The Falklands Conflict - Memoirs
From a Junior Seaman aboard HMS Hecate
I am sure this deployment is better documented else where, but here are a few sketchy details from the eyes of a Junior Seaman survey recorder - don't quote me on any of this....and please consider me anonymous, although happy to continue to provide pieces from my addled memory...they may contribute to your work.
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By the way, among the Bootnecks and civvies at Government House, during the initial invasion, were about 4 -6 Surveyors from Endurance, who had been ashore as a "detached survey team", while Endurance was to the South and East ...... don't think your web site mentions this / them.
Anyway, HMS Hecate was an Ocean Class Survey ship (sister ship of Hydra / Herald and Hecla).
She was carrying out an Assisted maintenance period in Devonport during the outbreak of the conflict.
They painter her grey, stuck 20 mm Hoelican (phonetic spelling) machine guns on the port and stbd bridge wings, mobilised a wasp helicopter and associated flight crew, ripped out one of the survey stores and filled it up with AS 12 missiles. Then came a detachment of Bootnecks, and off we went.
Chris Goby was the Captain.
We RV'd with the homeward bound Endurance in Ascension Island.
Then to Stanley, and then to a long "inlet" or "sound", I believe called Mare Harbour where we established the survey control, and surveyed some approaches to what was to be a new landing strip there. The open whaler was converted to a survey launch, plus the 2 x s.m.b's were at it, dawn till dusk. "Inking in" in the chart room usually went on till late at night.
Left a detached survey team (approx. 6-10 blokes) - think it was up in the Jason Islands off West Falklands. Scraped some dead Argie pilots + thier airplane off the mountain, and gave them a proper burial. Few other surveying and mopping up bits and pieces, took on a small detachment of Pongo's, and then went to S.Georgia / Grytviken, and then southward to S.Shetland and S.Sandwich. We landed on one on these, can not remember which - I believe they suspected Argies may be there, so the Booties went in first.
Think we went back to S.Georgia after that (we had left various detached teams ashore there anyway) and started some triangulation traverses up and down to East coast. Weather was atrocious and the Hecate upper deck was well iced in. Weather was terrible, and a detatched survey team carrying out satellitte obsevations got snowed in for about 3/4 days, before the Wasp plucked them off the desolate rock outcrop on which they were based.
Visited the whaling stations up the coast, Husvik / Stromness + ? Then we did a the "Bay of isles" survey ( this may have also been for a potential landing strip..?).. Recall long cold days, installing controls and survey recording. Trying to put the Land Rover ashore, on an inflatable raft in a howling gale, do not recall why, or even if we did it. But do recall the inflatable getting airborne at one point and smashed to pieces.
Christmas spent in Grytviken harbour, where we had a sod's opera at the old / ruined Church there.
Back to Falklands, and picked up the survey teams, we anchored somewhere far to the west and went ashore in boats for new year's eve makeshift BBQ. We had each received a hip flask size bottle of whisky each from the UK and were making full use of it.--- An advanced leave party went home from Stanley.
Round the Horn, ( dissapointingly calm ) and wary of the proximity of Argentina, think we were guinea pigs in this respect, or at least "testing the water". Picked up a Chilean Pilot off Punta Areanus, and had a fantastic passage through the Patagonian canals. Stopped at a place called "Kelly Inlet" where Cdr. Goby had camped and work many years before. Back out into the Pacific - first rays of sun for 6/7 months and many people got burned badly. Run Ashore in Conception / Talchuano (Chile), through the Panama, and I think a run in Antigua.
Then back to Guzz, and up the strazza !
Events recalled some 17 years later.
An excellent trip, and a great opportunity for a young bloke. Falklands, S.Georgia, the Antarctic are breathtaking places and lasting memories of all the excellent characters / individuals who were all part of it. Of course one only remembers the best, and there were long cold hard days and nights along the way. This story is a one of about 120 who would all have thier own to tell of the same 9 month deployment. Somewhere it was recorded that we were at sea for 210 days straight.
Whilst we sailed under the "operation Corperate" flag, and the exclusion zone was still in force and the vessel was at a fairly high state of readiness certainly during the first couple of weeks, this perspective would be vastly different from that of say a foot soldier getting put ashore at S.Carlos, or an AB closed up during action stations during an air raid or imminent attack.
Just swinging the lamp I suppose, but not a bad idea to record something before it is all forgot.
From a Second Lieutenant in 29 Transport and Movement Regiment RCT
I didn't deploy to the Falklands but I was very closely involved in the preparation for the departure of the Task Force. At the time I was a 2Lt in 29 Tpt&Mov Regiment RCT, based at South Cerney in Glos. We had a duty Movements officer roster (known as "Spearhead" standby) and I was it when the Argies invaded.
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I had to gather together my little band of movement controllers (Sgt Bremner, Cpl Hudson plus two others I think) and head off at high speed in two Land Rovers for Southampton where we moved into a TA centre and I was told I had to load two ships: ELK and CANBERRA. 29 Regt was my first posting and I was nearing the end of my tour (I was due posting to Germany in early May) so I was fairly experienced (I don't think Sgt Bremner held that view though, and he was probably right!). As we were just about the first "movers" to arrive to actually do some work (as opposed to doing any planning) we decided to split the ships between us and I took ELK with Cpl Hudson. I can't remember the berth she was tied up at but 18 rings a bell. I was given no orders or instructions other than to load anything that turned up in as sensible a fashion as I thought fit - I suppose it was an early version of directive control.
We went aboard and had a chat to the Captain and his first officer and then waited for something to turn up. It didn't take long for the first vehicles to arrive and they never stopped coming for almost three days, a mixture of military and civilian trucks carrying mainly ammunition but also other stores including an airportable bridge and other "useful" items. Adhering slavishly to our plan (cooked up between me and Cpl Hudson over a cup of coffee on the tank deck) we set about loading what turned out to be the WMR (War Maintenance Reserve) for 3 Cdo Bde and 5 Inf Bde onto ELK. We started in the lowest hold with Milan AT missiles, and carried on with pallets and pallets of 105mm HE for the artillery, small arms ammo for the infantry and 120mm HESH rounds for the Paras' WOMBAT AT guns. Then came what I remember to be something like 500 tons of Mk 7 AT mines which, because they were part of the WMR, were loaded on with everything else - I remember thinking at the time that they probably wouldn't be needed! As we worked through the nights and days Cpl Hudson and I decided to try and extract what we thought might be first line ammo for the troops (ie. what they might need straight away) and loaded it on the top deck for'ard, in front of what was to become a Chinook pad. This meant me using my vast experience garnered in 6 months at Sandhurst and spotting the 7.62mm, 9mm, 30mm RARDEN, 81mm mortar, flares, grenades etc and anything else that we thought might come in handy. We also loaded 40mm for the L40/70 Bofors guns of the LSLs and thereby hangs a further tale: We loaded the ammo (in very distinctive silver aluminium boxes) and as we were doing so an older man, a truck driver, turned up and asked whether we were loading Bofors guns - I said yes, we were. He asked if we had the mounting rings for the guns to marry them up with their mountings on the vessels they were going to. A quick check revealed that no, there were no mounting rings, only guns and ammunition. It turned out that he had been an Army gunner on board ships during WW2 and knew all about the Bofors. The rings were flown out to the ELK by Chinook as she sailed down Southampton Water. I shudder to think what the consequences would have been if he hadn't turned up to offer that bit of advice.
