Falklands 82

They came asking for volunteers. “Never volunteer”, I was told by my granny, sit back, watch and wait. But we were taking it in turns and PJ had gone over the top last. Besides I was working with the Boss and there wasn’t much chance that he was going to be left behind. So I was going too. My granny (a big wrestling fan), also used to say that as long as you have a hole in your arse……….. Shit happens. They were offering a free helicopter trip to a place called Bluff Cove.

Everybody else in the other Op parties were having a few celebration beverages, supplied by the grateful settlers of Goose Green. Everybody that is except Dinger, and me. We were getting our kit together. Re-packing our webbing and such like. We were told to take 48 hours worth of rations (so we took 72 hours worth) and 120 rounds of ammo (we had so much ammo we couldn’t count it all) our memories were still fresh with a battle not long ended. Dinger, Willie and I spent fucking ages trying to find a couple of charged Clannsman batteries. Once they went flat they were just dead weight and with no sensible means of recharging them, they’d been getting binned by the lads. We had been given a couple disposable batteries early on but the supply had run out. In the end they had all become disposable, a bit like us.

The reason for the chopper ride was that Major John Crosslands had noticed a telephone on the wall in one of the buildings at Goose Green. This was real house on the prairie stuff, black Bakelite, brown cloth wiring, Vintage 1920’s or earlier. Anyway, he picks up the earpiece and spins the handle a couple of times, and was promptly answered by an islander from Bluff Cove. Apparently the Argentines had not put any restrictions on the local phone network. As a result of the phone call we were now saddling up to fly to Bluff Cove, due to it apparently being an Argie free zone.

There had been an enemy Chinook helicopter that had been flying in reinforcements between Stanley and Goose Green before and during the battle. It had been on the ground at the Goose Green airstrip when the fighting had finished and the Argentines had decided to surrender. It was this aircraft that was taking us to Bluff Cove. (Apparently we had at that time a surplus of helicopter pilots and there had been no problem getting a crew to fly it.)

It was decided that they would take elements of D coy and A coy to secure the settlement. As it was very short notice and I think I mentioned earlier we were suffering from a helicopter shortage (apparently we had managed to loose all ours) so we couldn’t take anything bigger than mortars for indirect fire support. Oh, and we could come along as the artillery support (not that we had anything in range at that time).

Well. Once it was decided who was going we just turned up at the LZ and waited. Once the CSM had organised the load we walked in the eerie darkness and began to get on. Here we found we had a little problem.

Normally I believe a Chinooks load (for personnel), with all the seats folded down that is. Were about 30 odd bods and with the crew of 4 you had a total load or compliment of 34 passengers. That is, as I said in normal peacetime conditions. We however were in the not so ideal normal conditions and we had a lot more weight per person at that moment in time. It’s not that we threw away all the rulebooks, (we kept some of them to wipe our arses) necessity is the mother of invention.

Watching the ones in front loading up the tail ramp was like one of those films where you see people getting into a car and like there’s hundreds of them, of going in. But you know they are all getting out the other side and coming around again. Except in this case nobody was getting out, and it was becoming more like a charity phone box cram.

The load master put his hand out to stop Farrahar Hockley and the Boss from getting on, which left about another five of us behind the two of them The load master said that’s all. Then they all started arguing. After a couple of minutes and a lot of wild arm swinging and rude gesturing, we all got on.

I was later told that the crew had been a little miffed shall we say, about the weight of pax and equipment we had tried to load on the aircraft. It turned out there was a total of 89 passengers, a full load of weaponry, radios and ammunition (the total weight can only be described as fucking heavy man) Oh and we took 6 mortar tubes while each man (85 of us) carried 2mortar rounds. I think they let the flaggy’s off, so it may have been a bit less than 170 mortar rounds.

It had been a bit of two-sided feeling as I climbed up the Chinooks ramp. I was a bit pissed off that the RAF bod had backed down and let us on (there was the piss-up to think about). At the same time the adrenaline was starting to flow again and I probably would have been more pissed off if I’d been left behind. My thoughts were rudely interrupted as a mortar tube smacked me in the face. I was getting uglier daily. It was like being back in the landing craft again except this time there was a roof.

There was a set of silent running (have you heard the noise a Chinook makes) or rather black out, red bulbs running the length of the inside of the fuselage. In the eerie red glow I turned to look and see who was behind me. I could see that there was another heated discussion in progress at the back of the ramp.

Apparently the loadmaster wanted some of us to get off. The CSM told him none of his blokes were getting off, but if he wanted he (the loadmaster) could fuck-en well get off. If he was that worried he could stay behind on the ground. In the end nobody got off.

In fact it was very lucky that the Chinook got off, at all. The ground that is. The crew had been right after all. (God don’t you just hate that?). There was just a tad too much weight on board. The great lumbering workhorse struggled to get airborne and virtually clawed it’s way into the air with its massive blades scything gravity to make it happen. We managed to get about 20 feet off the ground to begin with and as the flight progressed I believe it was about 50 feet. (As we burned off fuel we managed a bit more altitude).

