Edgar Maybanks, who has died aged 87, was a policeman who held key command positions in London; he was involved in the sieges at the Iranian and Libyan embassies and at Balcombe Street, and had considerable expertise in organising public events.
He was born in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, on March 18 1933; his father William owned a bakery business, while his mother Dorothy (née Fenn), always known as Flossie, was in service until her marriage. After Slough Technical College he became a junior clerk – the forerunner of police cadets – with Buckinghamshire Constabulary, then in 1951 he was called up for National Service in the Royal Marines, serving in Malta and specialising in heavy weapons training.
He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1953. While still in initial training his first duty was as part of the cordon in Pall Mall for the Coronation.
On promotion to sergeant he was seconded to A8, the Met’s operations department, and became part of the team planning the future funeral of Sir Winston Churchill (code name: “Operation Hope Not”).
Several years later, early one morning after he had been made an inspector, he received a call using the code. He was sent to New Scotland Yard to assist with the funeral preparations; with so much work to do, the team did not leave the offices for seven days, sleeping in shifts on hastily erected camp beds.
“We had to make all sorts of arrangements, lining the route, tying in with all the other people,” he recalled. “One of the particular problems was that a number of VIPs were staying at the palace including the French president, Charles de Gaulle, and General Eisenhower, and they had to get to St Paul’s before the head of the procession.
“The difficulty was that they had to cross where the procession was taking place so we had to work it out of them to not cross paths.”
At the age of 36 he was given his first command, as chief superintendent, then in 1975 he became divisional chief superintendent at Paddington Green – and was immediately involved in the Balcombe Street Siege, when four members of the IRA took a couple hostage in their own flat and demanded a plane to fly them to Ireland.
Maybanks was in charge of the forward control post. In a nearby garage he discovered an armoured car that was being used in a film but had run out of petrol. He told his men to push the car into Balcombe Street, where it gave the terrorists the impression that they were surrounded by the Army. The hostages were subsequently released and the suspects arrested.
Promoted to Commander in 1976, he was made head of A8, and the following year took charge of planning the Queens Silver Jubilee celebrations in London; he was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal.
In 1978 he returned to Paddington, and to mark 25 years in policing he was invited by his former Marine commander in Malta, now Major General Alexander, to present the King’s Badge to the best Royal Marine recruit at the passing-out parade in Lympstone, Devon.
In 1979 he attended the Royal College of Defence Studies and on graduation was appointed deputy assistant commissioner for north-west London, including Westminster.
In 1980 he was night duty commander during the Iranian Embassy siege, and developed behind-the-scenes strategies with hostage negotiators and the SAS. The incident room had been hurriedly set up in the Royal School of Needlework, but it was decided that the fire risk – and potential danger to the tapestries housed there – was too high, and overnight he arranged for the police equipment to be moved into the Montessori school next door.
Knowing that the SAS were being sent but had not yet arrived, he prepared the instructions to be given to the police marksmen to “take the appropriate action” in the case of an early break-out by the terrorists. When the SAS turned up he helped to lay out plans for different potential scenarios.
In 1982 he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal and made an Officer of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. That year he was posted to the personnel department, but he missed the cut and thrust of operational policing and returned to operations as a deputy assistant commissioner the following year.
In 1984 he was the incident commander during the siege at the Libyan embassy that followed the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in a burst of machine-gun fire from inside the embassy.
He later told a Panorama documentary of his disappointment at the lack of backing from Whitehall for his plan to storm the building in St James’ Square. His daughter, who had joined the Met, was part of the security cordon around the embassy – and was later amused to receive copy of the letter of thanks written by her father to all officers involved.
He retired from the Met in 1985, and was appointed an Honorary Steward at Westminster Abbey, serving for 12 years; his diplomacy and security skills were put to good use at many events, including the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.
In 1988 he was appointed Chief Commandant of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary. He was the prime influence in its modernisation and integration into the regular service. It was the role, he said, that gave him the greatest satisfaction of his career. In 1993 he was appointed OBE, and retired the following year.
He continued to take an interest in local policing, chairing the Weybridge Police and Community Partnership Group. He was an avid supporter of the Weybridge Society.
Edgar Maybanks’s wife Pamela died in 2016, and he is survived by their son and two daughters; their son and one of their daughters followed him into the Metropolitan Police.
Edgar Maybanks, born March 18 1933, died May 12 2020