Anyway, we continued to pack on the ammunition and as the hours passed I began to receive more and more visits from various senior officers asking "exactly when would ELK be ready to sail?" needless to say my answer was different every time as more and more equipment turned up. When the ammunition dried up, the vehicles arrived and we loaded on various Royal Marine BV202s, 3 Paras' WOMBAT Land Rovers and the Blues and Royals' Scimitars. It was at that point, as I guided these vehicle onto ELK, that I realised that this was serious and not just another exercise. With the loading of these vehicles we were almost finished and the designated RN officer who was to travel with ELK arrived and asked if there were any guns on board that could "fire over the side of the ship". Having confirmed that he was indeed serious (he badly wanted to make ELK a warship obviously), we so positioned the Scimitars that they could be brought up the vehicle lift from the tank deck and driven onto the heli pad - Nelson would have been proud of me!
My last visitor was to be my most difficult however. Hew Pike arrived (then CO 3 Para) and demanded to see his vehicles. Having been shown where they were and assured that they were OK he wanted to know where his 120mm WOMBAT ammunition was. He was less than impressed when I, a rather tired and grubby 20 year old subaltern, waved airily in the direction of the huge stack of ammunition that filled ELK's cavernous tank deck and said that it was "in there somewhere". Well, needless to say, that wouldn't do and he got quite angry about it (to be fair, he must have been under a lot of pressure and "movers" were always fair game) saying "did I honestly expect him to lead his battalion ashore under fire with no AT weapons?". There's only one answer to that if you want to keep your commission so the crew spent a good deal of the voyage to Ascension extracting the ammunition and shoring up the stack. I believe it was all fired at Ascension Island.......
Anyway, after some 72 hours solid work by Cpl Hudson and myself the ELK was as ready to go as she would ever be. We were dead on our feet by then (I hadn't noticed that I'd been wearing my jersey back to front for the last 24 hours) and had had no sleep whatsoever in that period. I made a sketch of the loading plan (which I still have somewhere) and reported to Mov Ops at UKLF that she was ready to go, went back to the TA centre and went to sleep for 20 hours.
I returned to South Cerney, packed my kit and went to Germany, the rest of my troop going to the South Atlantic with the Task Force. I have regretted not going to the CO and demanding a place on the boat ever since (I had worked with 3 Cdo Bde and was arctic warfare trained) but when you're a 20 year old 2Lt these things don't really occur to you and it turned out I was to have plenty of opportunities for action over the next 18 years anyway. I remember scouring the papers every day for any news of ELK or my troop. Thankfully they all returned safely.
From a seaman based on HMS Broadsword
Its so long ago now since the conflict but one thing is still as fresh in my memory today as it was then FEAR. I can remember one Sunday afternoon at action stations the watertight door to the fwd frpp [forward fire & repair party post] was flung open and someone shouted "Exocet underway" and slammed the door shut. I remember it to be a Sunday as I was spread out on the floor like ME7 [a floor polish used in the Navy], the thought went through my head "oh Lord no I can't die on a Sunday". The person who informed us of this Exocet attack omitted to tell us that it was 45 miles away and no immediate threat to us. On that day I understood the phrase "I've filled my pants". The ship I was serving on was HMS Broadsword under the command of Captain Bill Canning.
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I have retuned to the islands twice since the conflict in 1985 & 1989 visiting the Type 21 memorial and HMS Sheffield memorial.
HMS Broadsword 1981-1983
War Child - a personal account of a radar operator aboard HMS Invincible
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The Process of Recruitment
At seventeen I joined the Royal Navy. " Join the Navy" ! the posters on the walls called out - no mention of war but to "see the world, learn new skills and be a man !". Everything the glossy brochures portrayed attracted me - lying on the beach with girls, girls, girls, money filling my pockets and the world at my feet. It seemed a life fit for a king. It was also a far cry from the reality I lived in, coming from a small town with too many kids, too few teachers and too few jobs. This left me with a feeling that my life was over before it even began. My education was non existent possible because I was found to be dyslexic after leaving school. What chance did I have!
The first test set before me was multichoice and I guessed my way through the questions. Amazingly I passed. The interview came next and I bluffed my way through that too. Then the medical which was easy being seventeen, fit and healthy. The whole thing was like a Rollercoaster ride and I could not stop it. Suddenly bang, I was in the Royal Navy before I could blink. It was as simple as that.
Basic training lasted for 6 weeks. I was one of a group of 24 recruits sent to HMS Raleigh in Plymouth. We came from all walks of life and all parts of the UK. In that time we were knocked into shape physically and mentally. It was arduous and often exhausting, with the day starting at 5 am and ending with hitting the books at night. I thrived on the regime and passed everything easily, one of 12 who made it to the passing out parade. The next stage was seamanship training. Now we started to learn about life on board a ship, from knot tying to man overboard exercises. Again I enjoyed learning all these new skills and passed with flying colours.
Remember at this point my life had gone from being stuck in a small town with no prospects to becoming a young man with a purpose in life, with money to burn and the world at my feet. So far it all met my expectations. The girls did come thick and fast. They were lying in wait to pick us up at the local pubs and night spots. I learnt the hard way that most of them left you with STD's or took your money and moved on to the next sailor. I had more money than I knew how to spend, more alcohol than I knew how to drink, more friends than I knew how to trust. Little did I know I'd now entered the world of the throw away life style and to survive was to throw or be thrown, do anything and everything to come out on top. I slipped into my new way of life like a well oiled cog in the engine of the War Machine.
Twist of Fate
What did I want to do? They felt I would be good at radars so I headed off for special training. It was like something out of a 1950's black and white war film, lights flashing, a strong green line going round and round your radar screen but without the customary bleeps we heard in the movies. They gave you millions of pounds worth of computers and equipment and all the time to play with them. It was like a big game of battle ships and of course we won every time. The twist of fate came when we sat our final exam, the whole class failed so we had to sit it again and we failed again. This was not uncommon due to the exacting standards set. Those of us who had scores close to the pass mark were given their deployments. The top three in the class got HMS Invincible, the next one or two got HMS Sheffield and the next highest got HMS Coventry. I cannot remember the remaining order of deployments. The ones that still had not made the grade stayed back for more training. I came in at number three and was off to the Invincible, my best mate got the Coventry. I never saw him again after that final day when we moved out to join our ships and my memories of him fade as the years pass. I often think about what my life would of been like if I'd got one or two questions wrong and my score had been lower? Both the Sheffield and the Coventry never came back from our first engagement of war. My mate made it back alive but I often wonder what state of mind or health he is in now.
I have a vivid memory of arriving by taxi at the jetty and looking up at this mammoth block of grey steel with sailors everywhere. It reminded me of an ants nest, with every ant knowing their job and place and at that moment I felt like the size of an ant. I climbed the gangway with my kit bag on my back and joined the ebb and flow of the ants nest. Time flew by on the first day as I was inducted into ship life and learnt my way around. The ship was full of the noise of engines and machinery, it buzzed all the time, from deck to deck the buzzing never stopped, even at night when we lay in our bunks. She was like a three dimensional maze, you could go up, down, forward or back, initially never sure where you were going as all levels looked alike. Inside it was like a small town with shops, a place to get beer, a place to eat, it even had it's own TV station. My mess deck where I slept housed 32 others. Space was at a premium, either that or the designers thought sailors were midgets. On my first day the size of the ship was overwhelming but as time passed the ship became smaller as I grew ever more confident. Everybody made me feel as if I belonged to this giant ants nest. It became my new family.
When the day dawned and we finally cast off and headed for the open sea I felt like a true sailor. We sailed around playing war games, we even visited a few places here and there. Everything the glossy brochures said had come true. My life was great, what could possibly go wrong?
