Now that the CGA has finally been put to bed, I hope this is now the time to pull together, draw a line in the sand and move forward together as one.
I can promise the £4,424.10 transferred today from the CGA to the Regroup account will be accounted for and audited separately from Plymouth Regroup funds.
Anyone wishing to access these funds will in the first place need to send an application in writing outlining why and what you wish to use them for. As stated in the constitution the central Regroup committee will oversee and administer the central funds held.
I hope that from this point the CGA is now consigned to history, saying that we mustn't forget the hard work and time put into the CGA over the years by many people.
Both myself and Martin decided after the 50th that there was no real need for two organisations operating for what was in essence the same cause. However I think we both felt that Regroup meeting on a regular basis and with a very good communication network was the way forward. So immediately after the 50th wheels were put in motion to wind down the CGA and absorb it into the CGR. This I am pleased to say has finally happened today.
Regroup, as you all know is a fast growing network with several meetings taking place around the country and abroad. My main wish is to see a Regroup in most areas, within travelling distance for as many ex Regimental members to utilise as possible.
Please do support your local events and Regroup meetings if you are able to. Currently we are looking for anyone with plans to set up Regroup in their local area, don't forget we now have central funds if any are needed to help you!
So from this point lets ALL move onwards and upwards and hopefully see the Commando Gunners recognised nationally as we deserve to be.
Today I signed off the final chapter of the Commando Gunner Association after a fairly long but turbulent history, with immediate effect it is now completely absorbed by the "Command Gunner Regroup". The remaining funds that were held within the Regimental PRI Account have been transferred to the Regroup bank Account where it will be held for the good and benefit of all. Future decisions on it use will be made by the committee with support from the membership. The amount transferred was £4,424.10.
According to the Regimental Accountant, no money was paid by the CGA to offset the cost of producing the Cdo 50 Book, therefore we have no funds tied up in the remaining stock, but we will help the Regiment in selling them on our website (more to follow later).
The outgoings from the account over the recent past have been scrutinised and agreed. There were items such as donations towards the Regimental Memorial, donations towards fallen and sick comrades. A replacement Cdo Dagger for the legend which was Lt Col O'Flaherty whose widow was burgled twice. A donation towards Regimental Heritage in the form of sponsorship for participants in the Spean Bridge March. All of these items I think you will agree have been worthwhile and enhanced our standing.
I mentioned our turbulent past and even recently on this site there were those who questioned our integrity and intentions. I can assure you that all I and my predecessors have tried to do is, maintain the Cdo spirit, foster the links with the serving Regiment and do what we can, with limited resources, to look after our old and bold. This continues to be reflected in Regroup's Constitution. No one will ever be able to satisfy everyone so please accept that and move on. What has gone on in the past should remain there, there is nothing to be gained by going over some of the problems perceived or otherwise. So as from today I ask you all to forgive and forget, draw a line in the sand and move forward together and generate that feeling and level of pride and respect that was so prevalent during the "Cdo 50" celebrations and more recently the 95 Cdo Reunion.
Let your views be known to me about the best way forward for the transferred fund, bearing in mind it will receive no further income from Music of the Night or the PRI. If we continue to buy wreaths for the fallen from it £60 - 70 a time we would be broke after 70 funerals. Some of the wreaths we have bought have gone to people that no one can remember, they never formally joined the CGA, never contributed and certainly never maintained contact with any one. It is often triggered by a letter from a family member who say's " my father/grandfather recently passed away and he often talked about is time in the Army, could you please organise a wreath/flag/beret etc..." Is this the best use of our funds? I agree that there are those out there whose contributions merit our recognition. Perhaps a well designed card with a picture of The Cdo Memorial or something similar would suffice. A pot plant is cheaper and longer lasting. Anyway, these decisions will not be mine to make. I wish you all well with your deliberations.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
M.M. London Gazette 30 May 1967.
The official citation published in the London Gazette states:
‘On the 13th October 1966, Sergeant Austin was in charge of a 105mm gun crew which was attached to ‘X’ Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines for an operation in the Wadi Taym area of Qutaibi Province of the South Arabian Federation.
‘X’ Company’s position was on the very open and exposed rocky feature known as ‘Table Top’. Through his drive and leadership Sergeant Austin managed to get his gun sangar constructed in the few remaining hours before last light. This was a gruelling task in the heat and dust, but his zeal was rewarded for, when darkness fell, the position immediately came under small arms fire. As the enemy were below them, it was difficult for the gun detachment to engage them without striking the top of the sangar. Well aware of the danger and regardless of the enemy fire, Sergeant Austin calmly controlled accurate fire onto the enemy, the rounds passing only a few millimetres over the sangar lip.
At 23.15 hours the following night, the company was heavily attacked from two directions at once, with mortars and blindicides [anti-tank rockets] from the south and automatic weapons and rifle fire from the west. Although Sergeant Austin’s sangar received a direct hit from a blindicide, the building was so sound that there were no casualties. Led by him with complete disregard for his own safety, the crew moved the gun through an arc of 180 degrees under heavy fire, removing the armoured shield and stanchions which were obscuring the night aiming lamps, and engaged the dissident mortars at a range of 500 metres. As a result of this action the enemy lost a most important leader and at least five others were wounded before they withdrew.
Throughout the operation Sergeant Austin’s energy, sense of duty and cheerful efficiency were an outstanding example to all. His foresight and professional ability certainly prevented casualties and his courage and determination under fire greatly influenced the successful outcome of this engagement.’
Sold with copy of the Battery War Diary for 14 October 1966 which states: ‘Later reports confirmed that two dissidents were killed and five injured that night. One of the dead dissidents was named as Salim Hussein Ghazzali, one of the oldest members of the Barna Gang.’
Sergeant Raymond Charles ‘Bunny’ Austin was born in March 1934 and educated at Privett’s Secondary Modern School, Chatham, Kent. He joined the Army in 1952 serving first in the Royal Artillery before transferring to ‘D’ Squadron, Special Air Service with whom he served until June 1958 at which time he took up service with 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Information on Brief History of the Regiment Organisation.
Regt organisation on website. Just for information 29 and 95 did not amalgamate in 1971.
7 and 8 Btys relocated from Singapore and joined 79, 145 and HQ Bty in 29.
95 Cdo Lt Regt was renamed 95 Cdo FOU which also encompassed 148 Bty (for the simple reason the new unit had no funds and 148 had plenty of cash) on 1 May 1971. 20 Cdo (AO) Bty disbanded. The FOU which had only around 80+ plus officers and soldiers actually had an HQ element of initially a Lt Col JWG Morris, 2IC Ron Preedy later CO 29, RALONGS Mike "Noddy" Searight, Adjt/QM (the infamous and loveable Charlie Boulter), Unit SM Spinner Ray Bradshaw, RQMS Brian Armitage, RSO Barry Viles and Chief Clerk the late Derek Dalrymple. A Signal Sgt, MT Sgt, Pay Sgt and PTI Piggy Paxton completed the high powered Kremlin.
Someone in the MOD finally realised this was a top heavy organisation - a full time QM had been added in 1973 - and not really required. Thus in 1976 the disbandment of 95 Cdo FOU was finalised with 148 Cdo FO Bty joining 29 Cdo Regt. Back to normal with a BC (Charlie Boulter), BK and BSM taking command.
Supplied by David Martin
A Falklands Diary
(Rescued from our Original Site - written by Neil (Randy) Randall)
Since the Falklands war there have been many accounts of what happened. In most retellings of the battles 29 Commando Regiment have been sidelined to a few paragraphs. Even though we were involved in every part of the conflict from the planning stage to the final assault on Stanley.
Here's our chance to have our say and put the record straight, lets give our own account and let the world know what would've happened had we not been there. And a reminder that an army marches on it's sense of humour not its stomach, well most of us.
If you want to copy anything from this site or contribute please contact me at the email address on the home page. Thank you.
This is a personal account of 29 Commando Regiments activities during the Falklands April-July 1982. Other peoples contributions are noted and always in orange text. I have tried to keep it accurate as possible (with a little bit of poetic licence), if you disagree with any of my scrawlings then let me know.
Friday 2nd April 1982
The C.O. Lt Col M.J. Holroyd-Smith was woken from his slumber by telephone call at 04.00 hrs, to inform him that the Regiment was warned for operations, due to the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces. Four hours later the rank and file totally unaware of the phone call earlier, were preparing for a well earned Easter leave. The pads were kissing goodbye to their wives, promising not to have too long a lunchtime session before coming home, and all the inliers were packed and ready to go home and see mum. However all plans were brought to a grinding halt, when on morning parade we were informed of the Falklands Situation. Most thoughts were, who the f**k's invaded Scotland? To add insult to injury it was to be a full working weekend. Let us get our hands on those friggin' Argies! (Now we know who & where they are)
Saturday 3rd April
Work commenced 0900 hrs. Frantic day of start/stop, hurry up and wait, load/unload, stand to/stand down. Most equipment was still in the chacons left over from the Norway deployment. Custom seals were broken the kit was hurriedly issued and redistributed, along with all the contraband booze. Most wives were very poorly informed and only got information when husbands returned home in the evening. Naturally rumour control swept the married quarters the doom & gloom merchants had a field day so were in their element. We mainly prepared for what we thought would be a short lived operational deployment & be off on leave midweek sometime. Shamus O'Leary was given permission to have a couple of hours off as he had a pressing engagement at the church.
Benny Duce remembers......One of the things that I remember well before we deployed was Shamus O'Leary's wedding. He got married on Sat 3rd April. The best part of 79 Bty was invited, obviously due to the circumstances the whole thing had to be curtailed slightly. I can't remember the exact time of the wedding, anyway the BC allowed us to spend 2 hours or so with them before we all had to be back in the Citadel and carry on transferring the FACE out of the land rovers and back into the BV 's. I can't remember if he had the Sunday off or not suffice to say though that we sailed on the 6th.
Nick Jones also remembers Seamus's wedding and adds these notes to the "happy" day along with a few other gems.
Seamus O'leary's wedding, myself and Ginge Kirby were to be his ushers but had to cancel our morning suit hire with Moss Bros on the day of the wedding as we were tasked with nearly every driver in the regiment, to go to Taunton to pick up every available BV. Needless to say neither of us attended his wedding!!
I was absolutely threaders because as you stated the Regiment was to go on Easter leave on the Friday but the BSM, Ray Hankin, had seen fit to put me on duty driver that day. After a swift argument in his office the day before, which incidentally he won, I was told tough luck, soldier on!! If you remember, duty driver’s tasks were very boring and very short? This one was the worst I ever experienced; I was on the go solidly for the whole twenty-four hours and in fact missed all regular meal times in the galley and had to make do with the odd brew and sandwich in the guardroom in between visits to Hamoaze House.
The one moment about loading ship that is very vivid in my mind, was that evening sat in the galley having our evening meal watching TSW. They had set up camera outside the main gate to film the regiment going to war. This was to be a very serious and special moment when out came the first BV. I can't remember who was driving but stood up in the passenger seat doing his Adolf Hitler impression with a Nazi Panzer commander’s salute was Billy (Scouse) Culkin!!! As you can imagine the Battery just fell about laughing.
Sunday 4th April
Tregantle firing range was opened for zeroing of small arms from 0830 hrs to dusk. Was there really any point in it? It struck most of us this was a panic action and a way of keeping the troops occupied. Ship movements and loading have been decided today. Like magic, left handed respirators and other equipment long thought unobtainable has appeared, we have been asking for this sort of kit for years only to be told there was none in store!
Late afternoon the MGRM visits, oh joy just what we need all the Rupert's panicking, do these guys really believe that a visit from them is good for troop morale? Final briefings are given before the Regiment is split to the task force. 79 and HQ Bty commenced to load onto the Sir Geraint from 2200hrs at Devonport.
Monday 5th April
All remaining personal mustered in the Citadel, preparing to travel to their ports of embarkation. There were sad tearful goodbyes from loved ones, and the feelings of trepidation and stepping into the unknown for most members of the Regiment.
We have heard of the big send offs the troops are having a wait in anticipation for our 15 minutes of fame. as the ship pulls from the dock a few dockers shout such phrases as. "Kick their arses" & "make Argentina cry for us." etc, but no waving crowds or press flash bulbs, just one solitary car on the head land flashing its head light I say light because just to add insult to injury only one was working!
That night was spent in idle speculation as to what lay ahead.
For those interested in such things there now follows the loading manifest.
LPD HMS Fearless---CO's TAC 0C &0D. 8 Bty guns/Stores ammo & 14 men, BC T BTY & BC 148
LSL Sir Geraint--- RHQ/HQ & LAD,79 BTY Less BC & FOO & T Bty less BC
LSL Sir Percival--- 7 Bty complete, 8 Bty personnel (BC & FOO on Geraint + 14 men on fearless) FO1
SS Canberra--- BC's 8 + 79 & respective FOOs (Lucky buggers)
That to the best of my knowledge is how everyone was loaded if you know better let us know and we'll up date the info
Tuesday 6th April
The Regiment was at sea less HMS Fearless which left Portsmouth 10:00Hrs. A large crowd gathered to watch them leave and they received a great number of compliments as they sailed down Portsmouth narrows.
They had a brief stop at spithead to load LCUs they then gave full steam to catch up with the LSL & RFAs. CO 29 joined the ship at 20:00 Hrs by sea king along with the Brigadier.
Wednesday 7th April
The task force met up during the night and started the long journey south.
It became apparent on the LSLs that it was to be a rather uncomfortable journey for the junior ranks, because the ships were loaded in haste the amount of men to mess deck space was either forgotten or not even thought about which meant some guys sleeping on the fold up seats a some even on the floor (Deck for you old sea dogs).
Thursday 8th April
The SS Canberra sailed from Southampton to a massive farewell from the public and press the news reels looked like it was going for a cruise rather than to war.
The task force carried out action stations for the first of many times at the moment it still feels as if we are on an exercise nothing is being taken too seriously.
Although one thing was taken seriously and that was the problem with water on the LSLs or should I say the lack of water. The LSLs did not have large desalination plants and were not meant to carry the amount of troops which were on board, so it was decided to ration the water. The water to the main decks was to be switched on for one hour a day for the whole ships company, which on our ship I believe was between 16:00 & 17:00. What a nightmare the whole ships company trying to get themselves and their dhobi done at the same time, oh are we going to enjoy our cruise or what! To add to that some bright spark decided we should carry out our physical exercises in the early morning. This meant we had to spend the whole day stinking of sweat & covered in rust & oil from the tank deck, some how think the water isn't off for all the ships company?
