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My Falklands Story Part 16: The Penultimate Episode

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  • My Falklands Story Part 16: The Penultimate Episode

    Apologies for the delay since my last episode but in real time frame, I only arrived back in the UK mid August so we are not far out. Just going to tie things up this weekend &get on with the final crazy raffle. You guys will be the first to get the details but it will be open to everyone.

    Part 16 When I am a complete Bast**d
    The 12th June the end was in sight, the troops were in place to take the final hills Mount Harriet, Mount Longdon & the Twin Sisters. The 3 Para took Mount Longdon, during which the regiment earned their second V.C. This was awarded to Sergeant Iain Mackay, for leading his men in an attack against a heavy machine gun. His body was found on the lip of the machine gun pit, surrounded by debris & three dead Argentineans. In comparison to Col. ‘H’ Jones’s V.C., there was no controversy about McKay’s award; his charge went straight into army legend. V.C.’s are only awarded when it is judged the recipient had 90% chance of being killed & at least two witnesses survived to verify the action, hence the very few living recipients.

    13th June: Battles for Tumbledown, Wireless Ridge & Mount William took place, for the loss of 15 British lives & forty Argentineans. Tumbledown was later turned into a TV play featuring a young Colin Firth playing Lt Robert Lawrence of the Scots Guards, who received severe brain injuries, who was awarded the Military Cross for his actions that day. He went on to write his story with his father, which details his difficult rehabilitation & life post Falklands & army.

    So with things drawing to a close, there was a little time to take stock of what we had seen & what we had not. During the voyage down we had been lectured on many subjects of injuries & conditions we were expected to see but the prediction was no t completely accurate.
    There were a lot of lectures on ‘Through & Through’ wounds from high velocity missiles e.g. rifle bullets but I can’t recall seeing a ‘good one’. We were told to look out for small entry wounds & large exit wounds, which could appear in strange places as the bullet ricochets inside the body. One reason given was that many were hit at long range & the missile didn’t have the energy left to pass through the body. Another likely scenario was that those with such gross injuries probably didn’t make it back to us.

    Bayonet wounds: Never saw one. Simple explanation, by the time you get hand to hand & are using bayonets & knives, it is a 100% committed attack, full of fear & adrenaline. No one is going to stop after a stab or two & ask if you now wish to surrender!

    Trench foot: This was something that no one had mentioned; when we got our first cases we went to our BR888 RN Medical Branch Ratings handbook & looked it up. Not seen since WWI, it wasn’t even in the manual. Treatment was bed rest, paracetamol (very painful condition) & savalon bathing. It’s a similar condition to frost bite. In frost bite the cells are destroyed when the contents of the cell freezes & then expands, breaking the cell wall. In Trench Foot the cells swell from excess fluid in the tissues, causing the cell walls to burst. Once you have had either condition you are more likely to suffer relapse in similar conditions. Bootnecks who were badly frost bitten in Norway would change units to another specialisation so save them going back to Norway & risk re-exposure. We found post battle, the number of Trench foot victims would go up. After Goose Green we had quite a few that hadn’t wanted to quit until after the battle was over.

    Couple of stories of the later part of the conflict. One was where it was reported that the Argentines would surrender by waving a white flag but when the Para’s stood up to take the surrender they were fired upon. The explanation came out that the conscript shad surrendered but some attached Special Forces wanted to fight on. The Para’s made the mistake of letting more than one man go fwd to take the surrender. Still I suspect some future surrendering Argentines were killed rather than risk a re-occurrence.

    Back on the Burns wards, we had decanted most of them via the small white ships back to Blighty & had a mixed bunch in occupation. There is only patient whom I can still remember vividly by name to this day (Simon Weston having already left). This chap was a RM Corporal, badly wounded in both legs by a machine gun. I got to know him quite well & we spun a few dits to while away the hrs until his next injection of analgesia, allowing Morpheus could do his work & allow sleep for another brief spell. One day I had to go into his locker for him & found a stash of bayonets. The only weapon they were allowed to keep was bayonets (despite that others tried to bring onboard allsorts. After complaints of a noisy ventilation shaft were investigated, a live phosphorous grenade was found to have been hidden inside by person’s unknown; thank goodness that never went off below decks!