What The TV Said in April 1982
I was on leave at the time and I'd just spent a week away with my dad, a lorry driver, driving around the country. It was a Friday I think and we had finished up at my Uncle's house. I was grubby from the trip and I remember thinking that I needed a bath. The TV was on in the lounge room and suddenly it was speaking directly to me! Requesting all those from the HMS Invincible to return to their ship ASAP as it was due to sail to the Falklands on Monday the 5th. I jumped up and rushed home. I grabbed my bag then rushed to the station and was on a train to Portsmouth within the hour. I met up with a few of the lads from my ship on the train and they filled me in on what had happened over the last week. It was funny because some of them thought the Falklands were next to the Orkney islands off the coast of Scotland and that we would be back for weekend leave. We were laughing and drinking, joking what it would be like to go and kick some ass and still be back to party on the weekend! Little did we know the Falklands was 8000 miles in the opposite direction.
Remember the ant hill, well when we arrived back to the ship, it was as if some one had ripped the top off the ****er and the ants had gone ballistic. I arrived at my mess deck only to find out that it was my rostered night off. The last one before we set sail on the Monday. The lads and I ( those that were not married) hit the town for a piss up to end all piss ups. The girls where out in force, ****ing for their country and **** we did, drink we did, remember it was still all a game to us. The anticipation of going to war is not like fighting a war or even life after a war!
Going To War
Going to war was like my first trip to the fairground when I was a boy. The excitement is overwhelming, your blood is boiling and you jump up and down, wanting to go on every ride and win every prize at the side shows. I wanted to eat all the candy floss and drink pop until I burst. Going to war seemed like those old TV movies, you know the ones where the hero never dies even when he runs out of ammo. Going to war makes even the weakest of men strong, the shortest grow tall, it puts hairs on your chest and turns your balls into steel. Going to war felt like a dream come true.
It took two weeks to get to the Falklands, two weeks of drills, drills and more drills. War games for breakfast, lunch and tea. Everyone had to know their place and their responsibilities, no room for slip ups and definitely no room for errors. Shifts changed to 6 hours on, 6 hours off. Life now was strictly confined to work, eat and sleep and not necessarily in the same order. We where oiling the cogs of the fighting machine, we had to run like clockwork. Even after all this it was still a game to us. The more we did, the better we got, the greater the feeling became that we were invincible. We were the INVINCIBLE !. The HMS Invincible, the latest addition to the royal navy, a modern aircraft carrier with the most up to date equipment and technology, the pride of the fleet.
What Was That?
One night, about half way to the Falklands, a contact appeared on my radar screen. The aircraft was still a long way away and must have been flying high for it to show up on my screen. We were diagonally across from Buenos Aires and the contact did not fit the pattern of a commercial flight path. As it got closer and closer, we strongly suspected that it was trying to check us out and pinpoint our position. The funny thing was how the mood in the Ops room changed. This was not a drill, it was real. We tried to establish radio contact but there was no answer. I think we even sent a couple of jump jets up to take a look, at which it then turned and disappeared If it was a reconnaissance plane, did it get what it wanted? I'll never know or really care what or who that plane was because it was from this point onwards that the game stopped and the reality of what we were doing started to sink in. I could see the change in the eyes of my shipmates.
I don't remember the exact time at which we reached the two hundred mile Total Exclusion Zone, or the war zone placed around the Falklands, as the 6 hour shifts left little distinction between night and day. My particular job at the radar display was the most important job of the lot as I was the long distance air surveyor. I operated 1022 radar which covered the distance 256 miles down to 128 miles radius from the ship. My job was to report immediately any contact appearing on the display. The whole fleet relayed on me and let me tell you now I never missed a contact, even after sitting at my display for hours on end.
It was an anticlimax that first official day of war. I remember hoping for a satisfactory outcome between the two governments so that we could turn round and go home. The next day I lost any hope of this as things took a turn for the worst. Argentinean fighter planes started to attack us. I'll never forget that very first time a contact suddenly appeared on my display bearing around 240 at 180 miles, the next sweep of the radar and it was still there, "My God this is for real ! ", I thought. I logged it in to the computer then I tried to report it to the next in the chain of command, but I could not speak the words. It was at this moment I confronted the possibility of my own death and that took some time to come to terms with. After a few moments I found my voice and the wheels of war were set in motion. Our planes where sent to investigate, a dog fight took place and the Argentineans were shot out of the sky. "A job well done" I remember the men cheering as the planes went down, cheering because two young men were dead! It went on like this for the first few days and we worked out that the Argentinean fighter pilots could not night fly as they would attack only when it was light and mainly at dawn and dusk. This was to our advantage as a pattern was set and it gave us time to rest and recuperate at night.
The Day My Life Changed Forever
I was sitting at my display watching it go round when a contact appeared around 250 and at 180 miles, so I waited for the next sweep and there it was again. By this time my actions were routine, I logged it in to the computer and reported it as I'd done so many times before but this time the A.A.W.O (Anti Air Warfare Officer) who commanded the situation turned round and said there was nothing there. The next sweep of my radar came and there it was so I reported it again, now it was at 160 miles but the same thing happened again with the A.A.W. O contradicting me. Precious time was passing us by, we did not alert the fleet, we did not send planes, we did nothing. The next sweep of my radar and it was still there but now it was at 130 miles so I reported it again, this time the A.A.W.O became annoyed and told me I was chasing rabbits. By this time the contact had gone from my screens range to my mates, who was sitting next to me, his job was to track a contact from 128 miles down to 56 miles. He now reported that there was a contact at 120 miles and closing and the same thing happened. I changed my display down to the 128 mile range and to the 992 radar to watch it move closer.
The contact was now at 80 miles and closing. The radar kept on sweeping and the contact kept on coming, The radar swept again but this time there were two contacts. My mate did not get a chance to log the second contact in to the computer as it was only on our radar display for two sweeps when it disappeared under radar coverage, this indicated to us that we were dealing with an Exocet missile which was designed to skim above the waves but below radar coverage. These missiles have 2 functioning radars in the head, one facing down which keeps it on an accurate horizontal plane so that skims above the water at 6 feet which is well under our radar coverage. The second radar is forward facing and homes in on the target. My mate and I reported the double contact and the fact that one had suddenly disappeared and then told the AAWO and still he would not listen to us. He told us we were riding a bike? What ever that meant? Valuable time had passed. I could not understand how our superior could not have seen what was so obvious to us. But it was his call and it was impossible for an acting Able-bodied Seaman to contradict a Lieutenant Commander.
To understand the impact of the situation that had developed it helps to know about some important training we underwent on route to the Falklands.
We trained for a special procedure which was code named Red Alfa. Red Alfa is a drill that prepares the whole ship for battle. We perfected this drill until we could close the ship down and have it in battle readiness in four minutes. That is all it took, four minutes and we were ready for anything with everyone at their station, men at their radar displays or manning their guns, most at their fire fighting stations. This is a universal naval procedure that occurred on every ship in the taskforce simultaneously. Four minutes and you could defend yourselves from any attack, four minutes and then you could dodge and weave an attacking missile, turning at the last minute which could confuse the missile. Another defense was to fire off chaff into the air around the ship. Chaff is the word used for a cloud of silver paper that when fired into the air may convince an attacking missile that it is a better target than the ship, simple but effective. Another defense tactic was the use of Sea dart missiles. These missiles were short range and were basically full of chain. They were designed to explode directly in front of the incoming missile, thus creating a blanket of steel to rip the missile or other aircraft out of the sky. Another important manouerve was to sharply turn the ship to run on the same course as the missile so that it offered as small a target as possible. We even had helicopters that would throw themselves in the path of the missile as a last resort.
