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Simon Bolivar

My Falklands Story Part 13: The Welsh Guards & Chinese Laundrymen Arrive.

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[QUOTE=Simon Bolivar;175320]Part 13: The Welsh Guards & Chinese Laundrymen arrive.<o></o>

As I write this episode this morning we have the builders in fitting a new roof for our extension. The drilling noise is constantly in the background, the power keep going off & the interruptions are endless. The perfect setting to getting back into Uganda thought train & trying to capture this important part of the story. Half way through the episode & a familiar chopper sound went overhead, looking out I see a Chinook, in Belgium! Sometimes you can’t escape your past.

6th June: The Scots & Welsh Guards were trying to get ashore to join the fray. Every daylight hr they were onboard a ship they were at risk of attack from the Air. The Scots on Intrepid managed to get ashore Fitzroy.
7th June: Due to shortage of Landing Craft only half the Welsh got ashore at Fitzroy today, the other half returned to San Carlos Water onboard overnight on the RFA’s Sir Tristrum & Sir Galahad. All the Guards could have been put ashore earlier but as they had just returned from Guard duties & not thought ‘match fit’ they wouldn’t hack the ’Tab’ (Bootnecks Yomp, Squaddies Tab) across the rough wet Falklands terrain. Leaving all their eggs in two baskets was to prove a fatal command decision for the Guards, which changed the course of the war for these ancient & distinguished regiments.

8th Plymouth was hit by four bombs. All failing to explode & she survived to later return home safely, great exercise of damage control by the guys on there. Damage control is an art that had been somewhat neglected since WWII, when many ships limped back under their own steam or under tow, with holes in the side or below the water line which would have meant certain sinking & loss of the vessel, without the skill & bravery of the Chief Shipwright & his crew, working in freezing water, below decks trying to put boxes & supports up, when all natural sailors instincts were telling them to evacuate stat.
That was the only good news on the 8th June. The bad news was that early morning Skyhawks screaming down Bluff Cove found the Galahad & the Tristrum still at San Carlos. Their troop commanders onboard had been crying out to their superiors for their men to be landed but their cries went weren’t answered in time.
Within minutes both ships were ablaze. Fifty one men killed. The lucky ones in the initial impact. The others suffering can be easily imagined if you watch the UTube clip of the burning ships. A raging inferno, black smoke choking, blinding, solid wall smoke filled every space onboard & the surrounding air around the vessels.
Those ashore heard & some witnessed the attacks. Some alarm would have been given by the ships themselves. Soon the rescue attempt was under way.

The Welsh Guards were dressed (everyone in the TEZ slept fully dressed) but weren’t issued Anti-Flash hoods & gloves like the regular crew. This failure in Logistical thinking & supply, led to mass casualties having facial & hand burns that the Falklands conflict quickly became so notorious for. To see the difference check 10 quids worth of kit could have made, check out a photo of Nikki Lauder & compare to Simon Weston.

Another bit of bad luck was that if the guards had been ashore, they would have been issued the Morphine amps to tie around their necks, being onboard they hadn’t yet been issued.

The mighty Seaking pilots earnt their gongs that day, picking up casualties from the ship’s superstructure, the sea & using the aircrafts down draft, blew the liferafts away from the ship, towards the shore; where the injured were helped ashore by those stationed nearby.

The first details Rick Jolly, the Senior Medical Officer in charge of the Red & Green Life Machine received, was a hand written note from CO of 16th Field Ambulance Unit, their Surgical Teams had been onboard & stores not yet unloaded. ‘Casualties+ number uncounted, need Fluids & Morphine’.

A doctor was sent by gazelle with IV fluids & morphine to give initial treatment on the beach, they were then ferried back to the R&GLM arriving from dusk onwards.

160 Casualties were received from Galahad & Tristum + 10 from the Plymouth that night. I would suggest that no single hospital in the UK has ever received such numbers of such life threatened injured since at least WWII & probably not then either, as in a disaster the injured are ferried to alternative hospitals. Burns to the head & face means threatened airway, therefore these are life threatening injuries. And the R&GLM wasn’t classed as a Surgical Hospital but Surgical Dressing Station; without the supplies or staff that the former would have enjoyed, as deployed in Iraq & Afghanistan Green Zones. The staff there that night will never know a worse one in this life but let us remember, nothing compare with what their patients had been through. They had surely been through a mortal version of Dante’s inferno, which they could never forget & in some cases never got over.
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As part of my research for this episode I saw a new book in Water stones ‘Rick Jolly, Doctor for Friend and Foe.’ Already having his ‘The Red & Green Life Machine,’ I was a bit surprised to see he had written about the Falklands but having read the front & back covers I took the book to the till, saying to the girl, There must be a limit to how many pages you can write about the events of three months. Once on Eurostar I found inside that this was an updated version of the original book! Can’t believe they didn’t state that on the cover sounds like a publishers trick on the anniversary yr. I will be passing my thoughts on this matter, as well as my regards onto Dr Jolly.
UPDATE: I did see Dr Jolly in Nov 12 & he admitted he had first seen it on publication. it was the publishers idea & he wasn't consulated on it.

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