Friday 9th April (Good Friday)
Ships routine is now firmly set PT in the mornings until it was realised that the water situation meant a rather bad hum hung around for the day especially if the PT was on the tank deck. Training plans are drawn up, with the equipment on board some of the instructors had their work cut out but as usual rose to the challenge and some of the training was excellent.
A Nimrod did a canister drop with videos of the BBC nine o'clock news & ITV ten o'clock news god knows where they ended up but it was a nice thought.
Saturday 10th April
The CO visited 7 & 8 Bty on Percival to see how the training was commencing. 7 Bty had a Light gun rigged on deck ready to fire after some consideration the CO decided not to fire the gun at this stage.
Around midday it was announced we are to the west of Gibraltar, thanks for that just remind us of what we're missing why don't you.
CO carried on over to the Geraint to see HQ & 79 Bty, as you can tell our lives are full of real interesting stuff when all we can report is what the CO is up to!
But there is a feeling things shall become a little more interesting shortly.
Sunday 11th April
As Sundays go this one isn't much different excluding the fact that we are on a floating barracks. One of the worst things about time at sea on one of these things is the lack of colour, everywhere you look its either grey or green, which really adds to that Sunday feeling.
Then there's the joy of the mexi float, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of one of these things I'll briefly explain what they are all about. The float is just a huge metal flat raft like affair which attaches to the whole of one side of an LSL, if you're lucky enough to be bunked on side with this hideous attachment you are guaranteed zilch sleep for the whole time aboard. The reason for this is simple, every time the ship rolls in the water the pressure between side of ship and float expands which means when it rolls the other way the water gushes out leaving the float no option but to slam the side of the ship OH JOY!
The other bonus of these things is only one side of the ship is accessible without staring at a bloody great big wall of metal, and as you have just come from below decks to get away from staring at bloody great walls of metal, the floats just piss you off that little bit more. I would love to get my hands on the smart arse who designed these sodding things and make them suffer for six weeks with the bleeding thing strapped to the side of them. You must excuse me during this diary as I shall from time to time veer off to rant about these little things which got up my nose, and you thought it was going to be all blood and snot eh.
Anyway having got that off my chest, the sitrep (situation report) for today is we are not far from the Canary isles and the weather is staring to become a little warmer, besides that as I said it's just another boring Sunday.
I promise not the whole of this diary will be a whinge but if you know squaddies we aren't happy unless we have food, beer, women & something to whinge about! Anyway there's nowt else to write about so I'll just ramble a little from time to time.
Monday 12th April
During the night HMS Fearless steamed ahead towards Ascension island to meet up with the main naval and conduct a high level conference before the navy head south.
Mean while us left on the tugs were blissfully unaware Fearless had left us during and not many really cared the mushroom syndrome was beginning to set it.
During the voyage Jimmy Dowling related his last weekend before sailing which is definitely worth noting down, so here's Jimmy's "Last weekend" story.
As the Gun Fitter for 8 Bty, I was also tasked with providing Gun Fitter support for 289 Cdo Bty (V) on a firing camp during that weekend. So on Friday 2nd of April I was bimbling down to pick up my fully laden Land Rover, carrying my SLR with a BFA fitted, ready to go off to Larkhill for a few days of turning some expensive metal into pig Iron. I bumped into the new tiff, fresh from his Commando Course with his new Green lid on his head and he said...."So you've heard already then? bloody hell the jungle drums work quick around here!" Naturally I did not have a clue as to what he was referring so I said "Of course they do, you will get the hang of it when you've been here for a while."He then told me that the CO had informed the Bty hierarchy that we were off to the Falklands so he was glad that I had loaded the Land rover as that would save some time. I informed him that 289 Bty was expecting me at the Bustard Vedette at midday and my missus was expecting me on Sunday evening so he needed to give me a bit of time to sort this out. After the initial confusion we were granted time to say farewells and then loaded up all the required equipment to go and do our job. We then paraded on the square in our usual position at the rear of the Bty line up.
Some movers were rushing about and our vehicles were picked out as not being required as there was no room on board. We were given a helicopter net and told to take only the essential bits.....mmmmm now that was a laugh! What had we been training for war with our essential kit for, if some mover was just going to strip it down even further! So we paraded with the amended loads and were sent home to say our farewells again as the time of sailing was slipped. Once again the loads were checked and found to be too much, so we amended the loads again and began to think very seriously whether anyone actually knew what was going on! The timings were slipped and so we went home again! This time when I went home to say farewell I said "If they change the timings any more I am sleeping in the Citadel." Well while 79 were posing in front of the camera (I think it was as a result of the 42 Cdo RM PR connection!) me and Taff Dobbs, one of the 8 Bty VMs were in the Convoy that went off to Portsmouth. The way the Guns had been loaded up, with nets on the firing platforms, they had to travel in the A frame position. After some discussion on the merits of moving such a distance in this position at any speed, it was decided that we would just do it and sort out any problems once we were on HMS Fearless. I must admit that the mood varied between anticipation, elation and some other ation as we entered Portsmouth and saw the TV Cameras and the lines of people waving to us (made a change from 79 Bty in the limelight).
We swung into the Docks and then lined up alongside HQ& Sig Sqn 3 Cdo Bde RM for the slow operation of loading the equipment onto the flight Deck of HMS Fearless. The floor (or deck) of the gangways were covered with boxes of Compo and there was very little room on board. We were allocated a mess deck and went down to stick names on the bunks so that when the rest of the lads arrived they could be quickly settled in.
While Taff and I were sticking the names on the bunks a Pipe came over the internal ships communication system...."Do you Hear There,,,etc,,,,,, Shore leave begins at 1800hrs, I say again....." Taff and I looked at each other and then wandered up to the gangway, Sure enough some matelots were signing out! I sidled up to one of the Killocks and asked if shore leave was granted for the embarked forces as well...to my amazement he said "All of your bosses are going off to an Officers do so I don't see why not." I should mention that he was referring to the HQ RM Cdo lot and not any of our officers! Now Taff and me did not have any civvy kit and only about 10 quid between us, but decided that we might be able to take advantage of the fact that we were off tomorrow and so......We signed off the ship and walked casually down the gangway and into Portsmouth.
Being a Wednesday evening at 1810 hrs it was fairly quiet. Taff had recently been on his First Class VM course recently and he said he knew a few people that were still on course in Bordon, 12 miles up the road.........so we hitched through to Bordon. We were picked up quickly, being in uniform and our driver said that being as we were off to the Falklands, he would drop us directly into Bordon....what a good egg! Upon arrival we caused a bit of a stir with the WRACs and the Cpls in the mess as Falklands stuff was all over the news. Once they knew that we were off the next morning....well we turned up pretty pissed at 0430 hrs and QUIETLY settled into our bunks, giggling like babies, much to the disgust of the rest of the Bty lads that had arrived after the error of letting embarked forces ashore had been discovered.
Then we went to War but I will leave that stuff to the heroes.......
Jimmy Dowling and the late Taff Dobbs
Tuesday 13th April
The LSLs have been left far behind to chug along to the Ascensions, Fearless is going ahead at full steam, the CO and gang hold conferences to decide how the training shall go when we reach the Ascensions, not an easy job as they have to compete for space with the rest of the task force.
We have heard that diplomatic talks towards a peaceful solution to the crisis have broken down, not for the first time we think. As some young Gunner commented. "Them bloody Argies can't even speak English so how do they expect to talk them off the shagging Falklands."
Wednesday 14th April
Planning for the cross decking of troops began, which is to be a priority to enable us to assault the Falklands with our equipment (or at least know where it is). We are really looking forward to the cross decking this should be organised chaos of the highest order, but at least we shall get to walk further than 200 Meters in one direction.
Thursday 15th April
Normal ships routine, 8 Bty carried out small arms firing from the starboard side of the Percival not aiming at much just gash bags and waves. But it passed the time it was good to let off some steam albeit at the ocean.
Fearless fired off four seacat missiles at flares, four out of four hits were recorded. Hope they are as good with the real thing.
Friday 16th April
The crossing of the line took place today, this consisted of guys dressed in strange garments doing even stranger things! Oh by the way to save water we haven't shaved since leaving Blighty, not that it really saves water if you have a wash then you may as well have a shave! But most of us have used it as an excuse to let our facial hair grow anyway. To make it more interesting the ships company is involved in a beard growing contest, to enter all facial hair must be first shaved off. For those of you who know Sam Brown and his over large moustache will no why he has it if you ever saw him without it, but at least he gave the wholes ship company a laugh! Not that Sam found it very funny.
Anyway part of the contest was for the ships company to line up and be judged, the one with the largest beard was to be shaved in public by Neptune. (A rather large stoker with a skirt on!) Thankfully I was no where near the winner who would've put Captain Pugwash to shame. The ceremonies broke the day up and gave us all a laugh at others expense.
One more moral builder today was courtesy of 79 Bty who had been fortunate enough to have left from Plymouth, before they left the local radio ran an appeal asking the community to send things in to keep the troops amused on their long voyage. As usual the Plymouthians didn't let us down and donated an assortment of books games and even videos, I say even videos because 25 years ago videos were bloody expensive. This was filtered out slowly to the rest of the Regiment on resup. Nice one the 79 pink boys.
Saturday 17th April
Fearless arrived at the Ascensions and anchored off George town along side both carriers and their escorts.
A meeting was held on Hermes headed by C in C fleet Admiral Fieldhouse, needless to say us grunts weren't invited to the party.
At this point I would like to mention what a stirling job was done to ensure the mail got through, as most service men know mail is a huge moral boost, with mail call always well attended. The old potato at mail call of ........."Smith" Smith stands up eagerly to collect his mail "yeah that's me" only to be told "give this lot to Jones you aint got any today." Even that one wasn't used as getting mail meant a little more during this period of uncertainty.
Sunday 18th April
Panic on the Invincible as she was patrolling to the south west of the island one of the escorts spotted a periscope wake. The alert was flashed around the fleet Hermes immediately weighed anchor and with her escorts put to sea. After a few hours of every possible submarine hunter being put to air, sea & land, it was decided the periscope probably belonged to a Russian and would not be a threat to the fleet. Amazing just a couple of weeks before this a Russian sub would've constituted a least a report but now it just gave a great sigh of relief all round. It did shake things up enough to have the fleet sailing round aimlessly all night, however best safe than sorry.
The heat through out the ship is at times unbearable, despite constant pipes about keeping the bulkheads closed to enable the ships aircon to keep us below boiling point, some boneheads still seem to want to air condition the whole of the Atlantic, and seem oblivious to the piped warnings. The water rationing is now taking its toll, one hour a day just isn't enough in this heat its almost beyond a battery chickens breaking point. "Bloody prisoners would be let out if they had to live in these conditions." Said one guy in the galley "Yeah but they have rights, we don't" was the quick reply.
A few years later this proved to be true when Rollestone camp on Larkhill range was used to house low category prisoners, during one of the many crises in our prisons. They moved them in for a few weeks but they had to move them out just as sharp when the prisoners complained about their living conditions. For more years than anyone can remember us squaddies have been using this place (and still are) without a murmur, so what does that say about our justice system, when people serving there country are expected to live in conditions that people who commit crimes against their country refuse to. Mind you I suppose us squaddies aren't human enough to come under the human rights act.
Mind you there is some good cheer on the horizon, this cutting appeared in a news paper. Wonder if the government is vote catching, or am I being cynical? Who cares we are getting some extra readies.
"Wonder if that means the missus will get a better war pension?"
Monday 19th April
Here we are sitting off Ascension staring at a volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic, hoping for a chance to get ashore, knowing full well when we do it'll definitely incur some form of beasting. Of course the rumours of there being a hospital full of nurses circled the fleet, we all know it isn't true but at least it gives us something to think about.
I forgot to mention about the guys from 8 Bty who had their heads shaved on the last day before we left UK. To them I suppose it seem like a good idea as we would be on board ship for several weeks why not shave their heads it'll grow back before we get home.
Unfortunately for them it didn't go down too well with the Sgt Walsh and as is usual in these cases things were blown out of proportion, bollockings were issued all round and they didn't appear from the grease pit (galley area where all pots etc are cleaned) until we got to Ascension. Out they came into the sunshine minus the shiny heads, but no doubt to them it was worth it. As far as I'm concerned its guys like these we need at least they keep the moral up, and it has kept us out of the grease pit for now!
On a more serious note the training was finalised today the training officers flew ashore and training areas were allocated. The helicopters were restricted to where they could fly due to the volcanic dust which would damage the air craft so they can only land on wideawake airfield.
Also the cross decking was finalised and is due to start tomorrow and what fun we shall have I don't think.
Here's the actual first draft of the training programme before it was typed up and passed to the Regiment.
Tuesday 20th April
The sky is buzzing with activity helicopters are everywhere due to the cross decking of troops and equipment. It must be a nightmare for whom ever is controlling it because from where we stand it looks like organised chaos!
Mind you it gives us something different to whinge about other than the food and lack of water.
Talking of food I haven't yet mentioned the delights of the galley on board the LSLs which are run by a group of Chinese, in fact most of the ships mundane functions are run by the Chinese crew on board. I think they can't be trained in anything specific as the same faces seem to turn up everywhere. They certainly aint trained in cooking, and if they are the bugger who taught them wants his or her arse kicked.
What they laughingly call food is served up three times a day on a metal tray with four compartments to which this stuff is lovingly slopped into, if your lucky it is served in different compartments depending if the guy with the ladle is taking care or bothered enough to aim. No matter what they cook it all tastes the same. I don't know what the bloody hell they do to it but it takes the body around sixteen hours hard digestion to do what these "cooks" do in a couple of hours and slop out to us. The desert every evening is jelly. Now here's a thing, I know there is more on board than usual and they probably don't have enough serving bowls etc. But to serve the jelly from black plastic mop buckets! Need I say any more.
To top all this, we must've the biggest bastard of a ships Sgt Major in the fleet. He stands in the canteen every night behind the guy selling chocolate, beer etc. He ensures that only one bar goes to each person & one can of ale, which he pulls the ring on so they can't be stored, as if on a floating microwave you would want to store cans of ale. So we are probably the only ones looking forward to cross decking and getting away from this arsehole!