The First British Casualty
It was around 80 miles when my mate and I saw two contacts on our displays although only lasting two sweeps this was followed by one contact for two sweeps until it turned and headed back, it's job was done. Still the AAWO did not believe us and the fleet did not go to Red Alfa.
A few more minutes went by then the reports started to come in. HMS Sheffield had been hit by an Exocet missile. The Sheffield was not at Red Alfa and the men of the Sheffield were caught unprepared . Some were having showers or eating their breakfast, some slept whilst others wrote letters to loved ones, they never knew what hit them, doors and hatches where open and nobody was at their fire fighting stations. A missile such as the this one which resulted in the first British casualty of the war is designed to penetrate the hull of the ship before it explodes thus aiming to damage the nerve centre of the ship making it dysfunctional. I always remembered it as 22 men who died that day although later it became known as 20.
Any respect I had for myself died that day along with those 22 sailors. I should of done something, I should of made the AAWO listen to me. The Sheffield never changed course, it never fired it's chaff or even it's missiles in defence. It was a sitting duck. I'm guilty as charged and I'll always punish my self for the death of those men on the Sheffield. I've carried the shame of that day around with me for 17 years and will do until I die. I could of given those men four minutes four times over if I'd stood up and made myself heard. If only if I had tried. The only defence that I will allow myself is that I had been trained or should I say brain washed in the ways of the ranking system. I was an acting Able seaman, only 19 years old, whilst the AAWO was a Lieutenant Commanding Officer, a much older man, supposedly trained to command a battle situation. Who was I to question his authority? Who was I to break the chain of command and go against all the training I had undergone from day one? I was a plebe in the scheme of things and although I had performed my job to the best of my ability it meant nothing when my word was doubted. I cannot forgive myself and feel responsible for what happened to the Sheffield. I let those men down because I should of been strong, even if it meant getting my arse kicked, because I may have given them sufficient time to prepare, to go into Red Alfa, to successfully defend themselves. Surely coping with the wrath of an officer would be better than hating myself as I do now.
After the news broke there was a stunned silence in the Ops room, everything went quiet, no one talked and when conversation resumed it seemed to concern anything but what had just happened. For some odd reason the AAWO came over to our section offering around a bag of sweets, it seemed a sort of conciliatory gesture but we were too shocked to accept this token bribe at the time and it was only later that it came back to me. The AAWO's change of manner even then, signalled his acknowledgment of what had occurred, it symbolised his guilt and seemed an enticement to forgiveness.
The ironic thing is that myself and everybody else came back a hero. But I was a hero that hated him self so much that the only way I could get through the day was to get smashed out of my head, even for a few hours so I did not have to think about what I had done. No one should be classed or labelled a hero when fellow men had died as a result of his action, or inaction as it were. But then again no man should be sent to war, to kill or be killed, to settle mere political squabbles over who owns whose land.
Post Script - A Simple Philosophy
If I had a wish it would be to destroy every weapon of war and teach every person to, at the very least, tolerate or respect their fellow travellers in life. We are only here in this world for the briefest of moments and still we teach our young to hate. Safe guarding our cultures, our nations, because we are too scared to look for a united culture. Instilling hate and intolerance in our children, too naive to understand the implications of their actions.
The right to love your fellow brothers and sisters is a concept so simple that it terrifies those who have the power over our lives, instead they manipulate the very structure of our existence by promoting a society based on individualism, materialism and economic rationalism. True Democracy does not exist in western culture run by the powerbrokers and their puppet governments, it is a comforting lie that is sold to the people so they think they have freedom of choice. Even now when birth place and or religion shape the confines of our lives we are sold the passion of our convictions as an end in itself when the only true conviction we should follow is how to survive as a community, in harmony with each other and the increasingly weakened eco system of mother earth. We are not the ruling species but should instead see ourselves as the guardian species of the earth, for all living creatures. Instead our short sighted focus and material greed means the profit margin dominates all motives. We build and build, from the industrial revolution to the cityscapes of today, but are we fooling our selves that we are invincible and immortal. We are not the gods or the forces that called this world into being yet we act as if there is nothing to stop us. If any thought is given to the consequences of our actions it is to see the world as a disposable commodity. We hope to survive by launching ourselves into space to conquer other worlds. The fiction of Science fiction becomes a fact or a fate that to the optimist allows us to think we are not doomed as a race but justified to continue on the same path of raping and destroying. The cycle of mans ignorance will be complete.
We are told that to down size companies enables them to survive in todays cutthroat business environment. That the pain and sacrifice is for the good of all but perhaps the people who construct these policies could apply the same philosophy to the human race and aim at downsizing the worlds population to enable the earth to survive.
But to truly survive I believe we should give everything we have to educate our young to love and care for mother earth and all it's travellers and wonders and secrets. The philosophy that they then inherit will be passed on to their children and so on, surely it is these lessons that will ensure that our time will not end.
So what that we can build a car or a spaceship, transplant a heart, clone an animal, or build a bomb capable of destroying a whole country or planet. Big ****ing deal !. Showing that we can care for and live in harmony with the earth will show who ever created this complex series of universes that we are worthy of progressing up the ladder of what is the definition of intelligence. We are not lost but are getting close to it. Let's look in to our young ones eyes and give them the hope that will save the earth so their young ones will know how to embrace the love of creation.
From Norman Richardson, a Navigators Yeoman aboard HMS Glamorgan
I served on H.M.S. GLAMORGAN as the Navigators Yeoman and General Operations Plot provider, as a Acting Leading Seaman(radar).
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My account of what I remember takes me back to our final assault on Two Sisters in support of the land forces. We had been bombarding the hills for support and had completed our run, coming off the gun line we fell out of action stations. We were all extremely tired, we had been a very busy ship over the previous weeks.
Relaxing down aft in the electricians mess (captain had rearranged the crew so equal members of all departments were distributed throughout the ship), we all of a sudden heard the "Action stations" siren go off,(a sound I will never forget), then a huge thud into the ship, a real strange feeling came over me at that point. We tried to exit the mess up the port ladder only to find the passageway engulfed in smoke. We made our way over to the Stbd side up the ladder and made our way up through and escape hatch at the Warrant Officers mess, up to the flight deck.
On reaching the deck I can recall the confusion taking over my body, "do I put on my once only suit"? "what do I need to do"? that type of thing. The flight deck was a scene of utter commotion, fire hoses and crew everywhere. I decided to do what was right and return to my action station, the Operations Room. On my way down the ladder to the main drag, people were busy donning fire suits and B.A's to go fight the fire. As I reached the main drag I still see it clear as day, two crew members holding someone up by his shoulders taking him to the first aid post, I am sorry to say did not recognize him, I was distracted by the sight that he had lost both of his legs, never have I seen anything of the kind or ever wish to again. Right then in my face was the ugly consequences of war, in my mind he was already dead.
I continued on to the OP's room so they could account for crew members, shock was now setting in, I felt real bad inside. The ship seemed to be doing ok, we were still under our own power heading away from the islands. Those of us who were not needed to man the Operations room were sent up to the "Rhonda Valley" (main drag) to aid in fire fighting and anything else that needed to be done. I took a little while to collect my thoughts about what had just happened, I actually had to lie down the shock was taking over my body. My Chief came in and said I would be much better if I was actually doing something, and you know he was right.
