Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

Short Stories

Tony Brown and Paddy McGovern came strolling down the road into Stanley like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Their Red berets virtually glowing in the South Atlantic sunshine. Shades of Kelly’s Heroes without Kelly.Both Tony and Paddy were sporting folding butt Fns, which they had casually slung over their shoulders. Their Pancho Villa style moustaches gave a touch of authenticity to the bandit style appearance. They had come in search of the OP’s and had brought glad tidings. Arrangements had been made for a chopper to take us back to the battery gun position, which 29 occupied at Bluff Cove Settlement. 
While the rest of 2 Para sailed back on the MV Norland we would be back where we belonged, with the guns. Oh joy of joys.
Who wanted to get back to good old blighty anyway? We promised each other, that we wouldn’t let them see us cry. 
Quite a few of us were now carrying various weapons that we had not exactly been issued with. Some of the blokes had binned they’re 9 mm SMG’s. In reality you could possibly spit peas or piss further, but sometimes it didn’t pay to get too heavily involved in firefights using our small arms. After all we were, were we not? killers at depth. 
10,000 metres if not more, Artillery was in fact an area weapon. To be used to engage the enemy while they were still at arm’s length shall we say. Though it must be said that the odd extra 7.62 popping off beside you did boost moral considerably. Especially if that SLR’s firer, was on your side. 
The SLR had a range of 800 metres; though mostly taken by all in sundry that its maximum effective range was 600 metres. Targets normally engaged on ranges of 300 metres. In places like Northern Ireland if fired upon from a building’s window. Fire was normally not returned at the window, but at the walls either side of the window. At likely places a firer would move to for cover. The SLR’s 7.62mm rounds could punch holes through brick walls. Many a surprised dead sniper (could he speak that is) would testify to that fact. The SLR had balls. 
The SMG (Sterling Sub-Machine Gun) on the other hand was more of a close quarter, battle weapon. Signallers and such mainly carried it. Generally given to those (medics and attached arms) who already were carrying heavy loads (on their backs in bergans or the like) the SLR was a bit cumbersome and quite a bit heavier. The SMG as I said, being used when the enemy got close. It was supposed to have a maximum range of about 200 metres and an effective range of 100 metres (ha ha). It was in fact an extremely dangerous weapon, especially in the wrong hands. 
Although a marked improvement on it’s predecessor the “Sten”. The “SMG” still maintained inherent similar faults. When a loaded magazine was fitted to the weapon and it had been  “cocked”. The user/firer of the weapon had to be very careful that he didn’t accidentally knock it, or drop it. 
God forbid that he should have someone bump in to him. As he was likely to end up full of holes. (This could be either or the bumper or the bumped). Also due to it being a very short barrelled weapon, one had to beware that if the firer turned. Even, ever so slightly, the weapon’s barrel would follow suit. Whilst firing on automatic this could prove disastrous. 
The SMG in fact was also notoriously prone for jamming (as happened to Col Jones during his assault at Darwin). The 30/34 (capacity) round, 9mm magazine would often, on a regular basis miss-feed the rounds to the weapon. It may be good Hollywood or television. But it was not a good practise or indeed a healthy idea during your weapon handling, to slap the end of the magazine home on the weapon. This would cause a jam in the breech, as one of the rounds could/would fall out the end of the magazine housing. Thus preventing the weapon from firing. Which was the last thing you needed in the middle of a fire fight. 
Suffice to say if you could choose another weapon instead of the good old SMG, you would, and quite a few did. 
To this extent Steve Willy was a walking fucking armoury. He had been browsing in the big open-air flea markets left in the aftermath of battle. Managing to pick up a few of the discarded but highly attractive pieces of hardware that now littered the barren slopes on the hills surrounding Stanley. They filled his Bergen and weighed him down, but with a smile on his face.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of ammo he had. 
Steve’s current favourite was the M3 grease gun. A 45 calibre under license to Argentina that he had oiled and cleaned until it positively just screamed “please fire me, I need to feel the juddering shock of the recoil and feel the lead spurt from my barrel end”
Yeah, well remember all we’d seen for months was sheep. Lack of women’s company can sometimes do things to a man. Unfortunately it didn’t do anything for Bernie. 
Bernie Winch was the Battery Sarn’t Major and he had greeted us back to the fold you may say, like we were a flock of black sheep. It wasn’t that he was not glad to see that we were all okay and that none of us had been injured or killed. It was more that he was not happy in that we were an element of unpredictability he could do with out. I’ll never forget the morning we rejoined the battery and Bernie spoke to us for the first time since the landings. 
Especially the look that passed over Bernie's face. When Steve asked him; “If it was okay to have a bit of a blatt down on the beach, lobb a few grenades and such”. 
I still wasn’t feeling 100% but there was fuck all I could do about it, self induced you might say. The choppers at the LZ on the Stanley racecourse picked us up, but it wasn’t a smooth parting. I had been man handled and literally thrown on to the chopper that had arrived to take us back to the battery. I wasn’t the only on that was in this condition. 
No. We weren’t pissed. It was a case of severe stomach upset due to gorging ourselves with fresh meat and food. Our bodies just couldn’t cope after the pro-longed period that we had been living on compo. But we’d brought some of the goodies with us. 
I’d been given a couple of thousand (5,000 or 10,000 in fact) Benson and Hedges cigarettes by CSM Price of A coy. He thought we had been given a shit deal, by being sent back to the guns. It was shit, but in war shit happened. We weren’t going back with the infantry battalions that we had been attached to. We were going back as we had come down, as a unit, the battery. 
This was because although there were only a certain amount of fresh replacement troops (mainly to cover the basic infantry). The men at the top omitted to bring with them in their reinforcement package. The relatively insignificant element of the supporting arms, like the artillery, engineers’, fresh logistic support etc. SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up) reigned supreme.
Anyway we were on our way back to the guns. Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt. 
No, that means “Where Right and Glory Lead”. 
I dropped off the fags at the BQMS’s (Battery Quarter Masters) asking them to make sure that they were dished out to the lads. No problem I was informed, the bush drums had already been passing the word. We had also acquired a couple of boxes of picnic bars, which we dished out to the lads in the sheep sheds. 
The Q Staff told me there was even a shower they had rigged up, using a water jerry can and a nozzle. I could have a shower and shave too. I told them to fuck off. I wasn’t having a shave or a shower till I knew I was on a boat or something similar that was taking me home. (I was one severely pissed off toy soldier, with no teddies left to throw). 
When in the cold light of the next day I saw the lads form up and was invited to join on the end (as all the OP’s were). A battery parade was being held now that the battery was complete again. They had bulled their toecaps and sown up the rents and tears in their kit. Fresh shiny faced, shaved and presentable as representatives of the British Army. 
While we the OP’s stood at the back somewhat, dirty, bruised, scruffy but erect and proud. Remnants perhaps of Fred Karno’s Army? I just knew…… 
Happy days were here again. 
The British Empire


Brave men died here today.
Did the swaying grass bring forth your tears?
Will this land which touched,
Nay claimed your soul.
Stay serene forever, and remain theirs now?
Or will man’s greed once more
Bring forth the havoc that is war.
To find our children  
Or God forbid our children’s children.
So they too, will one day lay
Beneath that foreign soil
That we now call the Empire! 
© Jim Love

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