Wednesday 21st April
Cross decking is still going on we have been ready to move now for 24 hours but as yet still on board the love boat, although we are just moving over to another ship of the same ilk. Same shit different ship!
T Bty flew ashore to carry out some rapier training, lets hope they get it right air defence will be vital.
There were several promotions within the Regiment today including Sergeants, Mitchell mv of 7 Bty, Bennett dc of 7 Bty (transferred on promotion to 79 Bty), Walsh J of 8 Bty, S/Sgt Blanchard HQ Bty. All were promoted to local WO2. I shall leave the comments on Walsh J for another day as I think he deserves a special mention. BSM Tarling of 8 Bty to be replaced by WO2 Davies 79 Bty, as he has to fly back to take over as RSM at 16 AD Regt. Bombardier Walters J to Acting Sergeant. And last but by no means least, yours truly Gunner Randall N of 8 Bty to L/Bdr.
Thursday 22nd April
At last we are on the move over to the Tristram herded into a LCVP and transported around every ship in the fleet, we even had a brief stop at the real love boat the Canberra, but they kept us a bay with long poles to stop us getting to the water supply to see the novelty of running fresh water during daylight hours. After several hours of floating around like sea faring nomads we arrived at our destination, which if you know LSLs it is a clone of the one we stepped off several hours before.
The photo show us being herded onto the Tristram just unable to control ourselves at the thought of the great jelly experience awaiting us at the evening meal. During a discussion with Lt Waring on our round trip of the task force I asked him about the standard of the scran in the wardroom to which he replied. "We are being fed the exact same food in the wardroom as the junior ranks." "Yeah bollocks" was the reply from several of us but he was adamant that the officers were getting no special treatment. None of us have been able to corroborate this as we are not allowed near the wardroom especially at meal times. But we are biding our time.
Friday 23rd April
canberra.jpg (26605 bytes)To the left is a photo of the Canberra. "The great white whale" basking in the sun off the Ascension island. Crossdecking still continues today as our equipment is on board Fearless and we are on Tristram the shuffling continues, we've been to Fearless a few times but due to the amount of kit on board we shall have to wait until ours is accessible. However when we eventually set off further south at least we shall have all our kit with us (we hope) and will be able to fly off with the least amount of hassle.
The news reports are coming in regularly from back home, it seems that the politicians are trying to solve the problem by diplomatic means. "Diplomatic who the f**k ever solved a war with diplomacy? That's what I want to know." Asked one guy in the galley one night, while picking bits of mop out of his jelly. "If you ask me its just a clever ploy by the government to give us time to sort our shit out." Was the reply, the most optimistic among us don't believe we shall land on those islands. Once the Argies realise what a shit hole it is they'll bugger off back to Argentina themselves.
Having said that there's a panic on now, all training ashore has been cancelled and we have been put on short notice to move. Which probably means we still be here in a weeks time.
Saturday 24th April
What a joy we got ashore as part of the cross decking of our equipment, the guns were flown ashore and we were taken by "water taxi." Once ashore the usual melee started, the guys were just glad to be on terra firma for a while.
After several pax were flown back onto Tristram it was decided A Sub 8 Bty needed to go back on board to receive the kit, so they had all of half an hour ashore. The rest of the Battery were then formed up for a yomp to the bay where they were due to be picked up for the taxi back to the ship.
I forgot to mention the great idea someone had back in Blighty about our boots. It was decided that the standard issue boots (DMS) were not up to the job of going to battle. Why no bugger had thought of this before was never explained, and I doubt if anybody really cared, although it was common knowledge they were crap boots which soaked up water like a sponge. But I suppose they were cheap and someone was being paid handsomely to keep them military issue.
So from somewhere we were all issued Cairngorm walking boots, very nice and very expensive. The morning we went ashore on the Ascension we were told to wear our new Boots, as ordered the Cairngorm's were duly put on ready for the small yomp round the island. I must explain that on board ship us squaddies are not allowed to wear boots as they mark the deck too badly so this is the first time we have had the opportunity to don our new Cairngorms. "How come this kit wasn't available to us when we needed it in Otterburn, Salisbury plain & yomping all over Breacon, the Lake district & Scotland?" "Because that's too bloody sensible & the QM wouldn't get his MBE for saving a few bob" Was the rather straight forward cutting answer from one of the older members of the Bty.
Off we set in the middle of the day, who was that silly sod who said "mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun." Well he was right, we were bloody mad. We could've fried an egg on the ground it was that hot! After about a mile it was apparent the boots needed a bit more time to break in and they were becoming slightly uncomfortable, each successive mile these great Cairngorms were eating our feet away and by the time we reached our goal most of the guys either had bloody stumps where their feet were, or just a great water filled blister.
Needless to say the most of the boots were left in the Atlantic for the fish to feed on, although they are good boots they need at least a couple of hundred miles to break in. NOT one baking hot day just south of the equator! Good idea badly executed.
Sunday 25th April
Great news today we have heard that South Georgia has been recaptured, even better news is that there has been no loss of life on either side, although one Argie submariner had to have his leg amputated "no more Latin American dancing for that bugger then" and "he'll be shit at an arse kicking party." Were the sympathetic comments from us grunts.
As more news came through it appears that 148 Bty had quite a big role in the recapture with FO2 & 5 directing NGS. Which means 29 Commando Regt are in at "first blood."
The atmosphere is one of elation and contemplation as it now seems almost certain that the politicians have as usual been a waste of rations, and we shall be heading to the Falklands. Hopefully the Argies shall put up as little resistance as they did on South Georgia.
Monday 26th April
The remaining troops on South Georgia has surrendered along with the scrap metal workers who started this hullabaloo in the South Atlantic.
Slight flap on last night the ships went to action stations after it was reported that some of the ships had recorded sonar hits as if a submerged submarine was searching for us. The whole fleet put to sea which took about 30 minutes and went to the areas which had been planned in advance in case of these type of emergencies. They remained at sea till dawn when they returned and anchored off ascensions as before.
Job well done FO 2 & 5 left South Georgia on HMS Brilliant to rejoin the task force.
Tuesday 27th April
Rather a dark day as 3 Bombardiers of 79 Bty were taken from the cells of HMS Fearless to be escorted back to the UK to await punishment I don't know the full SP on what happened and why these guys were sent back, if anyone can help fill in the details I shall enter it later in the diary.
7 Bty with 3 Para did a practise assault landing by LCU and Helos all seem to go well.
The best news of the day and maybe even the whole deployment, is that an anonymous donor has sent 13 sacks of pornographic magazines, which has livened up the reading a bit, hopefully the bromide will hold out long enough for us to vent our frustrations against the Argies.
This from Des (the blade) Connelly.
Sailed with HQ on RFA Sis Geraint leaving Guz on 6 April at 1900hrs, Arrived Ascension Island 0700hrs 19 April at assist cross decking and HAVING FUN on the island. I changed to Sir Percival on 24 April with specified orders!! ( No doubt
higher command knew which ship was to do what ) We sailed on 30 April at 2000hrs and headed south into high seas.
06 May 22w29s 08 may the SNCOs put on a sods opera for the masses ( they pinched all my hair cream )
10 May 29w 39s 16 May RV with other task force 21 May daylight D DAY San Carlos 25 May having off loaded all ammo and troops we sailed for deep water to transfer troops/cargo as required, 1830hrs we were cross decking from
Atlantic Conveyor when she was hit, we were ordered by our escort to standoff and they would pick up survivors and fire fight and transfer survivors, 2359hrs I had to bring onboard a Wessex chopper onto the forward deck (easy in daylight, but night in high seas?) took on SF and transferred to rendezvous point, arrived back San Carlos on 29 May-----------------part 2 later
Wednesday 28th April
8 Bty and 40 Cdo carried out there assault excercise by LCU & helos, all went well a few lessons were learnt all troops and equipment were recovered back on board by 1600 hrs.
There seems to be a problem calibrating directors and compasses, all btys are to go ashore tomorrow to carry out the calibration of the equipment.
Thursday 29th April
79 Bty and 42 Cdo turn to assault the Ascension Islands , as before all went well , we now seem more than capable of giving the Ascensions a bloody good hiding.
The Btys went ashore to calibrate instruments but found they had problems due to the magnetic dip.
79 calibration team missed the last helo back and caused a bit of a stir, as it had been decided that the LSL with HMS Antrim will sail south as soon as they have RAS'd with water.
As it turned out it was hurry up and wait as usual we went nowhere this evening, because it was taking too long to RAS the LSL's.
After a search 79 calibration team were found and brought back on board kicking and screaming.
Friday 30th April
Water RAS continued all of Thursday night/Friday morning, the LSL's group eventually departed Ascension late afternoon, all the regiments Bty's were on the LSL's.
HMS Fearless, SS Canberra, two supply ships and a frigate remained at the Ascensions to await the arrival of HMS Intrepid.
News reports that Vulcan's from Ascension island and Harriers from the task force carried out bombing raids on Port Stanley airfield, causing bloody great holes for the Argies to fill in at their leisure, yep it seems no matter what army your in, it all boils down to digging or filling in holes! It was also reported that Sea Harriers attacked the airstrip at Darwin & Goose Green, it was not known what sort of damage was caused there.
Found out today that on top of the pay rise that has been well reported in the press, we are facing a 25% rise in quarters for the pads & roughly the same rise in food & accommodation for inliers. Wonder why the government hasn't made such a big deal of this news?
Saturday 1st May
Us left on the tugs chugging away down south, have at least got our equipment with us, which is really a double edge sword, on one hand it's nice to know where all our kit is, on the other we now have no excuse to sit on our arses doing nothing. But the word overkill of servicing comes to mind.
Today I probably saw what I can only describe as one of the funniest and at the same time most disturbing lectures of my career. This consisted of big Taxi of 7 Bty giving a self defence lecture in the galley, during the half hour lecture Taxi would go into graphic detail how you could maim, disable or kill your enemy with items ranging from a spoon right up to a 10 pound sledge hammer. To see this great bear of a man swinging these objects around at unwitting and unwilling volunteers drawn from his surprised audience, was a sight needed to be seen to be believed, and also worthy of top billing at the Palladium. I shall now never forget how to take out a man using a black plastic mug and a packet of pussers hard tack biscuits.
We had news today that some NGS ship have been attacked by Argie Mirage's, 2 of the aircraft were shot down by the Brits without any damage caused to the ships. This of course drives it a little closer to home, most of us now believe that we will be in a scrap at some stage.
Sunday 2nd May
The sea is starting to look a little darker and more ominous, there's a bit more of a roll on the ship. Those sodding mexi floats are becoming a real pain in the arse.
Several serious discussions went on this evening after the lectures took a more serious turn with the introduction off how to action casevacs and the news that we shall probably be carrying our own morphine.
Newly promoted WO2 Walsh, who we all know as a rather loud mouthed individual and never short to add his comments to any occasion, was today disturbingly louder than usual and a little unsettling. On the mess deck the banter was full of the typical graveyard humour and general pranks, which anybody who has been around squaddies will understand is a way of dealing with tense situations. Our man Walsh however for some reason only known to himself decided this was not the way to act under these circumstances, and put his own slant on the crisis by adding these words which must've done for the men's moral what Hitler did for the need to grow a Charlie Chaplin moustache.
I can't quite remember the words verbatim but it went something like. "What the f**k are you men laughing about, don't you know or realise that most of you won't be coming home from this. You lot won't be laughing when your putting your friends in body bags and handing their dog tags in." Talk about dropping pins in a church you could've heard a mouse fart at the Ascension after that little tirade. Now correct me if I'm wrong but I'm sure this isn't the sort of thing a sergeant major should be saying, or should I say shouting to his men even if he believes it himself.
Even though he wasn't a popular guy I always had time for him as he knew his stuff and I was glad he was going south with us, we needed a guy with his knowledge and experience. Only time will tell after that rather strange out burst though.
Monday 3rd May
The Captain made an announcement over the ships tannoy which caused the whole ships company to fall unusually silent for a while. He stated that the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano had been sunk just outside the TEZ (total exclusion zone) after being hit by two torpedoes. The casualties seem to be very high first accounts are that over 300 men either went down with the ship, or could not be picked up due to the bad weather conditions.
This now seems to confirm that there will not be a happy ending to our jolly cruise, we shall be called on to do our duty and retake the Falklands by force. We now know that the Argies won't just hand them back after losing 300 of their finest sailors.
"Bugger that." I said, "I only joined the army for the water skiing in the med and piss ups in exotic countries. No bugger in the recruiting office told me I'd be sailing half way round the world to put my life on the line for some hybrid sheep shagger!"
"What the f*#%s up with you we're bound to get a drink out of it when we've kicked some f#*+ers arse back to where it belongs." "Yeah but how frigging exotic is the Falklands? hardly Bermuda is it!" Came the reply from the back of the mess deck. "By the time you've had a few you'll think your back in Union street and want to take the world on again anyway, so what does it matter where you are you'll always end up in the same state." I shouted back, to which most guys mumbled in agreement, shrugged their shoulders and got back on with what they were doing. So easy was it that we accepted 300 men had died for some Islands that around a month ago we didn't know existed! Shortly however we are going to be ordered to attempt to recapture them.
Tuesday 4th May
After yesterdays news about the Belgrano most of last nights conversations drew on the subject of how the Argies would react.
Most of the morning was taken up with action station drills which were becoming a little tedious but necessary as Dave Matthew's writes:-
Sailing with the Magnificent 7 on board the R.F.A Sir Percival. For the umpteenth time the ships captain had called us to lifeboat stations. Impressed with the speed that, matelot's, bootnecks, pongo's (his words) and other embarked forces had arrived sweating and cursing the huge May West lifejackets, he was overheard making the following comment (allegedly). "WELL DONE LADS", AS YOU KNOW WE'VE GOT MOST OF 45 COMMANDO GROUPS AMMUNITION AND EXPLOSIVES ON BOARD ! IF WE DO RECEIVE A HIT FROM AN AIR STRIKE, ITS NOT LIFEJACKETS YOU'LL BE NEEDING BUT F*#*ING PARACHUTES."
Everybody laughed at the time, but from then on our Anti Aircraft Warfare preparation and implementation was second to none. The old man got the message across clearer than "Fire Mission Battery".