Along with another seaman, sorry his name escapes me as I write, went to the fire fighting dressing area. We were quickly dressed in suits and B.A's and directed to the flight deck. Once on the deck the Flight Commander who appeared to be in control told us that we had to go tackle an awkward fire in the office above the hanger, (this I was not to keen on to be honest, but.....). My buddy was ahead of me my hand on his shoulder, fire hose in hand, we entered the tiny office, bodies of those who had perished were still there, all dead, they took the brunt of the explosion. The fire was raging in an upstairs office, our only entrance to the fire was through a hatch. I could not see a thing, the smoke was thick as it could be, all we did was direct the hose at the hatch and try to saturate the fire. We were in there for about 5-10 mins I think, time seemed to have no consequence except for what air we had left. We were finally pulled out and we returned to the lower deck and undressed. What a day, 18 years later and it is as clear now as it was then. I thank my lucky stars that I did not have the ugly task of removing the bodies from the galley, my buddies did, I hate to think what memories they carry to this day.
We safely arrived back at the rest of the fleet, exhausted, but with one more task to take care of, the burial of our lost shipmates. Incredibly as it was I remember that night being one of the calmest we had experienced. Those of us that could muster for the burial, did so on the flight deck, bodies bundled up in white canvas were lined up on the Sea slug missile deck, silence was abundant, a profound loss of life and friendships had effected all us. One by one after a blessing ,were released over the side, never to be seen again. That was truly an incredible 24 hours of my life.
Lt Cmdr. Ian Inskip, Navigator and my boss, recorded the burial place on a chart and that was to be used I guess as some closure for the families, for where their lost ones were left to rest.
As I read over what I have just recounted I cannot help but have a tear fill my eye, these accounts are accurate as far as I can recall them and I apologize if I have said anything out of context.
I now reside in Canada and have not made it back for any of the reunions since I left England in 1988. I hope to be at the one planned for 2002, I hope this helps with your collection of memories of a war that took place so very far from home.
Norman Richardson (Acting Leading Seaman D170619G)
From an Aircrewman on HMS Yarmouth
The following was sent as a response to Norman's posting above:
It doesn't matter much now, but I was aircrewman on HMS Yarmouth and we had been on NGS (gunfire support) over several nights without consequence. On each occasion while exiting back to the fleet for refuel/ammo, we were made aware of a suspected exocet rig in the vicinity of Port Stanley airport. So much so that on 2 nights we flew the Wasp trailing a sonar bouy to try and attract missiles.
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On that night, after receiving news from shoreside of how well our gunfire had helped the advancing troops, we were ordered by Glamorgan captain to steam aline astern, on a track 20 missile inside the danger zone. Our captain refused to obey and we kept out of danger. I think it was less than 30 minutes when action stations were sounded and the awful news broke about your hit. We despatched our LMA and stretchers/BA gear etc. and I had to lower them by winch onto the flight deck due to the smoke and mess everywhere.
Of the many <expletive deleted> that were experienced, yours was one of the most unnecessary, and was borne from the pratish rivalry of officers reluctance to accept advice from those less senior. I was so fortunate to have served under a captain (Cmdr) who took advice from people better placed, and made sound judgements instead of the overwhelming <expletive deleted> who were in charge.
Sorry about the language - I am still incensed by it all.
I was on Yarmouth and saw quite a bit of action. Firstly we went alongside Sheffield straight after the hit - the 2nd exocet went past us at 400 yds. Took those poor bastards off until seakings arrived and then we broke away to attack a sub that was prowling around us, with a dozen mortars and a torpedo - didn't get it. They think it was a Russian Alpha. We then were tasked to tow her to S.Africa, the awful sight of that burnt hull was horrible. You know how a ship sort of lives? we'll the death of her made you go cold. Anyway that night under tow the sea got up and she slowly filled through the hole in her side and had to be cut free. The next morning was calm but misty and all that was left were a few 20 man life rafts that had inflated as she sank.
Joe d'Souza (email@example.com)
From a REME Armourer attached to 3rd Bn Parachute Regiment
My name is Michael Hall. I was attached to 3rd Bn Parachute regiment during the Falklands conflict of 1982. My rank was Craftsman and I was a REME armourer. I spent most of the conflict with 3 Para's quartermasters department and was usually to the rear of the rifle companies, humping rations around etc.
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Towards the end of the conflict me and my friend, fellow armourer, Alec Shaw were flown by helicopter from teal inlet to Estancia house. As we arrived there the main body of 3 Para moved out, I cannot remember if it was that night or the next but 3 Para attacked mount Longdon which I guess was ten or twenty miles away. It was a night attack with no artillery support. From Estancia house we could see the sky lit up all that distance away as the battle raged. A continuous stream of helicopters arrived and we loaded them up with ammunition and primed grenades which they ferried back to the battle. In the HQ, which was a big shed, you could here the clerk, who was in radio contact with our troops on Longdon, repeating the names of soldiers who were being killed or wounded as the battle went on.
By morning it was over. I had missed my chance of fulfilling my childish desire to be in a battle and perhaps be a hero. Around lunchtime the Qm Tech (I think), confirmed that I was the armourer and asked me if I had mortar spares. I told him that I did and he informed me that a mortar bipod had broken on Longdon and that a helicopter would be picking me up in thirty minutes to take me there and fix it. I was elated! Me going up to 'the front'! I asked Alex if he wanted to come with me and he said yes. Alex had received his first ever fathers day card that morning from his son. we jumped on the helicopter with some signals people and took of. Our flight to Longdon was low to the ground and fast. We stopped about a mile or so short of Longdon at 3 Para's Rebro station which was in a small rocky outcrop. I think a couple of spotting rounds landed close to the helicopter and the loadmaster was extremely nervous and wanted to get away as quickly as possible. Me Alec and and a Colour Sergeant, who I think may have been from the anti-tank platoon, dragged our stores off which included sigs, batteries, cigarettes for the boys, and weapon spares, and took cover in the rocks, I was loving it! Alec was scared, he was older then me and in hindsight I think that he had a clearer understanding of the danger that we were in.
A couple of BV's picked us up and took us to Mount Longdon. One of the first people that I saw was Cpl Ross Noble. Coming down to the Falklands he had been very Gung Ho and had been really looking forward to some action. He now looked totally different, tired maybe dazed. He began reeling ogf names of who, from the MT platoon, had been killed or wounded the previous night. 'Fester' Greenwood had been shot in the head and killed, and I can't remember the other names. Suddenly there was hassle, apparently Argentine Chinooks had been seen taking off from Stanley, a counter attack on Longdon was suspected. We were hurriedly given sixty-six millimetre anti tank weapons and lined up facing the flat ground. We were briefed to wait until the Chinooks were about fifty feet off the ground and then let rip. They never came and we were stood down about half an hour later.
Ross invited Alec and I up the mount a bit to a crevice in the rocks where the REME lads were making a brew. I went into the crevice with Ross, Lcpl Geof Hamilton and Lcpl Simon Melton was there as well. Alec went into another crevice beside ours about twenty feet away to have a cup of tea with Cfn Steve Lint. I was standing up whilst Geof made the tea, he looked up at me and advised me to get down as there was a lot of shells coming in, I loved it!! Then about three shells came in at once (I watched one land about fifty feet away, but wasn't hit), I shit myself. I forced myself into this tiny crack in the rocks and froze. Then people started screaming, I recall somebody who was terrified shouting out time and time again "I've been hit, I've been hit". My illusions about war were instantly dashed, it was no adventure, I was terrified. Geof Hamilton verbally dragged us out of our cracks saying something like "come on, somebody's been hit".