So there we were, like the crew of the Bounty. A very unhappy bunch sailing into waters unknown. The red interior light of the fuselage complimented by the green glow of the cockpit and the yellow orange light created by the massive turbines on the tail. Like a noisy big luminescent mobile, take a pot shot at me neon lit advertising billboard.

Silently, we all hoped that the Argies were getting their heads down.

Unfortunately there were observation parties awake that night and as we approached Bluff Cove our position was reported. The lucky part was that it was by an OP from our side (148 Bty FOU) and by the time people at the very blunt end had made a decision about opening fire. We had all de-bussed and scarper’d into the surrounding darkness. The Chinook was now disappearing a lot quicker than it had taken to get here and it was a lot higher off the ground too. It seems that still being painted with the Argentinean colours had caused the friend or foe conundrum. (For both sides!)

D Coy patrols moved out and were promptly swallowed up by the night. We hovered for a bit and played with our radios. We were back to radio silence again as such, but were allowed check in calls at pre-arranged times. Just to let them all know we were still alive. We still didn’t have any paper to write on and we were still using the back of our hands and the inside of the arctic waterproofs. (If you still had one that is).

We shook out and I followed the boss down the slope from the landing zone. We headed towards the settlement of Bluff Cove, and the smell of smoke. As we reached the bottom we contoured round the side of the hill and then sat down, I nodded off. There was a trick to getting your webbing just right in the middle of your back and pushing the radio frame up and off your shoulders. This meant that although you had a certain amount of contact with the ground. You could still remain relatively dry. (At least you managed to keep your arse dry.) It had been decided while I’d been dozing that we would visit the building below and try to speak with the occupants (hopefully they would be some of the local islanders and not some foreign army people types out for a kebab). Well we moseyed on down.

As you looked at it, I was to the right of the door. The boss to the left, while Maj. Farrah Hockley was on the steps tentatively knocking at the door. It was shades of France 1944 and secret knocks and code words via the BBC. After five minutes the knocking got louder. After about 10 minutes there was a female voice from inside asking who was out there. Not to be out done Farrah Hockley asked who was inside. Stunning stuff, I had been getting decidedly worried up to this point, until I heard the female English voice.

The door was opened slightly and we were invited to come in, as long as we removed our boots first that was. This seemed to be the normal custom on the island. A bit like the Japanese it would seem. I often wondered if the locals just sometimes switched off. Just forgetting all about the war. Anyway in we went, all three of us. They had kind of forgotten about me and I don’t think I was really wanted, but I had my boots off before both the officers, so I was first in.


While the two officers’s got to grips talking to Tim Dobbin & Kevin Kilmartin the owners of the settlement. I was relegated to the corner and a nice big armchair. Jean Dobbin and Diane Kilmartin their wives asked me as to when the last time I had a decent meal inside of me. I told them it had been some time, but I had eaten some of my lovely GS rations before I had decided to visit them. Off they went and came back with a large mug of tea and a huge pile of pancake type rolls filled with minced mutton. Apparently they knew all about our rat packs.

It must remain one of the best meals that I have ever eaten. I lost count of how many pancakes I ate, but I do know it was more than 7. The lady of the house told me that it was their sons’ birthday and that he had just been blowing out the candles after making his wish. He’d wished that the British soldiers come and save them. Then Farrah Hockley knocked on the door, no shit. (Just then I hoped some of my wishes were going to come true too, and I had lots). We were asked to rotate the lads down off the hills and via the back window where they would get something to eat too, not to worry about how many there were but to just tell them to come down.

It turned out that the pancakes didn’t agree with everybody after all. Apparently Maj. Hockley’s stomach was a little more delicate compared to the rest of us. So he remained in the house while the boss and me scooted off back up the slopes, the boss man organising the grunts while we dug in on the highest point. The next day they were supposed to drop off our bergans, which we had last seen on top of the Sussex Mountains.(They turned up about two or three days later in fact).

We had also been told to expect the arrival of one of the battery’s 105mm guns via the captured Chinook. When it did arrive (it also brought 45 of the lads from the gun detachments with it). They were deployed down in a fold in the ground to our right (along the line of the shore mere yards from the beach) which was in front of the dug in infantry, they being in turn also forward of our op position. (Total arse about face)

Oh! Did I happen to mention that the next chopper lift got taken off us? It was given to the marines instead. It was a bit of a pity that actually, because that was the one, which was bringing all the ammo for the 105mm gun. We could see targets to engage and were being sent grids of targets to engage by the 2 para patrols, but with no big bullets as to say, nothing could be done but log the info. The guns sat silent for the moment.

It took another two days before another helicopter arrived from the previous gun position. By that time the lads from the battalion were being fed by the gun bunnies and I had managed to get some more socks off John the “Legend “ McQueenie our BQMS from 29 battery. I had to share them with Dinger though, his feet were in bits by this time.

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