We didn't have to wait long for this point to be proven, the Argies reaction was swift. Another tannoy announcement told us that HMS Sheffield had been struck by an air launched Excocet missile, first reports are that up to 20 sailors have lost their lives and a possible 60 more have been wounded.
Also during an air attack on Stanley one of our Harriers have been shot down and the pilot killed.
Not a good day at all for the Brits, moral is given quite a kick in the arse, plus we are hearing that world reaction to the sinking of the Belgrano is not very positive, it appears she was heading away from the TEZ when she was struck by the British torpedo.
"Who bloody cares, they should've kept their greasy hands off our sodding islands." Suddenly they were our islands! Last night we felt for the lost sailors of the Belgrano, but now us Brits have taken casualties the mood is slightly different.
Wednesday May 5th
After the news of the past few days ships routine seems to be returning back to normal, we are now treating the action stations with more urgency and no longer is it quite such a pain in the arse. The Captains comments from yesterday still ringing in our ears.
Back at the Ascensions a few late arrivals are catching up with the task force. Namely HMS Intrepid, MV Norland & Atlantic conveyer. 29 Bty of 4th field Regiment are on board the Norland and have now come under the command of 29 Commando Regiment. Welcome aboard guys.
Thursday 6th May
More bad news for us Brits, it appears that 2 sea harriers have been lost while on patrol in bad weather. There was no Argentinean air activity it is assumed that the pilots collided due to poor visibility, both pilots are presumed dead.
Our favourite sergeant majors words were now starting to have a little reality to them, nothing seems to be going our way at the moment.
On a lighter note Gunners "Emma" Dale & "Paddy" Boyd thought it would be a great idea to write to one of the national news papers and ask for pen pals for us lonely souls heading south, both of them thought it would be even funnier to put one of the guys in the Bty's name as the lonely soul. Giggling away they composed the letter and sent it off. Unbeknown to Paddy, Emma had put his name as the recipient. The News of the World true to its tradition of supporting the services, printed the letter and the results were to say the least unbelievable within days the usual couple of sack of mail were replaced by dozens.
Poor old Paddy had to spend hours sifting through them to find his own personal mail, however it has to be said that there were many joyful hours had by all reading and replying to the letters. The galley was full of squaddies sending replies to the mainly female respondents. The more graphic letters and photos were posted on the notice board for all to enjoy, good on yer ladies you certainly haven't let us down.
The Canberra and her escorts have at last left the Ascensions to catch up with us on the LSL's getting thrown around the South Atlantic.
Friday 7th May
The weather is becoming rather rough, it is getting to be a task to get out on deck to carry out basic servicing of the equipment, beside that it is normal ships routine.
I spent last night on man overboard watch, which is exactly as it says, sitting at the back of the ship staring into darkness waiting for some daft sod to fall overboard. Yes this is as silly as it sounds, We are placed just above the propellers outside the engine room so the noise is deafening 1. No chance of hearing them fall over. The ship is in total darkness and those of you who have been to sea at night darkness means pitch black 2. No chance of seeing them fall over board. Stevie Wonder & Helen Keller would've had more chance of seeing & hearing some Muppet falling overboard!
The whole of the massed bands of the Royal Marines could've marched off the back in full tune & I wouldn't of seen or heard a bloody thing. Mind you it could be worse I could've been on submarine watch, but that's another story.
The MOD issued a statement enforcing the TEZ to the effect that any Argentine ship or aircraft within 12 miles off the shore of the Falklands would be dealt with accordingly, by accordingly I think that means they'll get shot down/sunk. Typical of us Brits to use such nice terminology when we're about to do our best to kill some poor sod.
Saturday 8th May
Training is becoming rather difficult to carry out due to the lack of space as using the deck outside is not an option due to the bad weather. As a result of this we seem to have more time to spend in recreational pursuits, mainly cards and board games. But not a great deal of drinking.
Which takes me back to when we initially boarded in the UK on the Sir Percival, the ships Sgt major refused to serve the junior ranks with any form of alcohol. We couldn't understand or were told why, he was probably god squad or just a total tosser. After a couple of nights he relented and allowed one can per man per night to be sold, and to ensure we drank them as they were bought he pulled the rings. This confirmed to us he was probably fell into the latter of our assumptions on his personality and a complete one at that!
Imagine our joy when we cross decked to the Tristram to find unlimited supplies were on sale, of course on the first night on board we had to make pigs of ourselves, but after that first evening on the Tristram I don't think any copious amounts of beer were consumed. Talking of beer we've heard reports that breweries and supermarkets have been sending large supplies down to the task force, Christ knows where this stuff is going we haven't seen any of it all I can assume is they are having a whale of a time on the Ascensions.
Sunday 9th May
The CO today produced target lists for the assault on the Falklands, which now has a rather innocuous name of Operation Sutton. I've often wondered where these sodding names come from and who chooses them or do they have a stock pile of bloody silly names for all these sort of occasions.
It has been decided the assault will take place in the Port San Carlos, Ajax Bay and San Carlos settlement areas, soon these hereto unknown and godforsaken places will become common names throughout the whole of Britain and maybe even the world if our little skirmish becomes news worthy enough.
The notice board is now full to bursting with the contents of the dear "Gunner Boyd" letters. Some of them certainly wouldn't pass the censorship laws for general publication, I shall have to leave the contents up to your individual imaginations.
Monday 10th May
The Brits are striking back, during the night there was quite a bit of naval gunfire around the Port Stanley area. A spy trawler was sunk and the crew captured which included an Argie naval officer, also an Argie helicopter was shot down. Not bad to say the main task force is no where near the islands yet.
The POWs from south Georgia were shipped north on a RFA ship to be repatriated back home to Argentina, not too soon we hope the less of the buggers down there the better.
Tuesday 11th May
A large mail drop was made today, everyone cheered except Paddy Boyd who is regretting the whole idea of writing to the paper for pen pals.
The weather was a lot calmer today which gave us time to carry out extended action stations and also to service the equipment on deck.
Two Russian bear recce air craft flew over the convoy circled a few times then set off back home. Mid afternoon we went to action stations after a submarine periscope was spotted, two frigates and a sea king helicopter were sent in hot pursuit. The periscopes turned out to be a heavily armed school of whales, but better safe than sorry.
At last light the convoy changed direction in the event that the Russian spy planes had radioed ahead for a possible submarine ambush on the convoy.
Thursday 13th May
The food situation improved dramatically today as some of our chefs head by Mike Wilkinson entered and took over the galley for a few days. I think we'll appreciate the ACC more now having suffered the delights of the Chinese cuisine, please god no more jelly in a mop bucket!!!
Mike recalled his time with the Chinese "chefs" and added these comments.
Yes I remember taking over the Galley for a couple of day's on the LSL. The thing that sticks in my mind the most was getting to know the Chinese cooks on board quite well, they were very concerned and frightened about going to war and were asking me advice on what they should do and what exactly was going on.
This put me in a difficult position because the Captain had told them that there was no way that any of the Chinese crew on any of the LSL's would be put in danger. Now I knew that there was every likelihood that should the shit hit the fan the LSL's were going to have to get in close to the islands to offload the embarked troops.
So for those few days in the Galley I had to bullshit a lot to these scared little guy's.
Basically the LSL's could not run without the Chinese, so the MOD lied like f**k to them all until we had left Ascension heading south, by which time there was nowhere for them to go, apart from over the side.
That episode really left a bad taste in my mouth, I felt sorry for those guy's who were being forced to go to a war that they knew nothing about and was nothing to do with them.
After the war was over and we were all back in Plymouth I remember seeing newsreels of the Galahad and Tristram being hit at Bluff Cove and seeing dead and wounded Chinese being brought off those blazing ships and I remembered back to my time in the Galley and the lies the Chinese crew were told.
I think it was after the war that the MOD reviewed its policy of crewing LSL's with Chinese.
Thanks for that Mike, as you can see not all the guys heading south were volunteers in the true sense of the word. I wonder what would've happened had these lot jumped ship at Ascension?
Friday 14th May
Port Stanley airfield was given a pounding by sea harriers, which probably means some poor old Argie GD is now out there with a spade filling the holes in ready for the next attack. I wonder if they are regretting starting this bloody fracas now.
Saturday 15th May
During the night an advance force comprising of SAS/SBS/NGS carried out an operation on Pebble islands, to the north west of the Falklands. The raid was a complete success, all aircraft on the airstrip were destroyed they included 6 puccarra, 4 mentor (jets) and a sky van. In addition the following dumps were blown up 1x 1 ton ammo dump and 4-5 avgas (fuel) dumps. Several casualties were inflicted on the Argentinean garrison the numbers are not know. Two minor casualties were reported on our own troops. 29 commando were represented on the operation by Captain Brown of 148 and his party who assisted in bringing in NGS.
Back on board the tugs the weather has turned much worse and even though the food has improved the galley is strangely empty, ah well all the more for us bloaters who don't suffer from sea sickness.
Sunday 16th May
All I can say about today is another bloody Sunday and sweet FA. We were due to be linked up with the rest of the task force during the night but due to the extreme bad weather all ships have had to slow down. Beside that the only thing worth noting is that mail was taken off today to be put on the RFA which is taking the Sheffield survivors back to Ascension.
Monday 17th May
The sea has calmed down for a while which is good for us guys being thrown about on the flat bottomed ships, but not so good as we could now face possible air strikes from the Argies!
NGS firing continued throughout the night & day of Sunday & Monday.
The CO held a big "O" group on board the Geraint all the main men of the regiment attended, the orders lasted for about 3 hours. It now looks like all diplomatic discussions have broken down and we're going to have to take the Falklands back by force.
Tuesday 18th May
A sea king helicopter from Invincible ditched in the sea and sunk, thankfully the crew all escaped and were picked up safely.
The CO has visited us today, as he is doing the rounds of the whole Regiment. He gave a really good briefing and raised the confidence & moral. We now know there is no turning back to sun it up on Ascension. We are going to have to earn our living and turn all that training into practice, suppose it had to come sometime.
We've heard that some young Gunner with 29 Bty has suffered face and hand injuries while tampering with the detonator of a grenade. First reports are that he's lost two fingers, but didn't realise until he said goodnight to his Troop Sergeant Major.
Wednesday 19th May
40 Commando left Canberra and joined HMS Fearless. While 3 Para left the Canberra for HMS Intrepid, these are among the final movements before we enter the TEZ (total exclusion zone)
From lunch today most ships will go to action messing, which means eat as quick as possible using basically food out of a cup stew, curry, soup etc.
Hermes & Invincible took on extra harriers from the container ships.
After last light we were informed that the force was now moving towards the TEZ and the invasion was on and could now only be stopped by the Prime Minister, C in C fleet or FOFI.
Thursday 20th May
At dawn the task force entered the TEZ and started to make a diversionary feint towards Port Stanley. The weather was perfect for the operation now known as op Sutton, with rough seas, poor visibility and low clouds with rain showers. By 11:30 we were 130 miles from Port Stanley.
The task force closed up to give the best possible air defence cover, all forces were issued with ammunition, the bad weather stayed with us all day and we traversed the route without any enemy air activity. After dark Canberra, Norland, Intrepid & fearless steamed ahead to the AOA (amphibious operations area) to arrive at the entrance of Falkland sound at around 01:30. Lots of activity on board all the ships as troops prepared their equipment, not much sleep had by anybody during this night.
On our ship final orders were given to the all senior members, numbers 1s & coverers etc which would be escalated down to the troops. During this passage of information our old pal WO2 Walsh patrolled around listening into the individual group briefs. Afterward he gathered us in the wardroom and went berserk, he was visibly angry and a little unstable ranting like Hitler at one of his rallies! We were dumb struck as all we had done was passed the brief on almost verbatim, this sergeant Major then proceeded to let us all know what was going to happen to us when we got ashore. I don't think tact was his forte to say the least.
A foot note to this is it was the first time we had access to the wardroom. (officers mess) All along we'd been strung the line we were all being treated the same as far as the food went. Hmmmm I don't think so, the evidence was there before us, even menu cards (menu cards!! I ask you!!!!) on the tables sporting such delights that any good restaurant would be proud to offer! Now I don't begrudge anybody a perk here and there but come on guys the least you could've done was to be up front and honest about it. What's the matter were you to ashamed to admit the fact you were being fed like lords while we were fed not much better than swill form a mop bucket! Typical squaddies, here we are in a war zone & all we are thinking of is our stomachs.
Friday 21 May
During the night we moved into position in San Carlos water, the weather has cleared to become a rather pleasant morning, just the sort of day to start a war.
Not many of us needed waking this morning, most of us were ready to go all night. On having a look up on deck it looked like just another day on exercise back in Blighty, the water was flat and still and the sun just rising casting long shadows over San Carlos.
"Where's all these frigging Argies then" Someone said, "I was expecting to be repelling boarders by now." I must admit to feeling a little bit shocked at how peaceful it all was. We didn't have to wait long for our wake up call though. After a short while we were lined up in our sticks in the galley (see photo below) to be called forward to the flight deck for flying stations, when all hell broke loose. "AIR RAID WARNING RED!" Shouted someone over the tannoy systems "all embarked forces return to their mess decks." Now don't get me wrong but these mess decks are all below water level and right in target range of anything dropped into the water. So the last place I want to be is in my mess deck.
But we were herded like sheep back to our pens listening to the thuds going off above us not really understanding the gravity of the situation. After about twenty minutes we were call back to flying stations and lined up again in the galley. Just as we were settled & ready to go "AIR RAID WARNING RED!" Comes over the system again, and yet again we were herded below decks. "F**k this I'm off to see what the f**ks happening up there I said and pushed my way back above deck. On reflection maybe it would've been better to just to have heard the dull thuds and left the rest to my imagination, because the sight that greeted made my guts go on fast spin. It seemed that there was aircraft all over the place hurling all sorts of crap at us. I think this is what the "experts" call at moment of clarity. Right at that moment I knew I may never see my family again, we were in some serious shit here
After several of these false starts we eventually made it onto a chopper, and flew of to touch the islands we'd heard so much about over the past weeks. No sooner had we taken off the ship than we were on shore and the chopper on its way back for the rest of the guys. Before we really knew what was going on the gun and its kit had arrived and we were ready for action having line passed from Willie Mac.
A couple of our many false starts in the galley.