We went into the next crevice and there was Alec just sitting there unconscious, he had blood spattered on his face and Steve Lint was applying a shell dressing to his leg. I saw the wound which was in his thigh, and it did not look that bad. We called for a stretcher and then ran down the hill with Alex on the stretcher. I was totally shitting myself with fear. I was just waiting for the next salvo to come in. I have thought about this often and wondered how I could possibly explain my feelings to somebody who has not been in a similar position. Well I would ask those people to imagine themselves standing by the side of a moderately busy motorway, blindfolded and with their hearing blocked up. Then I would ask them to imagine how it would feel walking across the motorway knowing that any second you are going to die a horrible death. Well that's how I felt.
We carried Alec down (fast)and I left him with the medics. I was told that I was now with the stretcher-bearers. That night, very close by, 2 Para attacked Wireless Ridge, it was very, very loud. Nobody was injured that night from 3 Para even though it sounded like a lot of shells were coming in, but on reflection, they were probably getting lobbed at 2 Para. I spent the night extremely frightened and praying to God (who I never pray to) asking him to not let me die. When I wanted a piss I pissed lying down in my water bottle, I was very scared of shrapnel.
Morning came and I was starting to get used to shells, the longer the whine, the further away they were going to land. I was having a shit in some rocks when I met a cook who said that it was a shame about Alec. I thought his wound hadn't looked that serious so assumed that he had been choppered out to the hospital ship Uganda. Therefore, I said that at least Alec was lucky because he would be on a hospital ship out of this crap. Then he told me that Alec had died the previous night.
We packed our kit and started walking towards Stanley, a cease-fire was declared on the way and everybody put their maroon berets on. I spent a further four years with the Parachute Regiment of which three years were served with 2 Para. I passed 'P' company the selection for airborne forces and earned my parachute wings. I am now at university and complete my history degree in June.
I would be happy to discuss the Falklands with anybody; my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Recollections of a LWEM(R) on HMS Arrow
Was it almost 20 years ago now?
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The millenium has come and gone and some of us still remember things as if they were yesterday!
I was just a lowly LWEM(R) on HMS Arrow when our call to action was given.
We had been doing Naval Gunfire support in the Mediteranian for some junior officers during the build up period... As usual we were more concerned with getting ashore and having a good time, as matelot's are prone to do, then working on expensive war charriots. So one fateful day the Captain woke us personally and said "For all you budding astrologers out there, you will notice the sun is on the other side of us, we are going south." The usuall rumor mill had failed us !!!
And so began the Biggest Adventure of My Life. We started by RASing (Replentishment at Sea) all we could from the lucky ships headed North (and Home) . The group of us now heading South got larger as we neared the Ascension Islands. We were told it was too dangerous to go swimming as it was Shark Migrating season . What and going to war isn't ? Serious training was the order of the day from that point on. The next thing that stands out in my mind was the day I was to take the Whaler ashore to burn garbage. We were in Bomb Alley (San Carlos inlet?) and as I and another lad were deemed "spare" we were to do this necessary task. So off we went ,beached the whaler ashore , joined another party already there and added our stuff to the pile. as we were last there we stayed to watch that the bonne fire didn't get out of hand. next thing the radio comes to life "AIR RAID get back here PRONTO !" ok back to the whaler we ran .....UH OH ...... "Um Chief ....We, Uh, can't leave the beach"....... "Why not ?" ........"The tides left us high and dry !"........"(censored),We'll send the geminii if we have time". Suffice to say that a tow rope and lots of muscle power got us back to the relative safety of the Ship. There were other things that happened, like the newspapers from home always getting the stories wrong. But it was nice to get them all the same. Even if they were over 2 weeks old by the time we got them.
I also remember US trying to help the Sheffield put out the major fire she had. We helped them abandon ship by pulling a lot of them over the railing to board us. Credit also goes to the HMS Yarmouth and various Helicopters in the area with this sorrofull task.
Should anyone want further info try me at email@example.com and I'll see what I can remember. Oh Yeah, before I go, I was transferred to HMS Endurance for 2 years right after a short course in England, so I was sent south yet agian. When I can afford it I shall scan in the beautiful scenery photos I have of the Falkland Islands which include war damage to us (HMS Glamorgan's attempt to shoot aircraft!), helicopters taking refuge in the crook of a hill (Bomb Alley), and other stuff taken on the other trips Down South !!!
From an Argentinian ex-pat now living in the USA
I was drafted in April of 1982, just a few days after my birthday. I was turning 20 and I was in college in Bahia Blanca, province of Buenos Aires.
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It was a rather surreal time in my life. I could not comprehend what was going on. Some people were acting as if that was the end of a long argument between Argentina and Great Britain, as if they thought that Margaret Thatcher was going to do nothing, or as if Argentina was fully equipped to take on such war enterprise. Even if the country was ready for a conflict of such magnitude, what the Argentine military government did was absurd and suicidal. It was all very scary.
I cannot believe that 20 years already went by and as I go through your [this] site and see these photographs a lot of memories still are fresh in my heart. Those days in 1982 seemed so long and so bitter. Fortunately, I was not sent to the archipelago due to the no-fly zone set by Thatcher around the islands. I think it was a matter or a day or two. I remember that day it was all over and a soldier friend of mine and I hugged long and strong and cried. Hell was over but our lives would never be the same. A generation had been seriously scarred, although not as much as the generation before (about 30 thousand missing).
I believe that a democratic government would have not proceeded that way. The military were very discredited at that time and they played with one of Argentina's fairy tales: the Malvinas are ours. As I write this letter I hear the voices of many fanatics (including my father) refuting what I state. However, I believe that none of them would give up the comfort of living in continental Argentina to move to the islands.
I am a pacifist and my argument is not intended to point out who was right and who was not, but to highlight that war is unnecessary, unfair, and sometimes unworthy. However, as a U.S. citizen today, I cannot sit and live in fear while waiting for the next terrorist blow; therefore if our country is under attack we must protect ourselves and reclaim what is ours: our right to live in freedom. I suppose that a similar sentiment was felt in England in 1982 when the Argentine military government invaded the islands. It was not the Argentine people who made that decision because we were not living in democracy, it was the last recourse of a group of dictators to hold up a crumbling bloody government.
I support dialogue and negotiation. If Argentina and the United Kingdom chose to spend the next centuries at the diplomatic tables negotiating about the Falklands is all right.
It is worth noting what positive changes took place in Argentina as a consequence of the war. Despite the losses in young human lives is the end of the corrupt military government, the unveiling of their genocide apparatus, the reinstatement of democracy and the right to seek answers about the estimated 30 thousand missing.
From ex-CPOMEA(M) Rowdy Yates, HMS Yarmouth
There are so many facts and figures available to hand about the "Conflict", but what I will always remember the most, is the total comradeship we had for each other during that time and after.
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I have been in civvy street for six years now and that feeling of trust and respect will never ever be felt again.
Being a "Rosyth" Ship and still living in the area, I still see old friends from the Yarmouth, and without trying to be to nostalgic, there is something that still clicks.
The Yarmouth never experienced any damage, but we certainly experienced all the action.
Our Captain was a man whom I respected because of his actions and not his uniform.
There were also funnier sides to the event, which I try to remember in order to balance things out.
We all have our individual stories to tell, some keep to themselves, some tell to all.
I have a lot of time for all the people who served during the conflict, sometimes with only our sense of humour to keep us going.
