James Alastair McGregor

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James Alastair McGregor is a retired British Army Officer.

McGregor was appointed a 2nd Lieutenant in the Parachute Regiment on leaving Sandhurst on 2 August 1963. His Army number was 474006.[1] He was promoted to Lieutenant on 2 February 1965.[2]


McGregor was awarded the Military Cross on 23 January 1968 for his role in the Aden campaign.[3]

His citation read:

Lieutenant McGregor was the Commander of a detachment of the Mortar Platoon, First Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, which was due to take over duties in the observation post in the tower of Sheikh Othman Police Station on 7th September 1967. As there was to be a general strike on that day, the detachment was ordered to its task twelve hours early at short notice.
At 2200 hours, when the detachment arrived at the Police Station, the observation post was under spasmodic fire, which continued throughout the night. At first light the enemy fire became both heavy and accurate. Four times armoured cars had to be deployed to relieve the pressure, and restore the fire initiative. During the day Lieutenant McGregor displayed great coolness and leadership. His professional skill, fire control and observation was an inspiration to all his men.
On 9th September 1967, Lieutenant McGregor was still with his detachment in the Police Station, when intense interactional fighting broke out. For long periods of time the observation post was in crossfire of small arms, blindicide rockets, and mortars, and the security of the garrison of the Police Station gave grounds for concern. Under Lieutenant McGregor's leadership his men maintained an extremely high standard of alertness and observation, and their reading of the situation provided much valuable information, which was gained often under heavy fire.
During 9th-llth September 1967, Lieutenant McGregor worked in very close liaison with the Civil Police in the preparation and production of a peace broadcast, which eventually led to a cease fire. He then volunteered to remain in the Police Station so as to make best use of the liaison, which he had set up during his stay, as another general strike had been called for on 12th September 1967.
From 6th September until he was relieved on the night llth-12th September, Lieutenant McGregor handled the situation with skill, firmness, tact and enthusiasm. During the first thirty-six hours his coolness, control and professional skill set a fine example under heavy fire. At no time did he show anything other than complete confidence, and his actions throughout showed a clear understanding of the military and political situations. Lieutenant McGregor's leadership, encouragement and the discipline of his men did much to maintain the morale and loyally of the Civil Police at a very difficult time.[4]

Northern Ireland

McGregor was promoted to captain on 2 August 1969.[5]

On 22 June 1972, the day that the IRA was announcing a ceasefire ahead of talks with William Whitelaw, a unit of the Military Reaction Force fired on a bus station on the Glen Road in Andersonstown.[6] Four men were wounded: Taxi driver Joseph Smith, passenger Jim Murray, bystander Hugh Kenny, and Thomas Shaw, hit in his bedroom in nearby Bunbeg Park.[7]

Journalist Peter Taylor recounts that:

This time the car was stopped by an RUC patrol and its occupants were arrested. Inside was a Thompson sub-machine gun, for years the IRA's favourite weapon before the Armalite rifles started flooding in from America. One of the two plain-clothes soldiers arrested was an officer in the Parachute Regiment, Captain James McGregor. The other soldier was Sergeant Clive Graham Williams.[8]

According to journalist Martin Dillon, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee told the IRA under interrogation in October 1972 that Captain McGregor was a leading figure in the Military Reaction Force.[9]

Acting on this information, the IRA attacked the MRF's Four Square Laundry operation on 2 October, killing Sapper Ted Stuart.[10] It subsequently issued a statement:

"The Republican Movement has been aware for a number of months of a Special British Army Intelligence Unit, code-named MRF. This unit, comprising picked men, has been operating under the guise of civilians. The Unit was run by a Captain McGregor who used flats and offices in Belfast and ran a laundry service."[11]

Fr Raymond Murray records that:

Eight months after the [Glen Road] shooting, on Tuesday, 27 February 1973, a captain, James Alistair McGregor [sic], was charged with the unlawful possession of a Thompson sub-machine-gun and ammunition. When charged he allegedly told a detective - "That ammunition had nothing to do with me. It belongs to the police at Castlereagh and was issued by the Special Branch."[12]

The charges against McGregor were dropped on 2 May 1973.[13]

Later career

He was promoted to Major on 31 December 1975.[14]

He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on 31 December 1982, with seniority from 30 June 1982.[15]

He was promoted to Colonel on 30th June 1988.[16]

He was awarded a C.B.E. on 13 June 1992.[17]

He was promoted to Brigadier on 30 June 1993.[18]

McGregor retired on retired pay on 16 May 1998, and was appointed to the Reserve of Officers.[19]

He was appointed Honorary Colonel 4 (Volunteer) Battalion, The Parachute Regiment on 31 July 2006.[20]

External Resources


  1. Supplement to the London Gazette, 20th September 1963, p.7743.
  2. Supplement ot the London Gazette, 2 February 1965, p.1152.
  3. Supplement to the London Gazette, 23 January 1968, p874.
  4. Supplement to the London Gazette, 23 January 1968, p874.
  5. Supplement to the London Gazette, 5 August 1969, p. 8024.
  6. Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, Bloomsbury, 2002, p.130.
  7. Raymond Murray, The SAS in Ireland, Mercier Press, 1993, p.48.
  8. Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, Bloomsbury, 2002, p.130.
  9. Martin Dillon, The Dirty War, Arrow, 1991, p.48.
  10. Martin Dillon, The Dirty War, Arrow, 1991, p.31.
  11. Martin Dillon, The Dirty War, Arrow, 1991, p.31.
  12. Raymond Murray, The SAS in Ireland, Mercier Press, 1993, p.49.
  13. Raymond Murray, The SAS in Ireland, Mercier Press, 1993, p.49.
  14. Supplement to London Gazette, 30 December 1975, p.16371.
  15. Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 Jaunary 1983, p.750.
  16. Supplement to the London Gazette, 5 July 1988, p.7702.
  17. Supplement to the London Gazette, 13 June 1992, p.B5.
  18. Supplement to the London Gazette, 6 July 1993, p.11367.
  19. Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 May 1998, p.5579.
  20. Supplement to the London Gazette, 1 August 2006, p.10467.