The arduous task of digging trenches and sentry points began. "Looks just like shagging Dartmoor to me, only the seas a bit closer." "I thought when we went to war it would be a nice hot place, not a wet soggy shit hole like this." Were the more repeatable comments.
"CHRIST! What the f**k was that." We were yet again under air attack, but for now it seems like they are spending most of their attention on the ships. But the noise is enough to make any man fill his pants, especially when we had seen what they had been dishing out earlier.
Mind you the Argies aren't having it all their own way I've seen several shot down today, and the reports are that a total of seventeen have splashed during today's assault.
Today is the 20th anniversary of 29 becoming a Commando Regiment, but I didn't see any champagne didn't even get a card. Then again what a better way to mark the occasion than proving our worth!
Saturday 22nd May
Last night we witnessed the sinking of HMS Ardent off the shore, the poor buggers on there took a right hammering in Falkland sound defending the troops landing. The Argies for some reason just kept going at Ardent until she was unable to defend herself, another ship then came along side and the crew transferred over by stepping from deck to deck, the ship then limped off to sink in an area appropriately named Wreck point.
Mean while those of us ashore were learning the reason for digging holes to hide in as the waves of aircraft occasionally had a pop at us on the way to their main target floating in the bay.
Not all the Regiment had made it ashore as Sam Brown now relates.
Myself, Wilky, Mac, Fred Magee, Steve Platt and a Pay Cpl, who was a New Zealander but I can't remember his name other than of course Kiwi. Well we few were left on board to off load the second and third line ammo, which had to be brought up from the bowels of the ship, onto the tank deck then craned up to the vehicle deck. Where we could man handle it on to the centre spot for hooking up and flying off, at the same time as sticking our heads up each others arses during air reds.
On one lift the chopper had the two nets, four pallets of ammo about 20` up when air red blares out over the tannoy, he chops it and drops it. Then sods off for the shore, so four ton of ammo decided to fall just missing Steve Platt. Steve had to dive along the deck,( the sand text non slip deck ). He left a three foot smear of his top five layers of skin on the deck,( all of us to a man grabbed our balls, it was that kind of pain ) up jumps one very sore and extremely Pissed off chef who then starts to throw what ever came to hand after this chopper. Some hat pipes up with " oi mate stop chucking FOD about" Steve told him to "FOD off", then we had to dive in to stop Steve flinging the hat after the chopper.
8 Bty get to fly ashore at last!
Steve went to sort out what was left of his skin, but still spent the next week sticking to anything he leaned or lay on. We carried on with out him and restacked the ammo, we get another air raid red, with no where to run ( and have you ever tried to dig a hole in a flight deck ) well we just carried sorting the ammo out, our hat was by this time taking cover behind what was the only thing on deck to hide behind. Big stacks of ammo, he then looks at what he is using for cover realising its a big pile of ammo he shoots up, like someone has just pulled a hair out of his arse. He is then up and off and dives behind another stack of ammo. Until he realises its more ammo. So up he jumps and dives behind another pile of ammo, Wilky gives me a nudge " Sam will you just look at this idiot", he is by now jumping from pallet to pallet when it clicks there is no where to hide. At this point he exits stage right, down below never to be seen again.
So we spend a nice day between air displays, tracer, missiles and loads of other shit been thrown into the air ( to give the best firework display ever) and bombs pissing down all around. We just kept getting rid of the ammo, till we cleared the top deck. Then began dragging a load more up to fly off later as the choppers buggered off for tea, yea you got it, a lot of those RAF types give the navy bad habits. But it gave us a chance for a mug of tea and a fag, then this hats mate pops up "oi mate, don't you know it dangerous to smoke round ammo" the look we gave him frightens him off. We have had nine hours off F4 & Mirages dropping 500 ponders 30 mm shell all round us, plus our own Navy throwing s**t at us. I think five fags aint going to make an arse holes bit of difference. This is how it was till the night of 23rd May.
The CO meanwhile was flying between Battery's to brief the GPOs while the Battery's adjusted on DFs.
The enemy air activity was almost constant during the afternoon, it seem wave after wave of the buggers were coming over the hill behind us. I have to say those Argie pilots were brave sods they must've had a hell of a shock coming over the crest to San Carlos to see the amount of anti aircraft fire aim towards them, but most still carried on towards their target against very high odds. We saw more than a few shot out of the air or zigzagging trying to shake off a pursuing rapier missile mostly in vain. But they still kept coming either very brave, mad or badly briefed.
The strangest thing is the lack of enemy on the ground, none of us has yet seen an Argie (except from waist up at mach 2) We all expected a decent fight when we got ashore but I'm glad to say that as yet we only have those bloody aircraft to worry about.
Sunday 23rd May
Gun batteries spent the last 24 hours digging in & firing. 7 Bty fired in support of 3 Para who had reported a contact, it turned out to be a friendly friendly contact in which both parties suffered casualties. Some of the injured actually walked into 7 Bty's location. To add to the total balls up a sea king chopper sent to casevac the casualties made a hard landing and sustained damage so a second sea king had to be sent. Not an episode to be proud of.
The air raids were coming in thick and fast today, some of the Argies pilots seemed to be very accurate but some released their loads ASAP and hot tailed it back to the main land. During the day HMS Antelope took two UXBs and limped into San Carlos water from Falkland sound. At around 21:00Hrs 1 UXB exploded while being defused, it was one of the loudest noises I have ever heard and the whole area lit up as the explosives on board went off, at first it was thought that the crew were still on board because the helicopters were flying as close as possible to the burning & exploding ship fanning smoke & flames to help survivors, Christ they were brave sods rather them than me that ship could've gone up again at any time. Luckily the crew had disembarked, but the extremely courageous bomb disposal guys trying to defuse the UXB weren't so lucky.
Monday 24 May
Funny how you settle into a routine even though some sod is trying his best to kill you, but we had our routine all right as soon as enemy air craft were spotted we headed straight for the nearest trench. Now your probably thinking this was to avoid being hit by enemy air craft fire, WRONG! It was to avoid being hit by our own small arms fire, Because us on A sub were on the left flank of the position, anytime there was enemy air activity, small arms fire erupted all around us, following each aircraft on it's route passed us down the valley across San Carlos water. This meant we were in direct line of fire of nearly every bugger in the Bty at some point in the air crafts flight.
In fact it wasn't just our own small arms fire we had to be wary of as every time an air craft came over the sky was criss-crossed with Rapier, Seacat, Seawolf, Blowpipe, bofers, GPMP, amongst other missiles. So the Argies were the least of our problems at the moment. GPO 8 Bty (Lt Waring) was briefed by the CO on an operation by 2 Para to take place on Goose Green/Darwin. The plan is to attack after dark inflict heavy damage and casualties and withdraw. Later that night the planned raid on Darwin/Goose Green was postponed indefinitely.
Sam Brown and his gang of chefs at war received the good news they were waiting for, they are about to get ashore at last as Sam explains.
This was when the chief hat gave us the good news "get your kit and f**k off", "pardon me" " look we're going to cross deck with the QE2 and your going to f**k off ashore, so get your kit.
Now this is the point that I confess to Charlie Ede, he gave me three clansman radios just before he went ashore that were U/S, I said "what the f**k do you want me to do with these". "Fix them" " Charlie do I look like a f**king Tel's tech" " look just get them fixed". Yea right I'm going to carry three radios around with me, well I chucked Charlie on to a chopper waved bye bye. Then went down below, brought the said radios up and drop tested them in Ajax bay. They failed the test and sank!
Then we found our selves in a landing craft heading ashore, which was a nice feeling to be joining up with our mates. Yes we jumped the gun there, big style. It would be another few days and a bombing to get us home ( no I didn't mix up my words, in a war home is where your mates are ) There we were, on dry land " oi you lot get the f**k off my beach" oh yes our first day ashore and we make friends with the beach master, oh joy. We moved up the manmade slip way, Fred got the BCs Land rover ashore. Some boot neck, says to Fred "what the f**k you doing with that" " its the BCs truck" " ha ha ha" says the boot neck, as he walks off pissing himself. "You lot still on my beach, f**k off". So we f**ked off. We bump into another boot neck, "oi mate any idea where we can bunk up" "do I look like a road sign" Steve drops his Bergen, then says to the boot neck, " no but you soon will" we all grab Steve, Wilky grabs the boot necks throat, we get a more forth coming reply from our royal, once Wilky lets him start breathing again. He tells us find a bit of ground dig a hole in it and its yours, " get off my f**king beach" beach masters are a pain in the tits.
The joke on the BCs truck was there was only 50` of road once we were off the rolling road, so that was as far as the BCs truck went. We throw a net over it, then kissed it good bye. One of the lads came back said he had found a spot, it was down the end of the factory the boiler room. It had a roof walls, and a 12 x12 with RMPs living in it perfect, out of the weather and if any one tried to nick our kit the monkeys would have them. There was still some night left so bags out and heads down, we got up in the morning to the dawn chorus of air red followed by any thing that could fire being fired. I even seen a size 11 Cairngorm boot being thrown at a departing plane, it was doing 600 knots, the boot a lot less. We decide then it might be a good idea to construct an air raid shelter, to protect ourselves not from air craft but boot necks trying to get us for slave labour. Joe Jack appeared and our pleas to rejoin the Bty were rejected, this was not good, not good at all. But things were about to change.
With Sam & his gang settled in the BMA and the brigade dug in things seem to be as I said rather routine, but we aint getting too complacent we know things will be changing shortly.
Tuesday 25th May
Shortly after first light 29 Bty engaged enemy activity and expended 30 proximity which caused the enemy to disperse rapidly. The target was engaged again at mid day when vehicles were seen in the area another 15 rounds prox were expended. Another friendly on friendly incident occurred between a patrol of 2 Para and Sea Flight, just SW of 29 Btys location. 29 were not involved and fortunately there were no casualties. At around 15:30 a sneak air raid by 4 enemy air craft occurred. 3 were shot down and the 4th went off trailing smoke, 1 pilot ejected and was picked up from the water with a badly broken leg. During the day the enemy lost at least a further 5 aircraft, but as a result of air raids on the Navy HMS Coventry was bombed and sunk with the loss of 19 of its men.
HMS Coventry in her prime
HMS Broadsword was hit, is still operational and thankfully has no casualties. The merchant ship Atlantic Conveyor was hit by at least 1 Exocet missile and had to be abandoned, all that could be salvaged before she sank was one Chinook helicopter, so it must've been a bad one. We have also heard that LSLs Galahad & Lancelot have taken hits but both bombs failed to go off, yet another job for those brave guys of the UXB team (rather them than me) a very sad day all around at sea.
Wednesday 26th May
During the night enemy signals were intercepted that indicated an artillery barrage would commence on our positions at 0700 hrs Zulu, warning were received by all Bty's by slidex. In the event no artillery fire occurred, during the day several air raid reds were given but only on 1 occasion did they appear near us. The aircraft was engaged by Sea Harries enemy dropped their loads early put on after burners and headed back to mainland. A UXB on Sir Lancelot was successfully defused and unloading recommenced. It appears the operation to retake Goose Green/Darwin is back on. 2 Para due to leave at last light to advance to the first objective of Camilla Creek house and secure gun position for 3 guns from 8 Bty.
Falk times.jpg (1309081 bytes) Click to see & read an original copy of the Falkland times issued by Brigade to keep us informed.
Here follows an account of happenings as recalled by Brian (Jock) Tilley
Falkland Islands 1982
Crew:Harry Gates, Scouse Culkin, Wally Grieve, Pte Miles (ACC can't recall his surname), Taff Perks, Jock Tilley (me), A N Other Gunner (can't recall his name) Can anyone help with the missing guys name?
Like most other gun teams we landed in San Carlos on the morning of May 21st. No real dramas apart from the Air Raid warning Red while still onboard the Sir Geraint. Once we were ashore and started digging in the Air show started courtesy of the Argentinean Air force.
After taking cover for the 3rd time we came to realise that they were going for the ships and not the land forces, well not all the time anyway. Of course everyone and their oppo was having a go at these aircraft using SLR/SMG and even 9mm pistols! We soon received the order to let the Rapier and Ships weapons systems take care of the aircraft as not only were the bootnecks and paras firing at one another across the valley when missing the fast moving targets, we were all following the Argie aircraft onto the ships with some rounds coming a bit too close for comfort to the matelots.
Over the coming days we soon got into a routine with the daily briefing from Harry being the highlight. Harry had somehow managed to break the zip on his arctic smock and held it closed using a length of string. Harry had brought a small pair of scissors with him to trim his moustache, suffice to say they were borrowed at regular intervals by various members of our gun crew (who shall remain nameless) in order to trim their clankers!! Sorry Harry.
F Sub had been thrown together in order to give 79 Bty an additional gun, therefore although we knew one another we had not trained as a gun crew previously. On our 1st fire mission (San Carlos) we got to know each other a little better!
Scouse Culkin laid the gun "ready!".... no reply from Harry
Scouse "ready!"... even louder this time
Harry walks behind Scouse and shines his torch onto the gun sights checking the co-ordinates
After firing the gun Scouse jumps up and shouts at Harry..."I can lay this f***ing gun on a fag packet and don't need checking!"
There then ensued what is best described as a roll about in the gun pit between Harry and Scouse with the rest of us looking at each other laughing while they sorted out their differences.
The day after a rapier missile was fired over our position chasing after an Argentine jet heading towards San Carlos settlement, it was catching the aircraft and we were all cheering it on. The pilot was obviously aware he was about to be blown up and just managed to skip over the ridge where the bootnecks were dug (42 CDO I think). Unfortunately for them the rapier missile did not perform the same manoeuvre and slammed into the hillside above their trenches leaving a large black hole. It was hilarious to see the bootnecks emerging from their trenches looking at the hole and then looking down the valley at the rapier site with a look of "what the f*** was that!"
After what seemed a long time in San Carlos we were flown forward by Sea King to Mount Estancia.
It had been a long day and we knew as soon as we landed it would be more digging....oh joy!.
During the "interesting" low level flight the Navy loadmaster produced fresh Ham rolls and a hot brew from a flask. It was the best thing that had happened for days! Although he did look at us strangely as we all stuffed the rolls into our smocks to be eaten later when we could really savour them.
After digging in on Mount Estancia someone told us that we were in front of 3 Para.....I always thought it should be the other way around! Suffice to say our eyes were on stalks during our time there.
We stayed in that position for a number of days with the weather beginning to deteriorate. Thickest fog I have ever seen!