From Andrew McKay, Hewlett Packard engineer, Portsmouth/Devonport dockyards
I didn't serve in the armed forces at any time. When the Falklands crisis blew up I worked for Hewlett Packard as a field based computer maintenance engineer and Portsmouth (and sometimes Devonport) dockyards were in my catchment area. I was also personally responsible for maintaining desktop systems at Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment, Captains Weapons Trials and other supporting facilities. I went on board many of the ships that served in the conflict to fit HP9845 desktop computers in the ops room. I never did get to know what those computers were being used for because I think the real purpose was something of a military secret, something called "Link 42" springs to mind which maybe someone somewhere will be able to remember and comment on.
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By today's standards the HP9845 would hardly merit as a state of the art computer, but in its day it offered very powerful facilities in a small package that were unmatched in anything similar on the market.
So though my involvement was peripheral to the conflict itself, I'm proud of what our armed forces personnel did back in 82. Well done all.
In memory of a Son of Stanbridge
I am writing to you to about a very good friend of mine who lost his life during the battle for Mount Longdon, Falkland Isles on 11-12 June 1982.†
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For much of his early life Neil lived in the West Country and then†in Gosport, Hants.† He even had the lilt in his accent to say so. However I know from some research that he was actually born on the 11 June 1964 in the village of Stanbridge and resided there until some time in 1966 when his family moved west.
I joined the†Junior Parachute Company (JPC)†on the same day as Neil on 09:09.80 and was billeted in the same section and room as he.†Over the next twenty months, initially in the Depot and then with†B company 3 Para, we and other young soldiers forged an indelible brotherhood. From the very first day in†JPC†it was obvious that Neil was different from the majority of us trainee†paratroopers.†He was calm and measured in all that he did.† He was not in the least aggressive, prefering a more cerebral approach to his soldiering. His talent for soldiering and leadership was recognised by the training staff and Neil was soon to be made up to a junior NCO.†Infact he was on the shortlist of two to become the junior company sergeant major, unfortunately missing out on the post by the narrowest of margins.
At the beginning of 1982 a group of us were posted to B coy 3 Para to start our adult soldiering careers.†Neil continued to exude those rich, rare qualities that made all that knew†him respect and love him immensely.†
In April of that year we sailed on the†SS Canberra to the Falklands.†As seventeen year olds we were embarking on the greatest adventure of our lives and Neil tackled this period of great excitement with an attitude well in advance of his tender age. He participated in 3 Para's celebrated advance across the islands with good humour, motivating and inspiring many of his friends just†through his presence.
I last saw†Neil on the evening of the 10th June when we were briefed by the company commander about the pending attack on Longdon.†Many of us youngsters got together to†discuss the work ahead. It was an emotional†time that was driven by the realisation that the company would be losing men to the ravages of war in the coming hours.†I spoke to†Neil and†others that had been together since September 1980 and the prevailing mood was sombre yet positive.
On his eighteenth birthday Neil advanced to contact with the company, attacking positions with 4 Platoon†to the northern side of the ridge. At some time after midnight†on the 12th June Neil was shot in the chest and died some three hours later†as his friends struggled to save his life. I heard of his death by a mutual friend in the Regimental aid post†at some point during the next morning. Two other friends from our time in Juniors died that night, and the loss still bites.†The battalion lost twenty three dead on Longdon, many from B company who led he initial assault.
Without exaggeration Neil was an exceptional soldier and human being. In the time I knew him I never heard a detrimental comment aimed at him. He had a large circle of friends who†trusted his actions and decisions implicitly. His cool head and caring nature are recognised as only two of his great characteristics.†Additionally his humour in abundance often lightened the tiring, painful†workload we all shared. Having spoken recently to other veterans I can qualify that this is not my isolated opinion, more a widely held understanding amongst all that knew him that Neil Grose was a true hero throughout his short life.†Stanbridge, his place of birth, can be truly proud to have a son such as he.
JB, B coy, 3 Para
Argentine soldier Miguel Angel Russo, on the war's 23rd anniversary
I am an Argentinean combatant of the Falklands War. Today, April 2, is a very special day for me, as for all the Argentinean soldiers who were in the Falkands, many of us just 18 years lost friends and dear ones. And today, 23 years later and at 42 year of age, there is not one day that he/she doesn't remember all those who lived during those times. [ The next bit didn't translate well ] And later of very important serious so much time for me, to contact me with English soldiers that fought in the Falkands, please, if they know some email addresses he/she would thank them a lot.
If anyone would like to get in touch with Migel, email me and I'll forward your message.
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A strong hug from an Argentinean soldier,
Strange finds on the wreck of the Belgrano
A recent contribution from a reader tells of an interesting discovery on the wreck of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano shortly after the conflict.
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The second of the Royal Navy's Hunt class minesweepers, HMS Ledbury was launched in December 1979, at Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd., Woolston Yard, Southampton and was commissioned on 11th June, 1981. Shortly after becoming fully operational, she was deployed to the South Atlantic in company with her sister ship HMS Brecon, supported by RMS St Helena, for mine clearance and bomb disposal operations around the Falkland Islands.
The reader reveals that the ship's divers actually salvaged the weapons from the Belgrano and discovered both American and Russian weapons. The crew were also involved in bringing supplies to the people of the Falklands.
Some history on 11 Mine Counter Measures group from HMS Cordella's captain and the group's senior officer
HMS Pict was the first warship to enter Port Stanley after the surrender.
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During the night of 10 June, HMS Pict (Lt Cdr D G Garwood RN) (sister ship of the GAUL that had sunk in unknown circumstances while fishing) was tasked with HMS Cordella (Lt Cdr M C G Holloway RN) in support to influence sweep Berkeley Sound. The idea was to clear an area for ships that would provide naval gunfire support for the final stages of the assault on Stanley. HMS Pict was the only ship available that had the special sweep system necessary. Transferring all non-essential crew to HMS Cordella at sea at the entrance to Berkeley Sound, HMS Pict began sweeping but the risk increased markedly early in the operation when the influence sweep failed. Clearly Pict was not built as a minesweeper and any breach in the hull would have resulted in the ship's rapid sinking. Undeterred, knowing the importance of the mission, and in the knowledge that the Task Force Commander had accepted the risk of loss of a trawler, HMS Pict's Commanding Officer decided to turn his ship into a guinea pig. HMS Pict was made as noisy as possible by running all machinery at various speeds and revving up the main engine while completing the required number of runs through the area. Fortunately no mines were found, HMS Cordella transferred the remaining crew back to HMS Pict and the two ships scuttled back into Teal Inlet before morning to hide from Argentine aircraft during the next day. Lt Cdr Garwood was subsequently awarded a Mention in Despatches.
HMS Junella, (Bickington's Ships Company), one of the 5 which returned to Rosyth from the Falklands on 11 August 1982, brought back a large green defused ARG mine, the detonator had been removed but the mine was still packed with enough explosives to sink her. She had acted as 'Mine-Disposal Ship' outside Port Stanley and a 'Sample' was required at home.
After decommissioning at Rosyth on 11 August 1982, the trawlers returned to the Humber a day or so later to be refitted in civilian yards and, during October/November 1982, were returned to their owners.
Argentine account of a repulsed Gurka landing
Note that I have personally never read anything about this incident; given the number of casualties, I think it would be difficult to cover up. Draw your own conclusions.
Les comento q.el 2 de mayo del 82, en el estrecho de san carlos frente al monte dos hermanas a la madrugada logramos destruir una fuerza de desembarco, eran 4 lanchones yo conte aproximadamente mas de 400 hostiles abatidos, la mayoria gurkas, esto no lo leo en ninguno de sus relatos. Bueno hasta el proximo enfrentamiento.
