Five decades ago, James “Jim” Beaton protected Princess Anne during a harrowing kidnapping attempt at the hands of Ian Ball. Now, the retired police officer is remembering the scary 1974 incident that completely changed his life, along with providing new details about the attack.

At the time of the kidnapping attempt, Anne, then 23, and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, were headed back to Buckingham Palace after a royal engagement.

“We got about three-quarters of the way up The Mall and this white car pulled in front of us. This chap, Ian Ball, the driver of the white car, came back towards the royal car,” Beaton, 81, recalled in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, March 20. “I got out of my seat, came up out behind the car. And he went bang bang, and he shot me in the chest. I tried to fire back at him with my gun. I missed the first shot and then the gun jammed.”

Beaton was shot three times by Ball, resulting in serious wounds to his abdomen and hand.

“He fired at the same time as my hand went up and the bullet went into my hand. We kicked the back door open, and there was Ian Ball standing there, and he shot me in the abdomen,” he explained. “I struggled out of the car, half-dazed obviously … I went round the front of the car and laid down on the pavement.”

Beaton revealed that 50 years later, he still has “a bit of bullet lodged in the hand.” Chauffeur Alex Callender was also hit by the gunfire. Anne, now 73, was forced to confront her assailant and refused to leave the car to go anywhere with him.

“We had a sort of discussion about where or where not we were going to go,” she revealed during an interview with Michael Parkinson in 1983. “I was scrupulously polite because I thought it was silly to be too rude at that stage.”

Jim Beaton wearing a medal
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

At one point during the scuffle, Anne’s dress ripped, causing her to change her attitude. “The back of my dress split, and that was his most dangerous moment,” she said. “I lost my rag at that stage.”

Ronnie Russell, a former professional boxer, was walking by the scene and decided to step in. He punched Ball in the back of the head and later in the face, knocking him down. Anne was able to escape from the car after the heroic act.

Ball later fled the scene, only to be caught and arrested by police and charged with attempted murder and kidnapping. After he pleaded guilty and was convicted of the charges, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sentenced to live in a mental health facility under the Mental Health Act. He is currently still under supervision at Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire, England.

As for Beaton, he was awarded the George’s Cross and later served as Queen Elizabeth’s police officer. He explained how “royal protection changed drastically” after the kidnapping attempt.

“Slightly better guns, better ammunition,” Beaton said. “More courses, more training, more people, suddenly all appeared literally within days. It really is a different world altogether. Very different from when I started.”