Why did the SAS fake gas leaks in central London?
Problem solving is a skill that can always be aided by a bit of lateral thinking. Just ask the SAS...
On 5th May 1980 a team of SAS troops stormed the Iranian Embassy in Prince’s Gate near Hyde Park in London.
It was an event that was to make them world famous.
Just days earlier a group of six terrorists had taken twenty six people hostage.
After attempts to negotiate safe release had failed with the death of a hostage, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, known for her steely resolve, decided that enough was enough.
On her orders, the armed officers entered the building in spectacular fashion with timed explosions blowing out the windows and then a second team abseiling down from the roof into the rooms and taking everyone by surprise.
The raid lasted all of seventeen minutes.
By the end, all but one of the hijackers had been killed and only one of the hostages failed to make it out alive.
Whilst the raid itself had lasted minutes, the preparations had taken days. The SAS had been alerted hours after the heavily armed gunmen had first stormed the building on 30th April.
They made use of a nearby building to practice and knew that they needed as much information as possible about what was going on inside.
To achieve this, they would have to drill holes to insert cameras into the building. Knowing the location and movements of the attackers would be vital to getting the hostages out alive.
They had one big problem. How to drill the holes without alerting the hijackers?
They needed an alternative solution. Time to employ some lateral thinking.
One of the simplest techniques to unlock your lateral thought process is to flip the scenario or problem on its head.
Instead of making the noise of the drill quieter why not make the surrounding ambient noise louder?
And this is exactly what they did.
They diverted flight traffic from Heathrow Airport overhead to cause confusion. On top of this, they created a set of fake gas leaks so that the pneumatic drills would drown out any noise the team were making in their preparations.
A textbook example of lateral thinking if ever there was one.
So next time you’re faced with a problem try flipping it on its head.