On the 2nd of May 1982, in the San Carlos bay in front of the Dos Hermanas mount at dawn, we managed to destroy a landing force, there were 4 boats, I counted approximately more than 400 hostile casualties, most of them Gurkas, this I haven't read in any of your stories. Well, until the next battle..
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From Mertha, an Argentian woman who wrote to soldiers
I'm Argentinean and woman. I would like to share the following with other people, just a humble memory. Please excuse me if my English is not good!
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1982: by those days I was 11 years old,and attending Primary school. Living in Argentina was not easy; the Junta's propaganda campaign was quite heavy (in fact, people believed we were winning!)I remember that we wrote letters to the Argentinean soldiers in the islands: I wrote two myself, and also knitted a scarf, a very long brown scarf, full of hope. I didn't like war at all, but somehow, I hoped I could help someone. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't have minded if a british soldier had worn it...
Now that I'm an adult, I still believe that there's a lot to be done, concerning veterans and people who were involved in this war. Six boys from my hometown were sent to the islands. Last year they had the opportunity to share with the rest of us many memories. I think it helps to heal... Perhaps, who knows, after all, "healing" is the keyword...
Thanks a lot for being there!
The true story of the South Georgia operation
I am grateful to W.Turner, who in June 2008 contributed the following:
With regard to the langings on South Georgia, 'D' Squadron 22 SAS were landed and aborted on Fortuna [glacier] as a result of the helicopter crashes on the Glacier. However 17 troop of D sqdn landed in force at Grass Island in the Sound, leading to Port Leith. Reconnisance took them into Gritvyken and troops from Mobility Troop joined them. The rest of the sqdn were on HMS Antrim [who], with a few RMs [Royal Marines] belonging to Antrim, landed at South Georgia and stormed the garrison there, going through a minefield to do so and taking the garrison by surprise by their speed of advance. The Union Flag was hoisted by the D Sqdn SSM Lawrence GALLAGHER (who later died in heli accident with 21 others). The South Georgia Islands were not recaptured by Royal Marines - that was a press filibuster by HM government to draw attention off the SAS involvement. I know - I was there. It was the factor that the Royal Navy yet again had the right Captains, both brilliant and brave, in command on HMS Endurance and Antrim with the combination of 22 SAS Commander Major Cedric Delves (Oi/C D Sqdn 22 SAS).
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Mercenaries in the Falklands
Pete, who was serving in the Parachute Regiment, sent me his first-hand encounters of mercenaries in the fighting:
I have read a†few articles†lately regarding†American involvement. In the Falklands campaign, as a serving soldier with the Parachute Regiment during the Falklands war. I can tell you what I personally experienced and what I remember to be true at the time. I don't want to give to many particulars at this time as I don't want to implicate any other persons as it is my own account of an incident as I remember it.†I was involved with the battle for Wireless Ridge on the†13/14 June, after a bit of a scrap we took the high ground, we couldn't move forward as we were being shelled†quite heavily so we dug in for the night. At first light we were on the move again towards Port Stanley.†Now that it was day light we could see†the damage that we†had inflicted on the Argy position. Including the dead, one particular deceased soldier looked somewhat different to me. He was a large man, of Anglo-Saxon appearance and dressed in American cams.†He had been armed with an American M60 machine gun and an M16 rifle, when I†searched this man†found personal affects that verified that he was an American citizen. I can't†remember the name on his ID - as you could understand, it was a long time ago.†I have thought about†this soldier almost every day since. That morning, I stole his watch and his identity, and I feel for his family who would have no idea what ever happened to this man.
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A tangentially-related anecdote
Bryan Carroll, USMC, provideds 'a tangentially-related anecdote':
In 1982, I was attending USMC Recruit Training at MCRD San Diego, when word came through that our allies the British, had landed to retake the Falkland Islands. Our Drill Instructors, ever watchful for ways to spur even greater efforts from us, informed us that the government of the UK had requested that we join in the matter, and that we WOULD be sent to assist them.
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I was probably the only private in my platoon who'd spent his entire life to that point enthusiastically studying military affairs in depth with access to excellent source material, so I had to suppress a bark of laughter- which would have had really unpleasant consequences. I was perfectly aware that once the British forces made it ashore, it was only a matter of time.
In recruit training one has only very limited access to information to the outside world, usually in the form of an occasional newspaper that someone else was done with- and virtually no time allowed to read it. Nonetheless, I was electrified - and wishing short yomps, good weather and light losses to our brothers in the Royal Marines.
I was part of 81 Ord Coy stationed at Fitzroy when the Galahad & Tristram were hit. There were 13 of us as a forward Ord unit: 1 junior officer, 1 staff sergeant 1 sergeant, the rest juniour ranks. We started out in trenches then into tents; when both ships got hit, tents went to the Field Ambulance and we sleeped in the lifeboats that came ashore.
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HMS Plymouth's role in South Georgia
Some additional information you might like to add to the events in the surrender of South Georgia. I was a nineteen year old Gunner onboard HMS Plymouth. We in fact carried out a Naval Bombardment of the island which was directed by members of the SAS ashore. HMS Plymouth is (was) not mentioned but infact played a huge part in the recapture of South Georgia. The actual surrender of the island took place in the Wardroom of HMS Plymouth.
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John Bassett, a British ex-pat living in Argentina, sent the following:
I know an ex Soldier Ricardo Maximo Guarjardo. He was drafted for the war. As they were all waiting to leave he said that many of the men (boys) were crying as they were scared.
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He arrived and at some point they went off into small groups to dig out fox holes for cover. He said he had a hole with one other guy. "We knew you were coming" he told me, so they just waited.
When we did arrive he told me that he saw an Argentine fighter plane coming in near his position (Is it the Pajaro or something similar sounding?) [PucarŠ] closely followed by a Harrier. Both planes flew off at a rapid rate, the Argentine one was being chased. Some minutes later he said the "English" plane came back. He kept asking me about this plane as he said that it stopped moving and just hovered in from of them. At first I [thought] it was a helicopter; he kept saying "no I know what they are, this plane hovered. I then said Harrier and he didn't know. The confusion came because he called the Harrier a "Sea carry". I was thinking he was trying to say Sea King and I only ever used to say Harrier instead of Sea Harrier.
The harrier hovered in front of them. He said that "his balls came up into his throat" at this point. the Harrier then turned and flew off. He asked me why it would do that. I answered that the pilot probable saw to young men on their own not engaging in fighting and decided it would not be right to shoot you.
When the war was over and he saw the British troops for the first time he said the "the Argentines were little. The English...Double the size"
In all my conversations with him I did not see any animosity from him. He seem to understand somewhat that it was his Governments fault.
I have heard some Argentines say that the English ate some body parts of the Argentines. The Americans here have tried to say that that can not be true but the Argentines insist it is...
Some of the Anglo Argentines were drafted and questioned about their loyalty. What were they going to say?
Most people here when they know we are English are quite ok with it. Occasionally one will ask us in a friendly way where we are from and then on hearing "England" they stop the conversation and try to move away (think when someone farts in a crowded room).
I have heard only once that someone was not served in a restaurant because the owner/waitress was shouting "you killed our children". Even though the couple were 11 and 12 during the conflict and couldn't possibly be involved.
An American ex-vietnam vet tried to get involved with the ex-soldiers here with post traumatic stress. They get no help at all here. He said some are in a terrible way.
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