Eventually after another exciting Sea King lift we ended up on the forward slopes of Mount Kent. Our final position where we supported the final attacks. Not sure to this day who we supported but all I know is that we were firing continually.
Best regards & wishes to all of F Sub (79 Bty Falklands 1982) & 29 Commando Regt RA
Thanks for that Brian I'm sure Harry will be well please to here how his moustache scissors were used to keep of all his gun subs hygiene tiptop. Wonder if that's why he has now shaved it off?
Thursday 27th May
During the afternoon we suffered several air raids late afternoon a decoy flight came over the headline over our position and headed over San Carlos water, which drew most of the anti air craft fire,seconds later 4 more air craft came over the same headland behind us and headed straight down the valley towards the BMA (Brigade maintenance area) at Ajax Bay ,San Carlos jetty and 40 Cdo southern position Rapier slashed 2 Sky Hawks and the third probably downed and the 4th was splashed out by Naval ship. Before they were shot down they had released their loads leaving 4 dead and 26 wounded and having hit an ammo dump in the BMA. Explosions and fired came from the BMA during the remainder of the day and night, 8 Bty prepared 3 guns to move Camilla Creek to support 2 Para's advance on Goose Green.
Sam recalls the bombing of the BMA from first hand experience
We were hit by four A4 on 27th of May, in two waves of two air craft. We were out back between two buildings, I don't know why but I looked to my right and there they were coming right at us. Steve and I about faced and started to run. "OOOOO F**k" I aimed for the door, I did not hear the blast just felt this hot slap lifting me off my feet and propelling me through the door I was turned in the air and landed on my back. In time to see Steve flying through the window, he lands like a pile of shit "where's me helmet" Joe says "Ill get it ". With that he dives into the building, the second wave hit. Joe does not come out, me and Steve look at each other "f**k" we say. "You two stop f**king about, Steve here's your helmet, next time get it yourself. Sam can you come with me". Says Joe Joe led me through to the main building, where he had found a young Royal he had been killed. He was from 45 Cdo, we couldn't leave him there as all the mortar rounds and small arms ammo were brewing up and popping of every where. I ran through the building to where the medics were and picked up a stretcher and blanket, Joe and I carried this lad round to the red and green life machine but sadly he was passed help the medics bagged him and tagged him. We were there for him, and looked after him it was too little and sadly too late. We lost four men that morning and twenty six wounded. It was a long night in the shelter with the rounds popping all around us. The next day we all said we wanted to return to the Bty lines, Joe went off to find out.
Hours later with no Joe, I said I would go and find out. So off I set up the hill, I got to about half a mile and waved but got no response, I went down this dip came up the other side. I got my response about sixty lads pointing weapons at me, I had courage running down both legs. George Jobling was waving like madly at me so I waved back, to which he and everyone else responded by diving into their holes like rabbits, it was at this point I heard this thumping sound which turned into banging as cannon shells ripped up the slop on ether side of me. I had to turn and look, so I look, and I swear its that same A4 trying to mess my day up. I tell you if I had a spare boot I would have I would have thrown it, well I didn't so I turned and ran. Now you all know Dartmoor, Sennybridge and Scotland and how its covered in that boggy ground, with big tufts of grass and how hard it is to walk on. Well this was the same shit, and I kid you not I did 110m up hill in twelve strides. I even beat the air craft baring down on us! I dived into the first hole landed head first.
Leroy is in it emptying mag after mag, hot spent cases bouncing off my helmet and down my neck. At that point my mate came back throwing cannon shells all round us, Lee and I dropped to the bottom of the trench thankfully Lee had already turned me right side up. Marsh pops his head out of the shelter "Sam you want a coffee" crap flying every where, his head pops out again " do you take sugar" so I stayed for coffee, and do you know its the best coffee I have ever had because I was home. After the raid I got to see the BSM, I said that if I am going to get it I would rather be with my mates. Than die with people who don't give a shit, he saw my point I went down and told the lads to pack up we are all going home.
As I said everything written in orange has been submitted by somebody else and it is their version of the events as they remember it.
During the Argie air strike I was in the middle of the position sorting the ammo. As soon as the first aircraft appeared I grabbed my tin hat and started for cover. Nigel Morrell who was section cmdr grabbed hold of my arm and shouted "sit down ". I looked at him as if he were mad. "Look" he said "if you go charging off across there to your trench, you're more likely to be shot by one of these silly bastards" he said pointing to our guys blasting away with everything they had at the Argie planes. I realised straight away that he of course was right, "players Randy," "please Nigel" then we sat down on the ammo, lit up a players non tipped each and watched all hell break loose.
Thinking back now it's a rather surreal thing to do, but it's amazing how easily you adapt to your surroundings.
As soon as it began it was all over. We sat and finished our fags, Nigel looked at me and said "there must be a few who've copped it over there" pointing to the BMA where the main strike had taken place, which was now shrouded in smoke, flames and the sound of small explosions as the heat reached the pallets of ammo stacked there. "Anyway this lots not going to shift itself, lets get it counted and out to the gun subs" he was referring to the ammo we had just been sitting on smoking during the enemy air strike.
This shows the BMA just as the first wave of aircraft dropped their bombs, one landed on the hospital but fortunately didn't go off.
Nigel was proved right about not moving. George Joblin was hit in the shoulder and wounded with small arms fire from one of our own weapons. How we know it was from our side was revealed a year later when we were in Belize.
The night he was hit George went down and had his wound dressed which at the time it looked like the round had just grazed him. However during our tour in Belize, George went off to the sick bay complaining of a pain in his shoulder, the doc noticed a small lump in his back just above his shoulder blade. A local anaesthetic was given and a scalpel cut revealed a perfect 7.62 round, which just popped out. It seemed the round was at the end of it's trajectory when it hit him therefore it just had enough left in it to embed itself in his shoulder, during the course of the year it had worked itself out of his back.
At last light the 3 guns flew to Camilla Creek.
Friday 28th May
The battle for Goose Green started at 06:00 this morning with 2 Para putting in an attack on Darwin. 8 Bty were called for the first target at 06:15. The NGS ship also due to give support couldn't because of a fault which put them out of action until 08:10 8 Bty fired in continuous support of the attack until last light, numerous targets were engaged with timely & very accurate fire. On one occasion they pursued a Puccara taxiing on the runway and prevented it taking off, the plane was abandoned!
8 Bty came under attack from another Puccara, but the boys shot it down with small arms fire, mainly from Brian Hague on the LMG. The blowpipe boys accounted for another 3 Puccara's during the day.
During all this 2 Para had taken Darwin and started to move on Goose Green under very heavy fire. We lost a Gazelle the pilot was killed, also a FGA was hit after an attack on an Argie Pack How position, the pilot baled behind enemy lines.
By last light after some very fierce fighting 2 Para had consolidated & cut Goose Green off from the rest of the Argie forces.
The 3 guns of 8 Bty fired some 1000 rounds in support of the attack. After last light the last 3 guns of 8 Bty were flown in to position ready for the final attack on Goose Green. Enemy forces seem to be consolidating and a heavy & bloody battle is expected.
It was reported that 2 Para have lost their CO & adjutant along with 12 other ranks. The enemy losses are not known but they appear to be very heavy.
79 Bty who were due to fly to Teal settlement at last night didn't due to the developments at Goose Green.
Here is the actual sitrep sent round the British forces, as you can see 29 Cdo's & in particular 8 Bty's involvement has been airbrushed from the report. There isn't even a mention of the NGS ships. Seems like the Paras did all this without any outside help, as has been reported ever since. Without our support those guys would've been pinned down and lost a damn sight more men.
Saturday 29th May
The expected battle for Goose green planned for today did not take place. Negotiations for the safe withdrawal of the civilian population is well under way. A final ultimatum has been issued to the Argie forces on the lines of "Surrender or be destroyed!" To back up the threat a fire power demo of FGA & arty fire power from 8 Bty was laid on. Without any further shots the garrison in Goose Green surrendered. At 16.20 the Union flag was flown again at Goose Green settlement!!!! By the end of the day more than 1400 enemy had surrendered to less than 600 UK troops, a victory that will go down in British military history. The surrender had been so rapid the Argies didn't even have time or just could not be bothered to spike their arm & ammunition.
Lots have been written & spoken about this part of the conflict, all I have to say is that it was a victory that was
desperately needed by the Brits, if we had failed here we would've had one hell of a battle. However saying that the Argies I saw didn't really resemble a strong fighting force, sure there were a few hard core but most seemed to me to be young lads fresh in the field from training. This was proved on a closer inspection of their trenches, anyone who has been through basic training in the army knows that overhead cover is vital. These guys had been on this island for around 6 weeks but very few trenches had any cover, indeed the spoil was no where to be seen. It looked as if someone had come along and dug their graves and removed the soil to use else where. All it needed was our VT shells exploding above them and they stood no chance they may well have laid out in the open.
Sunday 30th May
We moved down to goose Green through the battlefields of the day before, there was little or no cover for the advancing forces. As we approach some areas it seemed like there were discarded water proofs & ponchos laying around, it soon became clear that they were in fact the bodies of the dead Argie defenders. We could see first hand the effect our fire had on the guys in uncovered trenches "poor buggers stood no chance, why the f..... didn't they get some over head cover on the trenches?" "I for one am glad they didn't we might still be here trying to move the buggers, think of the blood split on both sides then!"
On the approach to the settlement Rick called the gun to a halt to grab himself a souvenir, he'd spotted a helmet laying beside a trench so he leap over and gleefully picked it up waving his prize in the air. He didn't at first notice something sliding from it until bits hit him on the shoulder, it appeared that part of the previous owner were still inside. Needless to say Rick's prize was quickly discarded.
It was a bloody cold night & we woke to a blanket of snow everywhere and a strange smell hanging over us, I still don't know what it was but I can still smell it from time to time. We got to look around the devastation at the settlement, it looked like the Argies had no regard for sanitary conditions they seemed to have squatted anywhere. "We could've left them to it, if we hadn't invaded the dirty sods would've died of dysentery all we'd had to do would've been send in the Pioneer corps to clean the place up." I said.
The airfield was covered in small arms & ammunition lined up in rows where the soldiers had stood when they grounded them & walked into captivity. The locals were pleased to see us, they had been locked in the village hall for the past 30 days without any knowledge of what was happening.
As usual the hacks in the Falkland Times press trench were aiming for a Pulitzer prize, here again are the originals from that day.
Monday 31 May
We started to move back to the San Carlos area, it was very erratic due to the amount of helicopters being tasked to several different areas of the brigade. Due to this by last light we still didn't have all of our kit.
79 Bty started to move to the Teal inlet area, meanwhile 7 Bty fired several missions on Moody Brook & the out skirts of Stanley.
5 infantry Brigade started to land at San Carlos, better late than never I suppose. 2 Para has now come under the command of 5 Brigade, 3 Para stays with the Commando Brigade. 29 Bty left us and also came under the command of the Infantry.
The flight back from Goose Green turned out to be a little hairy, during the flight the load master became rather agitated and started waving his arms around, I think he was trying to tell us something was wrong. As it turned out we were under attack from an Argie aircraft who thought he'd take out an easy target. Suddenly we were being tossed around the inside of the chopper as he dropped height and started contouring, eventually the pilot dropped like a stone and we were unceremoniously disgorged from the aircraft and awaited our fate. As it happened either the chopper pilot had done a good job or the Argie was going to fast to bother looking for us, so after a few minutes we got back aboard a resumed the journey. The chopper was so full we were crammed on top of each other and the kit, one guy found a comfortable position on the steps of the closed side door. About 5 minutes into the flight the door sprung its locking and dropped open, I have never seen a grunt fly but that bugger did. As the door flew open he fell out but was luckily caught by his webbing on some part of the superstructure just long enough to gain his composure. All I saw was a guy disappear out the door then reappear as by magic, needless to say he was then happy to rough it crammed in with the rest of us!
Good to see we had state of the art equipment!
Tuesday 1st June
During the night intelligence reported they had intercepted a message that indicated a ground and airborne attack was to be launched against the British troops at dawn. We were put on high alert and stood to but strangely enough the only thing dropping from the sky was the usual rain, sleet & snow.
On the MGRM & CRAs orders the Regiment was given priority of helicopters, however only 7 Bty managed to move today, we were warned for move all day but due to the choppers being tasked elsewhere, but we did what the British army has learnt to do well, hurry up & wait.
One incident happened during the night that is worthy of a mention. During the night stag one of our gun sub who shall remain nameless (Rugged) had an encounter with the enemy. He was still on the gun passing the time when he saw a figure approaching through the murky night. "Halt"....Nothing the figure kept advancing on without a murmur. "HALT" rather louder this time, but still nothing and the figure kept walking towards him as if with a purpose. "F**7ng stop right there" a bit of nerves creeping into his voice. By this time other members of the sub were coming to life wondering what the bloody hell was occurring. "Right you bugger" he said while cocking his weapon, this last action caused us all to start scrabbling out of our scratchers and head towards our webbing & weapons. By this time the figure was quite visible and about to be shot, fortunately for the figure & unfortunately for Rugged it was quite obviously a horse! You can imagine the grief he got from the rest of the guys making their way back to the comfort of their slugs. It took a while for him to live that escapade down.
At least we didn't have any of the dreaded air attacks today. 7 Bty were firing quite a lot today, the news filtering through is that they have caused large numbers of casualties and damage to equipment mainly through prox rounds which are devastating the enemy. Looks like one of our Harriers has downed, there has been no contact from the pilot, 5 Brigade are continuing to move ashore, still!
Wednesday 2nd June
Rain, Rain & more Rain followed along side thick fog. There will be no move for the Regiment today so its a day of digging and repairing. The main repair was to the gun kit, it had taken a bit of a bashing after firing so many rounds on such a soggy surface.
7 Bty fired again today at several targets, at one point they were tasked to take out a Chinook off loading troops, luckily they didn't fire after a last minute signal warned that it was 2 Para moving forward. 5 Brigade had neglected to tell us!!
The Argie Artillery were firing most of the day but didn't cause any casualties, it seems they don't have any OPs out and are firing blind on reverse slopes and high ground hoping for the best. A few crumped down but nothing much to worry about.