    Anyway I asked him about the bayonets, ‘I thought you are only allowed to keep the bayonets off those you killed?’ ‘So?’ ‘Well you might have a problem trying to get through with that lot, looks like a dozen in there.’ He just looked me in the eye & said ‘There won’t be a problem.’
    Later I saw his name amongst those collecting their awards. He was given the Military Medal for a sustained attack, which culminated in taking out an enemy position, which were pinning down his troop, enabling his mates pass & continue the attack.

    It felt very strange to converse with a man who had personally taken so many lives. I met & spoke with him three yrs later at Westminster Abbey, during the Falklands Memorial unveiling & saw him on a RM documentary after that. I don’t know for sure but I sincerely believe that he never lost nights sleep over taking those lives. I think it’s important to say, especially when raising money for Combat Stress; that we should avoid going from the original extreme of expecting every servicemen to cope with whatever he did or saw, to where in our more enlightened times, we expect everyone to suffer to some degree. Some will need treatment & some will not but I think there is a danger that every time there is a disaster, the counsellors & therapists are never far behind. Some studies have shown that talking about every moment & thought helps some but for others it prolongs their progress, sometimes for a very long time. Some people are just able to go into the affray with a different attitude than the ‘normal’ man on the street.

    I think this chap was a ‘Booties Bootie,’ he lived for the Corp, he had wanted to join from school, he had trained for years with little real active service & then suddenly he got to use all that training, combine that with the genuine desire to protect his mates, his actions become understandable & justified in every sense.
    Another thing I was thinking about was that I didn’t want to walk down the gangway at Southampton, having just left the arms of Sindy into the RGF’s arms. Now I know this is hypocritical but there were marrieds who barely had time to replace their rings before disembarking & I didn’t want it to end like that. I didn’t know quite how to end what was always mutually agreed to be a temporary arrangement but I was determined to try. Ah the zealousness of youth.

    So I am playing Uckers (a RN version of Ludo but more complicated) on the floor of my cabin, with three other medic’s, having a beer when Sindy walked in & asked to have a word with me. Seizing the moment I deliberately snapped. ‘Can’t it wait a moment, can’t you see I am playing Uckers?’ The guys all looked up a bit surprised by my tone, Sindy simply burst into tears. ‘They have just told me my father has cancer & they don’t know if he’ll die before I can get home!’
    She walked out & the guys let rip with some well deserved comments. I got up & sobered up fast. I found her just outside the door & I took her to her cabin. We talked for a while & then she was sent for by her divisional officer, a Sister. I went with her & unusually the Sister let me stay. I guess she knew about us & realised Sindy needed some support. They arranged for her to be put on the next little white ship going to Montevideo & then on home along with the next batch of patients to be backloaded. The Sister said that the end was in sight & it was only a matter of days before the Argentines surrendered so Sindy could be spared, although she would of course be expected to nurse the patients en-route.

    We had a little time together & she was off the next day. It was a pretty crappy end to our onboard romance we kissed & made up (she hadn’t guessed I was trying to break up of course) & she said I could always drop around for coffee at the flat she rented in Gosport. I replied that I really hoped she would get so see her father before the end.
    According to Paul Simon, ‘There must be 50 ways to leave your lover’ but has there ever been a more badly timed one?
    Simon Bolivar: Liberator of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru & Venezuela.

  • #2
    As ever Simon, fascinating, thank you.

    I finished the forgotten voices of the Falklands book today and will start on Doctor for Friend & foe tomorrow. Was very interesting and educating (especially from my point of view of knowing very little). A very emotional book, so much sadness and bravery. Looking forward to starting Rick Jollys book.


    • #3
      Another exceptionally well written chapter there Simon, thank you again!

      I shall miss reading these once the story comes to a close.
      Exploring the world - one smoke at a time.


      • #4
        Wonderful stuff. Thank you.


        • #5
          Great reading again Simon, thanks for sharing


          • #6
            Simon. Many thanks for sharing again. A true insight.
            Originally posted by Simon Bolivar
            Little medical correction there Steve, you will surely die...but not from smoking these

            Originally posted by Ryan
            I think that's for lighting electronic cigarettes


            • #7
              Another fascinating read. Thanks Simon.
              If you want a midget to look like a baby, don't put a cigar in his mouth.


              • #8
                Excellent reading, Sn Bolivar
                Cigars & Forums mean all things to all men !


                • #9
                  Cheers guys, look out for the Auction going online later today, two rare & expensive DC's being given away for the price of a raffle ticket!
                  Simon Bolivar: Liberator of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru & Venezuela.


                  • #10
                    Excellent as always Simon. Thanks