About Patrick

Defence and security expert with comprehensive media experience, coupled with specialist knowledge of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan and military operations past and present.

London-based security analyst, Patrick has worked for NATO as an analyst and is a former Captain in the British army's Royal Irish Regiment. He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Exeter's Strategy and Security Institute, studying the reform of the U.K's Army Reserve, cohesion and logistics. Patrick has appeared on international, UK and Irish television and radio to discuss security matters, and has written for leading broadsheets. His latest appearances were as an expert contributor to National Geographic's 'Nazi Mega Weapons' series, where he contributed to four episodes, including on the Atlantic Wall, the Wolf's Lair, the SS, and the Siegfried Line. He has specialist knowledge on the conflict in Afghanistan, having served in Sangin in 2008 and he has provided security research and analysis for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He also has expert knowledge of the current security situation in Libya and comments on wider security issues, including strategy, current military operations, military history, the role of the media in war, and ethics in war.

He has written for The Irish Times, The Guardian and The Independent, and has appeared on The National Geographic Channel/Channel 4, Sky News, BBC News, BBC News HardTalk, BBC Radio 4 Today programme, BBC File on 4, BBC Radio 5, and numerous Irish national TV and radio programmes.

His memoir, 'Callsign Hades', (Simon and Schuster 2010) has been called "the first great book of the Afghan war" and describes his experiences serving with Irish soldiers in the last Irish line regiment of the British army in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous places. It has since been incorporated onto the syllabus at Sandhurst, and excerpts from his work are also taught to Australian officer cadets.

Patrick was educated at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and King's College, London, where he studied Intelligence and International Security before attending the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was awarded the Trust Medal for Overall Academic Performance, The John Pimlott Prize for War Studies and the Defence and International Affairs Prize during his time there.

He has commanded soldiers on operations in Afghanistan and deployed to Cyprus, Kenya, Malawi and Malaysia.

He has also published in military and ethics journals and on defence issues on political blogsites. He has spoken at numerous universities and military command courses on security and ethics issues. He is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Royal United Services Institute, the Irish Military History Society, the Military Ethics Education Network, and former member of an IED and Radicalisation project funded by the US Office of Naval Research and Hull University. A full list of Patrick's publications are listed in the links section below.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Momentum Grows for Labalaba VC

In an excellent article in last week's Sunday Times (pay),  Lord Ashcroft outlined the exploits of Royal Ulster Rifles and SAS soldier Sgt. Talaiasi Labalaba in the battle of Mirbat in 1972, when 9 SAS soldiers confronted an enemy force estimated to be between 250 to 400 strong.

Given the need to raise awareness of the valour of both Fijian Labalaba, and another SAS medic of Irish descent, Trooper Thomas Tobin, I have reproduced a large sections of the article below in an effort to spread the word...

“It was dawn on July 19, 1972, when the Adoo, a group of highly trained, heavily armed communist guerrillas, tried to seize the port of Mirbat on the Arabian Sea. After a series of setbacks, they were looking for a big military victory in their battle with the Sultan of Oman’s troops and their SAS allies.
The attack came during the monsoon season, on a day when it was raining lightly and with low cloud cover. The guerrillas’ initial aim was to target a small detachment of gendarmerie, slitting the throats of the eight men occupying a watch-point on the edge of the port.
However, things did not go to plan and an exchange of gunfire was heard by the nine SAS men staying in a nearby British Army Training Team house. As Kealy saw the waves of enemy rebels advancing, he was soon barking orders to his men.
Labalaba, known affectionately to his comrades as “Laba”, ran some 500 yards to a gun-pit to fire a 25-pounder gun single-handedly, even though, for maximum effect, it needed to be manned by five men.
Labalaba knew that if the gun fell into enemy hands, they would sweep through the port and so he kept up a relentless fire. As the enemy closed in on the sole soldier, Labalaba was eventually seriously wounded by a round from a Kalashnikov rifle.
“I’ve been chinned but I am okay,” he said over his walkie-talkie, his jaw in tatters. Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi, a fellow Fijian and close friend, responded by grabbing his self-loading rifle and running to the gun-pit under a hail of fire.
The two Fijians held off the advancing enemy for several minutes but Takavesi realised they needed more support, so he ran back to the small fort to get help, returning with Walid Khamis, an Omani gunner.
Khamis was the next man to be hit, falling to the floor and writhing in agony after being shot in the stomach. Shortly afterwards Takavesi was shot in the shoulder, meaning there were only two seriously injured Fijians to hold off the enemy from the gun-pit.
Labalaba realised he was almost out of ammunition and so he tried to reach a 60mm mortar nearby to continue his assault on the enemy. However, he was shot fatally in the neck as he reached for the weapon.
When the 25-pounder gun fell silent, Kealy and a volunteer, Tobin, ran to the gun-pit, again dodging enemy bullets. As Tobin tried to tend the wounded, he was shot in the face and fell to the ground.
Yet just as the situation appeared hopeless, the SAS had two strokes of luck. The first was that the cloud lifted and two jets from the Sultan’s air force were able to fly low over the scene, strafing the guerrillas with cannon fire.”
The article goes on to describe...

"Second, unknown to Kealy, other members of the SAS based at Um al-Quarif had learnt of the battle and had been ordered to travel the 35 miles to Mirbat to help their comrades.
After the cloud lifted and the SAS reinforcements were helicoptered to the edge of Mirbat, the guerrillas were soon on the retreat.
After four hours of ferocious and continuous fighting, the enemy had been defeated, leaving behind some 40 fighters who were dead or seriously wounded. The SAS lost two men — Labalaba and Tobin — but Takavesi survived and was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, while Kealy was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
However, Labalaba was simply mentioned in dispatches and Tobin’s bravery received no official recognition.
The reason given for the small number of gallantry awards was that the SAS were involved in a secret war and that to have awarded posthumous VCs would have drawn unwanted attention to their activities.
The failure of the authorities adequately to recognise the gallantry of Labalaba and Tobin rankles with the SAS servicemen past and present.
Peter Winner, a former SAS sergeant (whose name has been changed for security reasons), is one of the many aggrieved that Labalaba, in particular, has never received a posthumous VC.
Winner, who fought at Mirbat and later took part in the Iranian embassy siege, has said: “So to keep the war secret, all they gave him [was] MID [mentioned in dispatches]. You can get that for walking up the Falls Road [in Belfast]. The guy deserved a VC for what he did.”
A new book, SAS Operation Storm, co-authored by Roger Cole, who took part in the battle as an SAS corporal, has also championed the cause of both men.
Helen Tobin, a solicitor and one of the dead medic’s three sisters, wants justice for her brother too. “It was a battle in which a real band of brothers faced overwhelming odds and we do not believe their heroism, and that of their comrades, was ever given the recognition due. We hope ... that will be forthcoming,” she said.
The Victoria Cross was instituted by royal warrant in 1856 for what Queen Victoria said ought to be “for most conspicuous bravery or some daring pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”.
Surely these emotive words accurately describe the circumstances in which Labalaba and Tobin lost their lives. And surely, too, the time is now right for their bravery, at long last, to be properly recognised."
I fully support Lord Ashcroft's efforts and if you do too, get tweeting and facebooking...
Sgt. Labalaba


  1. Cashcroft the chap who collects other peoples medals for money, I cannot believe when I saw this cap talking about hero's.

  2. photograph is of Austin Hussey not Laba.