Thursday 3rd June
Bloody weather is crap again can hardly see more than 10 yards on low ground, however there are some novel methods of laying, the prisms are useless due to the guns sliding back so far after a couple of rounds. One of the guys ran out and stuck a torch on an aiming post "sod it we can't see two so we will have to lay off one, bollocks to the drill book." We were unable to fly out again today but the recce party managed to get a flight, they were stuck at the new position over night without much kit, bet they were chuffed.
Due to a slow day I think it about time I introduced you to my fellow what are now called "Veterans."
We were A sub or "Amble A" as we were better know due to the laid back way we operated. The crew consisted of: Rick (Fat Arse) Broad, Me Neil (Randy) Randall, Alan (Taff) Williams, Trev (Chin) Shaw, Russ (Rugged) Jarman, Ian (Ma) Baker, Dean (Ronnie) Corbett & last but by no means least our REME guy John (make anything) Strang. Oh and an occasional extra member when he managed to catch up with us Stephen (Sam) Brown.
As a crew we'd been together for around a year so knew each other quite well, the last few months had pulled us together and we now had a definite bond that I don't think I've ever experienced before or since. We were all very young but certainly not foolish, none of us was going to end up a dead hero, then again not one man would have faltered in his duty and not one did even in times of threat. I am truly proud to say I served with that crew.
Friday 4th June
Weather still not much better. We were warned for move again but didn't think much would come of it "the fly boys aint going to risk it in this shit." Well that was proved wrong A & B subs flew forward to link up with the recce party, we were followed by a couple of pallets of ammo then the fly boys stopped again due to the weather. We were in and ready but didn't have much ammo so were mainly left out of the fire plans.
During the night we were bombed by high altitude bombers, most of the guys were asleep I was on stag and saw what looked like a few red dots getting closer to us. Suddenly the mother of all explosions followed a blinding light & I was knocked off my feet, of course everyone was up and moving at the speed of light. As I tried to get up I felt a body slump on top of me, Christ I thought someone's been hit and tried to wriggle from under them to see if I could help. As I moved the prostrate person on me decided it was time to leg it to the trench we had dug earlier that day, as he raised himself up he used my head as a means of stabilizing him therefore pushing my face deep into the mud leaving me half drowned and looking like Al Jolson! To this day I have no idea which one of the buggers it was, no one owned up that night and hasn't since, the gits.
After a while the bombing stopped as quickly as it started, all eight of us were in the one trench up on a bank above the gun, the CP was on the other side of the mound about a hundred meters away. The tannoy then started blasting out "A sub"....... "A sub are you guys OK?"............... "A sub!!"...... "Well I aint bloody answering them until I know that its over".................." A Sub, some one answer the tannoy".. "Yeah like f*+k"................"A sub"............"A sub!!!!!!" At this point there was a little bit of panic from the faceless voice on the tannoy. Then after a couple of minutes silence a body appeared over the hill from the CP expecting to see blood & devastation, but all he got was 8 heads poking out of a trench shouting obscenities at him, "you stupid F*+#ers we thought you were............." "yeah well sorry to disappoint, you frigging woolly back bastard now piss off back to your Wendy tent before you get cold." For those of you not used to military parlance there was no malice meant in this, its just the kind of banter that keeps the moral up, strange as it may seem! After the lone woolly had retreated back to his Wendy tent we decided it about time to get out of the trench. Easier said than done. The hole had been dug in haste during the afternoon & because it was soft peat ground it was really easy digging so the two guys who dug it had gotten a little carried away, the hole was about 6 feet deep & 8 long.
It was like a scene from its a knock out 8 guys trying to climb out of a wet slippery hole which was getting worse the more we tried. In the end it was decided to chucked each other out, this worked well until just me & Ronnie remained I pushed Ronnie out which resulted in me sinking up to my knees in the soaking peat it was like a mire. I have to admit I was getting a little fraught to say the least! after what seemed like an age the guys managed to get me out using web belts & rope, I came out like a cork from a bottle.
Saturday 5th June
After a soaking wet night due to the constant rain and the remains of the trench escapade, the morning dawned much better. The rest of the Bty were flown in and our ammo made up to scale. We were ready at last, and we didn't have to wait long before were were firing at an Argie Helicopter unloading troop (yes it definitely was one of theirs this time) 7 Bty fired on enemy OP positions & 79 fired counter arty fire on a pack how position. All targets were engaged & neutralised with several casualties.
We were now getting into a bit of a routine trying to stop the guns sliding back in the mud when firing. We had some ingenious attempts, we tried a tow rope round the centre of the platform hooked onto angle irons, this held for a while but eventually ripped them out. When firing in high angle the breeches were slamming into the ground so we had to dig small pits which in turn weakened the ground so back in low angle the guns flew back. This I have to tell you was bloody back breaking work, the ammo was often in front of the gun when firing due to the movement. So we were ferrying it back to the gun! Along with the driving rain it proved a very uncomfortable experience. It seemed like we were firing almost continuously and continuously getting the gun back in action. To add to all this most of the hand spikes had either bent beyond use or had snapped.
Willie Mac was out passing line several times a day, but I don't think there was a time more than one gun was out of action. I have never worked so hard in my life, it felt like this went on for days on end. We had to split the crew into two shifts to ensure we got a rest and some sleep, but when the gun needed moving it had to be all hands on deck due having no vehicles, so sleep was very limited. Oh and to add to all this it was raining cats and dogs, just to add insult to injury.
In between all this there were several air raid warnings just to keep us on our toes.
BCHQ.jpg (239111 bytes) For those of you who prefer your information in the raw form here is the BC HQ Bty's written report for the day.
Sunday 6th June
We continued firing all through the night at numerous targets, we were getting some good target descriptions which gave us more impetuous to get the rounds on the ground. Still having a big problem with the soft ground, the guns are becoming very unstable. At one point Trev on the layers seat was sitting on the ground due to the trails being lower than the sodden earth. We tried everything possible to stop the constant sliding, hammered cart cases in behind the field spades, that worked for about two rounds! We then filled the ammo boxes with crap and stuck them at the back, this held until the spade ran up & over them. The only solution was to move the gun.
Moving tons of metal by hand in that terrain was no easy feat but we managed it with grunt power and bloody pig headed determination. All the time the rain came down in bloody torrents, we were soaked to the skin with no likelihood of getting dry in the near future. On top of this ammo was being flown in on a regular basis and mainly being dropped in the middle of the position, with the guns being widely dispersed this meant man handling hundreds of HE rounds some distance over rough boggy terrain, deep joy!
We were all knackered and hungry, I knew Ronnie had been secretly stashing the rolos from the ration packs so thought I'd make some porridge with a difference, the whole days rations of oats went into a dixie followed by Ronnie's stash making a very thick sickly sweet gloop. Ronnie didn't realize until we got to the bottom of the gloop and he saw a congealed layer of Rolos, he wasn't best pleased.
Monday 7th June
At last the sun has come out we get our first chance to see what's around us & a chance to try and dry our kit and ourselves out a bit. Everything seemed to be soaked, but the moral is still very high.
During the deployment the REME fitters were distributed around the subs, we had Cpl John Strang. John seemed to be able to make something out of nothing, today he decided to make a bath! He disappeared with some ammo boxes and a few tools & came back with a rather ingenious contraption for us to have a hot wash/bath. One box was half filled with unused charge bags & the other had the vent holes plugged and placed on top with bent pieces of metal in between to aid ventilation so the charge bags could burn. So the top one was filled with water (no shortage of that after the previous days) then the charge bags were lit & hey presto after a couple of minutes a hot bath! We each took turns, I must say it was such a moral boost to get clean and with hot water to boot!!! This was just one of the things John made, they usually went from the mark 1 prototype up to mark 4 finished product. On one position we even had a toilet. What a cracking guy, I haven't seen him for twenty years but I hope he is well.
Of course we carried on firing during our ablutions, in all we fired on around 20 targets during the day mainly adjustments for the attack on Stanley & in support of fighting patrols on the ground. Still the ammo kept coming, we now had hundreds of rounds on each gun.
Tuesday 8th June
We fired on several targets during the day, most of them troops in open or vehicles on the move. Reports are that the fire is very effective and appears to be demoralising the enemy. Those of us that remember working on the pack are now glad of the extra few kilometres range of the light gun. they are firing blind and do not have the range or mobility. Having said that our mobility is dependant on helicopters but at least most of our moves are in a forward direction.
News is coming through of an air attack on two LSLs with 5 brigade on board, first reports are that one has sustained heavy damage and quite a lot of casualties, the other one is thought not to be too badly damaged but there are some casualties.
One event worth noting happened today. During a lull in firing Alan (Taff) Williams was doing some work on one of our trenches when he heard a noise, on popping his head up over the top of the trench he was confronted by three guys two of them carrying another. When they saw a disembodied head appear and challenge them they dropped everything and shouted "For f*#ks sakes don't shoot!" Taff in his usual casual manner said "whats up boys?" to which three very relived men approached and told him they had been dropped off by chopper on a recce on mount Kent, as soon as the chopper left they came under artillery fire and one was quite badly hit so they withdrew sharpish. Luckily they stumbled onto us quite quickly, Taff showed them the way to the CP so they injured guy could receive attention & be casevaced out.
We are also getting news that HMS Plymouth has taken a bomb down her funnel but have no further information but it sounds like it didn't go off.
Here is part 2 of Des Connelly's account of happenings.
29 may having off loaded our stores, we took on POWs from Goose Green, either on rear deck or by mexi float ( poor bastards some were only 14yrs old ) the next 36hrs were hectic with RM and Intelligence Corps checking who was who and what they were doing. Late 31 may transferred POWs to Norland. 01 June took on RM troops and transferred to Teal Inlet, back to San Carlos and repeated the process back to Teal Inlet on 05 June Obviously transporting troops who had been ashore for some time, It was
a shock to be told NO SHOWERS due to limited water. Back to San Carlos as prison ship. On 11 June took on 29 LAD plus others to Teal Inlet where I went ashore and stayed with them until 14 June when it SNOWED. -------part 3 to follow.
Thanks Des, part three will be up in due course.
—--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Wednesday 9th June
We were firing most of the night, all of us are knackered now there were very few breaks in firing and when they did come we just slept in our positions. Splitting the crew in two has worked to a degree and we are getting rest if not so much sleep, but again when the gun need moving its all hands to the pump. We are mainly firing in support of our patrols who had run into trouble & needed to extract rapidly. Come daylight we looked very much like the black 8 of old covered in mud & cordite.
There are constant air raid warnings but these are now mainly being ignored, we have now become a little blasé about the air craft which after yesterdays attack on the LSLs may be a little premature. But then again we don't have much choice we can hardly abandon things half way through a mission.
Thursday 10 June
A lot of firing again during the night "have these buggers no idea I need my beauty sleep?" "You would need a Rip Van Winkle sleep to sort the bloody mush out!" was the reply. It seemed like we were on call all night again, we are having a few problems with aiming points. The aim posts are bloody useless, we can't see them half the time. So we strapped a torch to the nearest one and had to do with that. "Can you imagine what the SMIGs at Larkhill would say if they saw us strapping torches to aiming posts?" "Well where are they when we need them, tucked up in their bunks in bloody Larkhill that's where!" The wash up after this little exercise is going to be interesting.
Again we are cat napping when we can in between missions & ammo runs. At least the air craft threat seems to be almost extinct now, we haven't been attacked by air for a few days now. Looks like the fly boys have got the better of the air superiority.
We are getting wind of a large attack coming up in the next couple of days, we have been tasked to 45 Cdo who are to take out & hold the two sisters.
7 Bty with 42 who's mission is Mount Harriet.
79 have 3 Para who's mission is Mount Longdon.
We will be on call all day while they move to the start positions before beginning the attack in darkness.
The worst news of the day is that there was a friendly-friendly contact during the night. 45 had shot up their own mortar section who had deployed to support the evening patrols. There are 4 dead & 1 very seriously injured. These things are bound to happen during the confusion of war, but it bloody well shouldn't most of this is down to poor passage of information between senior commanders. But its the grunt on the ground that faces the consequences of their inadequacies.
Friday 11th June
The 11th June what a great day. MY BIRTHDAY! What a way to spend it though. During the course of the day I had a few visits from guys from the other crews wishing me a happy birthday and bringing gifts. One was a hexy block wrapped in bog paper & one was almost as valuable as gold, it was a rolled fag, (I'll explain about the tobacco situation another day) all prezzies received were rather imaginative. Most of the rest of the day passed relatively quietly. Then some how the mail arrived on our position, among the letters here was a large package. We were all eyeing it knowing there had to be some real food in it.
Since we had landed on this bog ridden place, what seemed like an eternity ago we had been on artic rations. For those who haven't had the pleasure of the old artic rations let me try to explain a little about the joy you've missed. These things came in little packets of dehydrated slightly lumpy powder, with exotic names like chicken supreme and beef stew. In fact what was in the packets were hell on earth. Every thing tasted exactly the bloody same, all we did was drown it in curry powder so it has some semblance of taste. The fact that they were dehydrated wasn't a problem due to the amount of water on this place, but all water had to be sterilised with purifying tablets. Now these tablets probably did a good job but they left a taste of bleach in the water, which of course transferred into everything it mixed with. This stuff pretending to be food was bad enough but with the water we were drinking, well I'll leave it to your imagination. To add insult to injury we were cooking on the afore mentioned hexy blocks, the smell of these also permeate everything they come within half a mile of. So all in all the scran tasted of bleach & the unique if a little pungent aroma of hexy blocks! After this amount of time I and a few other were having problems keeping it in my stomach long enough to get some protein from it.
So the arrival of this package was being eyed enviously, as the letters were passed round in the usual way. "Taff one for you." "Ronnie 2 for you" "Rugged" "yeah over here." "Pass this one to Taff" followed by laughter. This went on for a while until just the package was left "Randy" I looked up knowing what was coming, something like tell Trev he has a package to collect. But this time it was passed to me! You could've knocked me over, it was my birthday and I get a package from home. God knows when Mo my wife posted it but I'm sure she didn't expect me to get it. Mail is vital for moral & the wives all did their bit sending letter after letter. Mo had certainly not let me down, sending letter after letter knowing she probably would only be getting sporadic correspondence from me. But then she always stuck by me through thick & thin and still does! We had no idea what it was like for our loved ones but knew they must be worried sick & getting very little information in the days before global news & mobile phones.
