twelve, I was already a war veteran, imprinted with the distorted, brutalising values of armed conflict and not quite fit for normal life. For an adventurous child, the blitz was fun and terrifying in equal measure.

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Education

Thanks to an alert Roman Catholic parish priest, I was given a place at St Vincent De Paul’s primary school, attached to Westminster Cathedral. I was taught by gruff Irish Sisters of Charity who wore their wide, white headgear like the IRA’s broad black brimmers, or the Mafia’s fedoras. Later, with schools closed for much of the war, I had no further formal education until 1944, when I attended Brompton Oratory school in Chelsea, an establishment that was good at music, religious instruction and corporal punishment. Unsurprisingly I failed the 11+ but won a scholarship to Wandsworth Technical College, learned shorthand and typing and determined to become a newspaper reporter.

The war, and minimal qualifications including a Royal Society of Arts certificate for shorthand at 120 words per minute, equipped me rather well for my chosen profession; so well, that after six decades or so, I was elected a Fellow of the RSA. I never attended university though my Oxford School Certificate might have qualified me for entry through one of the back-doors for which the British Establishment is famous. There were three more serious obstacles. First, only 4 per cent of working class children broke through the barriers of elitism to reach university at that time. Second, what few places were available were justifiably claimed by war veterans, most of whom seemed to want to study forestry. Third, had I squirreled my way into uni, my parents would assuredly have felt I was betraying the working class. 'People like us,' as my mother would put it, did not go there.

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Career: Short Summary:

Military Service

National Service
  • Rifleman, King’s Royal Rifle Regiment (Greenjackets)
  • sergeant-instructor, Royal Army Education Corps
  • transferred to 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group after passing the Paras’ P Company selection process.
  • Awarded parachute wings. Attached Guards Independent Parachute Company (later G Squadron, SAS). Active service: Suez Canal Zone, 1950-1951. Specialist in desert navigation. Created brigade newspaper, "The Red Beret". Awarded General Service Medal (Canal Zone campaign).
Reserve Service
  • Sergeant, (as volunteer) The Parachute Regiment, 16 Independent (Pathfinder) Company, XVI Airborne Division (TAVR). Discharged 1956.
  •  
  • Commissioned, RAF College Cranwell, 1981. Honourably discharged 1992 as Squadron Leader. Awarded Air Efficiency Medal.
Active service
    The Gulf, 1990-1991, with Nimrod Detachment on intelligence missions; later as UK liaison officer with US headquarters staff, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Awarded US Joint Service Medal for Military Merit and UK Gulf Medal.
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Author

Non-Fiction
  • Who Dares Wins: The Special Air Service 1950 to the Gulf War  first published 1980; subsequently updated
  • This is the SAS: A Pictorial History  1982
  • March Or Die: France & The Foreign Legion  1986
  • The Bullet-Catchers: Bodyguards & The World of Close Protection  1988
  • BRIXMIS – The Untold Exploits of Britain’s Most Daring Cold War Spy Mission  1996
  • The Irish War: The Military History of a Domestic Conflict  1998
  • Guns For Hire: The Inside Story of Freelance Soldiering  2007 (Chinese edition due out 2011)
  • Black Ops: The Rise of Special Forces in the CIA, the SAS and Mossad  2010
Fiction
  • Freefall Factor 1985
  • Passage to Paradise, The Voyage of U1081 And Other Stories (published in USA and broadcast by BBC Radio)
Anthologies
  • Bedside Guardian
  • Sunday Times Bedside Book
  • "Ten Years of Terrorism", RUSI
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Journalist

    Reporter:
  • Tooting & Balham Gazette
  • Sleaford Gazette
  • Hull Daily Mail
  • Sunday Mercury (news editor)
  • Birmingham Post (sub editor)
  • Manchester Guardian(sub editor)
  • The Guardian (sub editor/political reporter)
  • Sunday Telegraph (Editor "close-up" page)
  • Sunday Times (chief reporter and Defence Correspondent 1968-1981)
  • Boston Globe USA (on attachment).
Journalism

Material published by newspapers listed above, as well as The Observer; The Spectator; New Statesman; items syndicated around the world by the Sunday Times republished in, eg, The Fiji Times.

For The Guardian I wrote about UK politics in and out of Parliament and was briefly accredited to the Downing Street Lobby. During 14 years with the Sunday Times I reported on conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, Northern Ireland and Western Europe. I was arrested, while working, in Paris 1968, Nigeria 1968 (briefly detained at Oil Mill Street Security HQ, Lagos); Castlereagh Interrogation Centre, Northern Ireland and at my Herefordshire home on 3 December 1998, by seven detectives of the Ministry of Defence Police. [See ‘Brushes With The Law’, below]

Scoops included the Provisional IRA’s penetration of Civil Rights Movement, 1969; exposure of discreet euthanasia at a home for congenitally disabled children; the Angolan mercenary story, 1976 (which generated an assassination contract on me); the Ronan Point tower block collapse in East London, 1968, which led me into the wrecked building to seek the cause. My accurate guesses enraged the authorities.

Hardest Assignments

RAF Hastings parachute aircraft crash near Abingdon, 1965, in which all 41 on board were killed due to the failure of a tail bolt. As a former Parachute Regiment soldier I was shockingly familiar with the aircraft and the equipment, particularly the bloodied seat harnesses. I had trained at Abingdon on just that aircraft and jumped into its proposed drop zone at Weston On The Green. The aircraft’s identification number was also chillingly close to home: TG 577.

The Aberfan disaster, Wales, 1966, when 144 people including 116 children were killed by a massive slide of pit waste. It still generates flashbacks. My small daughters greeted me on my return, "What have you brought home from Wales, Daddy?"

Surreal Moments
  • Being driven illegally across the tarmac of Lisbon airport, to meet gun runners supplying Biafra, and being asked, by a secret policeman with gold teeth: "I guess you are in the munitionses businesses?"
  • Being pursued by an angry Swiss farmer, he on tractor, I on foot, after dark, down a mountainside into which a UK airliner had crashed earlier that day. I had recorded his eye-witness words on tape. He wanted the tape back because "I have been speaking to you in High German. My neighbours will mock me!"
  • As a prisoner of a Ministry of Defence Police Team, under arrest for an alleged breach of official secrecy, acting as the team’s navigator to the local police station. They were unfamiliar with the backwoods of Herefordshire and did not have a map.
  • Interviewing an angry, black war-bereaved father in Boston, Mass, all night over a bottle of rye. "I still think you’re CIA but you are a nice CIA guy so I’ll tell you the truth. It wasn’t the Vietnamese who killed my boy. It was his white buddies. When they buried him they asked me to hold the flag. I nearly threw it down but then I thought, maybe my boy would not like that…I once had two sons. I now have one paraplegic. The younger boy went to the swim pool and someone dived onto his back and broke it."
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