He served in the British Army's Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service (SAS), the Rhodesian Special Air Service and British South Africa Police, and South Africa's 44 Parachute Brigade. As a mercenary or contractor, he worked in countries including South Africa, Angola, Colombia, Russia, Algeria and Iraq.
He is the author of the book No Mean Soldier.
McAleese enlisted with the British Army's Parachute Regiment in Aberdeen in 1960 at the age of 17. After basic training at the Parachute Regiment's Aldershot depot, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment's mortar platoon. In 1962 McAleese transferred to 'D' Squadron, 22 SAS, where he served with the squadron's Mobility troop in Aden. After a few months he was returned to unit from the SAS for disciplinary reasons, re-joining 1 Para, where he was posted to Bahrain and Cyprus in 1962–64. In 1964 he re-joined the SAS and served with 'D' Squadron's 16 (Air) Troop in Borneo and in the Aden Emergency. In 1968 he was again returned to the Parachute Regiment by the SAS for disciplinary offences related to violent disorder, rejoining 1 Para, which he served with from 1968 to 1969 as a sergeant-instructor. In 1969 McAleese resigned from the British Army.
He was subsequently convicted in civilian life of criminal offences pertaining to violent assault, and spent several prison sentences in the early 1970s incarcerated at HMP Gloucester. On release from prison for the third time he left the United Kingdom for Africa, where he was a mercenary soldier in the Angolan Civil War for several months in 1976, fighting for the National Liberation Front of Angola, assuming command of the formation after the capture of Costas Georgiou.
In early 1977, McAleese to Rhodesia and enlisted with the Rhodesian Special Air Service, being assigned to its 'A' Squadron, fighting in the Rhodesian Bush War with the rank of a non-commissioned officer. In 1979 he joined the British South Africa Police's Special Branch operating in South Rhodesia. After the fall of Rhodesia in 1980, he enlisted with the South African Defence Force's 44 Parachute Brigade, which he served as a Colour Sergeant in the early 1980s, where he assisted with the creation of a new pathfinder reconnaissance unit, and took part in the South African Border War.
Security contracting career
In the mid-1980s McAleese set up a family home in Pretoria, and became an employee of the COIN Security Group, a military/police private contractor based in South Africa. After a near-death parachuting display accident, he moved back to live in the United Kingdom. At the end of the 1980s he spent two years as a security contractor working for the government forces in the Colombian Conflict. In the mid-1990s he worked in Moscow as a bodyguard training instructor, and undertook security work in Algeria and Iraq for several years.
McAleese was contracted in 1989 by the Colombian Cali Cartel to assassinate their rival, Pablo Escobar. He and his team of mercenaries failed in their attempt, which was the subject of the 2021 UK documentary film Killing Escobar. Filmed interviews with him and some of his colleagues form the core of the narrative.
In his latter years McAleese was a pub landlord in England. In 1993 he published his memoir, entitled No Mean Soldier, which has been reprinted several times.
- McAleese, Peter & Avery, John (1999). McAleese's Fighting Manual. Orion. ISBN 0-7528-0063-9.
- McAleese, Peter (2000). No Mean Soldier. Cassell Military. ISBN 0-304-35684-0.
- McAleese, Peter (2015). Beyond No Mean Soldier (an updated and more detailed revision of No Mean Soldier). Helion & Co., Ltd. ISBN 978-1-910294-01-7.
- McAleese, Peter (11 November 1993). No Mean Soldier (First Edition, First Impression ed.). London: Orion. ISBN 9781857972504.
- Interview audio tape (No.15433) with Pater McAleese, Sound Archive, Imperial War Museum, 1995.
- Associate Press filmed interview with McAleese, 'McAleese on mercenaries' killings', recorded 18 February 1976. Published on Youtube 23 July 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-lWbwYMIks
- Interview with McAleese, 'Pathfinder Company, S.A.D.F.', published on Youtube 9 March 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gxumw_iSAg&t=381s
- 'Beyond No Mean Soldier', Helion Company publisher's profile of P. McAleese (2019). https://www.helion.co.uk/beyond-no-mean-soldier-the-explosive-recollections-of-a-former-special-forces-operator.html