Back at the gun we had a ceremonial opening of the parcel. It contained everything we had been without since leaving Blighty. Biscuits, cakes, sweets etc I'm sure you know the sort of stuff I'm talking about, funnily enough we had more visitors once the word got round. Each was greeted with a brew and a welcome offering from the package from home. Thanks Mo!!!
The rest of the day was spent firing adjustments and DFs ready for the battles tonight. During the afternoon all Btys GPOs attended a COs "O" group, here is the COs hand written orders:
Saturday 12th June
The attacks were due to start at 00.01 but 42 Cdo were not ready due to the poor terrain they had to cross. When the attack did go in at 01.00 we fired continuously throughout. It was a very hard fought and bloody battle some of it hand to hand, this held up the advances but they were achieved around first light. The attack on Tumbledown was cancelled due to the daylight making it too risky. This gave good time for all units to consolidate, first reports are that casualties a believed to be relatively light.
HMS Glamorgan had been firing in support of the battles and was now steaming away from the Falklands when she was hit by an Exocet believed to have been fired from the land. We heard the fires are under control but she is listing quite badly.
After firing all night we were looking forward to a bit of sleep during the day ready to start again, how wrong we were. The order came to move, this meant boxing all the ammo which amounted to hundreds of rounds per gun 7 loading them into heli nets. Of course we were giving minimal time and had to be ready in around half an hour. "Christ they think the only thing that gets us down is green kryptonite!" Said Trev.
The idea was to move 8 Bty so far forward we could take out any targets even beyond Port Stanley to the airport. Before long we were staggering towards the choppers carrying more kit than is scientifically possible, it was a challenge just to walk the load master was waving his arms motioning us to run "is that twat being for real, I can hardly walk." Still he continued getting more furious with his gesticulating, "I'm going to drop that git if I get as far as the chopper" said Rugged. There we were staggering, falling & even crawling towards the most hated guy on these islands & that included the Argies. We eventually got there but couldn't lift some of the kit into the chopper due to the weight. "Well give us a f*+king hand then, you must have enough strength in those arms you've been waving the f*+kers for the last five minute!" But he wouldn't get out of his comfort blanket and would only help once we had lifted it far enough for him to grab hold of.
Eventually we all boarded and were on our way. "I'm going to get that bastard out of this chopper if it kills me" I said. As soon as the wheels touched the ground Mr Windmill arms was off "I think he wants us out of his house" as we were scrambling from the chopper I accidentally got caught in Mr Windmills comms wired and webbing so as I jumped he came with me. "Now you can tell all your friends that you really did land on the Falklands" He wasn't best pleased but managed a wry smile as if he knew what was coming next.
What did come next was totally unexpected. The gun was flown in just after us, and we unhooked it then started getting ready for action. Just as our chopper started to move away there was one hell of an explosion about 10 meters to our left, then all hell let loose. The chopper flying the CP trailer in just cut it and headed of sharpish, the trailer landed to the right of us. Having just landed we had no defensive positions ready so were sitting ducks, so we were trying to find any bit of cover possible. Taff & me ran straight to the hole left by the shell that had nearly killed us. "No way is another bugger going to land in this hole" said Taff in his strong Welsh accent. What had happened was the Argies knowing there was movement had fired in our direction. bits of shrapnel has dispersed all around us and through us but no one had been hit, it was close to miraculous. We were waiting to the fire mission to descend on us but after a few minutes it was obvious this wasn't going to happen. Next thing Willie Mac is on the director shouting "they don't have any OPs in this area get ready for line" We went straight into auto pilot and got things moving and were ready for action in minutes.
As I said we were moved so far forward so we could hit any target left as far as the airfield. So for the rest of the day we were busy taking out targets including a fuel depot, the airport control tower, supply dumps, radar sites & even pack howitzer batteries.
All in all it has been a very busy 72 hours with little or no sleep.
Sunday 13th June
The night passed as we stood in position almost frozen to the ground due to the heavy frost that seems to be falling like snow! "Typical the rain stops now it starts bloody freezing." During a lull in firing we decided to try & get our heads down leaving one guy on stag, just as I was nodding off Ma Baker pulls back the tarpaulin and say "Randy there are bodies all over the place" sound rather alarmed "so F*+king what Ma they aint going to frigging hurt you are they! Now bugger off & let me sleep" again he pulls the tarp back and says "I aint comfortable with all these around" "Look Ma what do you want me to do?" he thought for a while and said "I don't know but I'm not too happy about it" he said "hang on Ma how come we didn't see these bodies today then?" he went quite and said "coz they are laid down" "well you wouldn't expect bloody corpses to be standing around would you Ma?" The upshot was I had to get up and go out to these "bodies" in the direction he pointed. I walked around in circles and found nothing so went back & asked where he saw them "well I didn't see them I tripped over them over there" he said pointing. So off I went and came across about three piles of heli nets!!! "You frigging buffoon Ma" he just stood there looking sheepish, I made sure he never forgot that until the day he left the army 20 years later.
The next bit of excitement came that later that night. We had a forward listening post out about 150 meters in front of the gun which we manned between the whole section. Again the tarpaulin goes up "does anyone know why there are hundreds of guys moving across the front of the gun" says Ronnie sounding a little excited. All you could hear all round was the sound of zips being ripped open as everyone to a man moved at once grasping for their weapons. "What the f**k are you on about Ronnie?" one of us said very quietly "over there look" all we could see was a snake of men not far from the listening post moving across the front of the position, "right" says Sam Brown who had joined up with us earlier after being left at Camilla creek, off he goes and grabs the Charlie G "where are the rounds for these f**kers" he said scrambling round the ground desperately trying to find some rounds to load in to the tank buster. "for F**ks sake hide those things from Sam before he starts world war three."
After a bit of deliberation it was decided to send someone forward to the listening post to see if they knew what was going on. So Taff Williams & Sam started moving forward towards the forward trench. What they hadn't realized was how heavy the frost was, so every step they took sounded like someone walking across cornflakes laid on tin foil. "For f**ks sake you two be quiet" so they had to ghost walk all the way forward. Meantime some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to ask the CP if they knew of troop movements, so picked up the tannoy handset and asked. What they had neglected to do was turn down the tannoy so when the answer came it sounded like it was in glorious dolby stereo at the main screen at your local ABC. without thinking everyone threw themselves at the tannoy trying to mask the sound, in the panic no one thought just to turn it off. Eventually the tannoy was turned off and the questions asked about our visitors. The CP said no troop movements were happening and nothing reported from the brigade. When Sam and Taff got back from the listening post it appeared these troops had been moving for about an hour, but the guys up front just decided to say quiet. (sensible lads) We watched them for a while thought it best not to make ourselves known to them & hope vice versa happened, even if it was our troops A sub would probably have been wiped out before they realised we were friendly. Mind you I think they may have got a clue when HE rounds started bursting round them!
Not a lot else happened today, we ended up firing charge super for most of our missions which ripped the guts out of the guns. At one point we were firing at an aeroplane taking off down Stanley airfield. We missed because the next thing over the tannoy was "air raid warning red" which was met by collective groans. However we didn't come under attack and wondered where the plane had gone, it wasn't until a few years later when I read this report that the mystery plane riddle was solved.
The following message was intercepted by sig int:
"British Artillery, which has complete dominance over our Argentine Artillery is firing and hitting Argentine Artillery to the extreme east of Port Stanley. Strategy is clear and the British are probably planning to move in late in the evening of the 13th or early on the 14th June. (the next bit was unclear but it sounded like someone or something--no details) left in a plane plus two civilians to avoid further problems. They are now in Comorodo without any problems. A second plane was able to get away in spite of heavy fire (mystery solved!) but no more should attempt to go there because their losses would be too terrible. About 140 men have been wounded by shrapnel and splinters. Personnel there are well and calm and are all waiting."
Some interesting comments there, but at least we know where that plane went to now!
Prepping ammo.jpg (17244 bytes)E sub.jpg (14850 bytes) Henno & John.jpg (30099 bytes) Spike Buster and who.jpg (18362 bytes) Stand to.jpg (21657 bytes) waiting for a ride.jpg (18140 bytes)
Here are some photos sent in by Neil Hennessy of E sub 79 Bty in action.
Thanks for that Henno.
Monday 14th June
Here we go again another night and another push forward towards Stanley. The Scot Guards and the Ghurkhas advanced on Tumbledown & Mount William around midnight supported by 79, 29 & 97 Bty's. "Hey 5 brigade have made the show, wonder if they have taken lessons from the yanks?"
2 Para supported by 7 & 8 Bty attacked Wireless ridge. The nights fighting was hard & bloody with the advances on all fronts being frequently held up by well positioned machine gun & snipers posts.
At one stage during the night 8 Bty were down to a total of 20 rounds HE for the whole position. We ran out of HE totally so we fired off a couple of smoke set to safe. "What good is that going to do they won't hurt anyone" to which the reply was. " It frigging will if its hit them on the head, anyway just the sound of the buggers coming in will keep their heads down." Due to the intensity of Artillery fire required an immediate resup of ammo was sorted. "bloody fly boys aint going to enjoy this, having to fly at night. Poor dears will be missing their beauty sleep." The resup continued all night with 8 Bty firing the ammo as fast as it could be flown in! Without doubt Artillery was the key to winning this battle, although the history books will not show it.
During the night we were being constantly shelled by Argie Artillery, luckily they didn't know where we were, but it was rather unnerving listening to the buggers whistling passed or falling close by and exploding, as the night wore on these became less frequent or we just blocked them out.
Despite the hard fought resistance, by first light all objectives had been taken. Shortly after dawn the Argentineans launched a counter attack along Moody Brook valley. This attack was broken up solely by a fire mission from all five Bty's firing proximity rounds (air burst) the enemy then retreated in disarray. The Artillery carried on firing followed up by the Commando, Paras & infantry. By about three in the afternoon the pace of advance had gathered such speed the enemy started to lay down their arms and sat in groups awaiting capture or stood with their hands in the air. Then the best of all white flags were spotted being raised in Port Stanley. Immediately all were told to check firing and no further firing of any sort was to take place except in self defence. This as you can imagine was greeted by a lot of jocularity and cheering.
During the last 15 hours over 5500 rounds were fired by the Bty's involved, the guns were kept in action all the time. 8 Bty finished the war with 7 guns due to having a replacement flown in after one went tits up.
As far as we were concerned the lull in firing & the possibility of none over the coming night we were preparing the stag list for a decent nights sleep, while we were drawing up the list a sea king helicopter started hovering above us. "Wave that silly bugger off, he's blowing stuff all over the place!" So we waved the best we knew using just two fingers funnily enough. It didn't work he landed just to our left and the crew man jumped out then ran over to us. "Can I take some of these cart cases?" he said pointing to the mountain behind the gun. Not being one to miss an opportunity I said "Yeah of course, but what you got for us?" He ran back to the chopper & returned with an arm full of sandwiches. "Tell you what mate seeing as you have bread you can have my wife as well, take what you want." The guy then loaded the chopper up and disappeared into the darkening skies. As we shared the sarnies out Ronnie pipes up "have got butter in them?" "Course they have, why?" " I can't stand butter." F**king shame that Ron, looks like we'll have to eat your share then" was the sympathetic reply, and we did!
Our occasional extra man then reappeared storming towards the gun "Sam it all over" we shouted to him "F**k the fighting where's me mug" was all we got from him. After the last move we had packed in haste and taken Sam's most prized possession, his mug! He then proceed to route through our kit until he surfaced with his prize. "Right" he said "where's the brew stakes I'm gagging" and the proceeded to make us all a brew.
Looking around our bedraggled crew who hadn't washed or shaved for days on end due to operational commitments I think we had earned our name BLACK EIGHT!
Tuesday 15th June
The war may have finished but the weather hadn't had enough of us! The night was probably among the worst we had suffered since landing on this outpost of the empire. The wind was blowing to gale force, first off it rained then the temperature dropped dramatically followed by driving snow, we bloody froze but at least we only had a guy on stag the rest of us tried as best we could to keep warm & sleeeeeeeep. I can tell you it was bloody difficult getting up for stag that night, we knew the Argies had chucked it in even though we hadn't been given the official OK. However at 02.00 a signal was sent round the radio nets & read out to us, it read as follows "In Port Stanley tonight at 9pm F.I. time 14 June 1982. Maj Gen Mendez surrendered to me all the Argentine forces in east & west Falkland. Arrangements are in hand to assemble his men for return to Argentina, to gather in their arms & equipment and to mark & make safe their munitions. The Falkland Islands are once more under the Government desired by its inhabitants. God save the Queen. Signed J J Moore G O C.
Very patriotic ending but we can forgive him his little bit of Hollywood after we had won!!!!! During the night Maj B Armitage & "Inch" Curran drove over a mine in their BV. Both were very lucky to survive, Maj Armitage was cared for during the night by Inch while they awaited casevac.
We remain in action during the day and took time to start to clean ourselves up a bit. All were called to the CP for a briefing about the coming days and possible movements. Funnily enough this is the first time the Bty has seen each other together, since this all started we have been living in our crews only catching sight of others during moves etc. Of course the stories were going to begin here & they did, there was a lot of laughter and general easiness about the guys for the first time in weeks we knew we were going home in one piece. The BC Maj Goodfellow came down & spoke at length about the deployment & lessons we had learned, he praised all the guys for their professionalism and steadfastness. I for one was proud to have served under Maj "G" as I am sure everyone who went down their would testify he was an inspiration to all of us. We followed him because we had great respect for him & he us. Most officers you follow out of sheer curiosity!
We were to remain in position until called forward to Stanley which could possibly be for either a few days or even weeks! "Christ almighty there will be bugger all worth nicking by the time we get into Stanley." "And those greedy bastards in RHQ will grab all the best spots to crash & probably all the beer." So we sat & waited.
Wed 16th June
7 Bty were flown to Moody Brook so they could provide cover over the airfield were the Argie POWs were being concentrated while they awaited repatriation. We were still in position waiting, now the fighting was over all safety was back to training standards, there was to be no burning of charge bags to keep ward and all ammo had to be boxed to standard. The BSM came round and told us all fuses that were lose had to be resealed and boxed, we had quite a few & sealing them was proving rather tricky so Taff & myself tried to see if they would float in a pool a few yards from the gun. Surprisingly they all sunk, "bloody shame that I was only trying to clean them up before we packed them."
Thurs 17th June
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