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Simon Bolivar

My Falklands Story Part 17B: White Flags over Stanley

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Quote Originally Posted by Simon Bolivar View Post
Turns out this part was so long I have split it into two.
The Red Crosses were painted out & the funnel painted yellow. We were removed from the Red Cross Ship in Geneva & became a troop carrier. We were to carry the 16th Field Ambulance & the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gurkha Reg home. We only had three patients left, given just a little longer to recover form their recent op’s before they were to be transferred to the airport & flown home.
One Patient we had was a 17yo RAF lad, with hand injuries. I stopped & talked to him & he asked me how long I’d been in theatre. ‘About 3 months now’. ‘Oh, I only got here 48rs ago’. ‘How the hell did you get so badly injured in that time? I asked’. So he told me his pathetic story. He had just left basic training & was waiting to start his trade training. Because large numbers were need down South to relieve those who had been fighting & man the airport, he was sent down to be an extra pair of hands. The first morning there a Fight Sergeant had told him to go to the top of a hill & collect a bunch of grenades; they had already had the charges removed. There was a pile of detonators & a pile of mills grenades, put each pile into a separate sack & bring them back down the hill to the base. ‘Now can you do that simple task?’ asked Flight. ‘Well I guess so’, said the kid, ‘where’s the hill’. Flight pointed in the general direction of one of the mounts & walked a way. These days we’d say he showed a lack of duty of care, especially to one under 18yo.
So the kid marched up the hill, collected said grenades & put them in a sack. He picked up a detonator & had an idea. As the detonator wasn’t in the grenade it couldn’t go off. So he pulled the pin & held the detonator & counted down… bang! The detonator of course went off & it blew half his hand off. Now the curious thing from my point of view was that it didn’t blow all his fingers off but the lower half of his hand. He was left with a thumb, index & middle fingers, reasonably functioning; it’s just his hand now looked like a claw.
Whilst accepting you would have hoped a 10yo could have seen the obvious danger in his actions, letting a totally untrained & unfamiliar 17yo near explosives unsupervised, wasn’t clever either. He looked & obviously felt ever sorry for himself. He was obviously going to be discharged from the RAF, he hadn’t even completed his training & now he was medically unfit to continue. I assume his only consolation would have hopefully been getting a lump sum from the Falklands compensation fund. He reminded me exactly of those firework warning ads in the 70’s. Perhaps if they had continued those, he might have been a little sharper.
During a boring afternoon, a dozen of us were kicking a football about where the triage area had been. Suddenly (like Radar in MASH) I heard a chopper coming in before the others seemed to notice. We had received 1100 deck landings & 3,111 personnel had been transferred to & from the Uganda but we hadn’t had a flight for a few days. It landed on deck. One of the PO’s told me to go up the ramp & find out what they had stopped for. I climbed the ramp & as I crested the top I could see the aircrew man already out of the aircraft, trying to unload a stretcher with a casualty. I ran over bending low to avoid dipping blades. ‘Ok mate grab the stretcher, let’s go!’ ‘Hold on’ I said ‘what are you doing? We aren’t a hospital ship any more & we have no facilities to accept casualties’. He tried to tell me above the noise of the aircraft that there had been a disaster on the runway, that a missile had gone off & injured many & he hadn’t got time to argue, he had to go back & collect more. I pointed to the green roof across the bay, take them over there’ He said they were already full & tried to dump the frightened casualty on to our deck. By now others had come up behind me & someone helped me carry the stretcher down the ramp & we put him down on the wooden deck. The other guy went back up to collect another & I stayed with the casualty. I carried out a primary survey, starting at the head & talking to him. He was fully conscious & in pain. All the morphine ampoules had been signed back in so his oppo’s had nothing to give him. He had been covered with a poncho & I could see a field dressing roughly secured to the stump of his shattered left leg, which ended below the knee. What I couldn’t see was his right leg. Now I had seen several casualties which appeared to have lost a limb initially but they were lying awkwardly & we had never received a dble amputee. So being positive I spoke calmly (well I thought I was sounding calm) asking him his name & regiment. Blow me if he wasn’t Welsh Guards; weren’t they the unluckiest regiment in the British army? I continued my survey down his body & then lifted the poncho. Do you know what’s happened mate? ‘Yeah, they’ve taken my fucking legs; they have taken my fucking legs!’ I looked at the other crudely dressed stump, this one above the knee.’ Yes they have,’ I replied. I stayed with him whilst they found some analgesia & the surgeons worked on him the best they could.
The story only made a few lines on the 7th or 8th page of the Daily Mail. There was snow on the runway; the mail bird was due in. A NCO had walked into the mess & asked for volunteers to sweep the runway so the mail birds could land. Never going to be any shortage of volunteers for that task, mail is always worth some graft. Whilst they were working out on the runway a RAF pilot was running through his checks on his Harrier prior to take off, when a faulty missile launched & ploughed it way through the Welsh Guards, like a supersonic bowling ball. It hadn’t actually exploded or we would have had far more casualties, the only injured were in its direct path. We had the dble amputee & several with a single legs missing & other injuries. I often wondered how they came to terms with their disabilities compared with those uninjured during the conflict. The outcome may have been the same but surely it’s easier to accept being injured by the enemy than friendly fire, especially after the conflict is over & you & your family are just counting the days until you arrive safely home in one piece.
There are servicemen killed & injured in training exercises every yr & they barely make a line or two in the press. It’s not great news & it’s not a heroic way to go but hopefully these days of greater health & Safety awareness & the fact you can now sue the crown, will mean less of this waste of life & limbs.
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