( The Falklands 1982 )
We’d tabbed around the back of Mount Kent,passing the mortar positions. Some of the guys on the mortar line, had broken their ankles. This was due to the boggy ground, and the inability to get the mortars to bed in properly. So they’d stood on the plates while they fired, to maintain the stability. The shock of the rounds going off, which was normally transferred through the base plate, and absorbed by the ground , was now bouncing back in effect, via their legs.The shock, breaking the odd ankle, on the way. We could hear the 30/50 cals., hammering away, further up the slopes of Mount Kent. Locations lost in the darkness, too far forward, to see the flashes.
Eventually, we reached the final RV, after a bit of a detour at the beginning; it had been an uphill slog. Later, it changed to a down hill slip, and slide. We nearly ended up reinforcing the Commandos, (on top of Mt. Kent in fact), instead of arriving at our own objective’s start line. A halt was called to the proceedings, and it was decided, that we had time to get our heads down. I asked the boss, Capt. Watson, if he wanted to share my doss bag with me, and he just laughed. I said fine, and started to sort my gear out.
As it started to get light, and I could hear the movement of the rest of the section/company beginning to get ready to shake out, I crawled out of my improvised shelter. A GS poncho, tied with bungee’s to a couple of hummocks of grass, with the radio frame as the apex. It had been quite a comfortable night’s sleep. The ground, and the top of my poncho, was covered by a heavy frost. The boss however, when I saw him, had not been amused. He didn’t realise that I had bungee’d my sleeping bag around the outside of the radio on my Bergen frame. He had thought, that I was being sarcastic with my offer, as a result, he had spent a very cold, and uncomfortable night. Mind you, he didn’t say anything, the boss was not known to be one to moan.
We reached our final LUP, and scrambled for cover, in amongst the rocks, there being some well covered natural trenches. We stayed there for the rest of the day, and yet another night. This time, I shared the doss bag with the boss, I froze my arse off. Spending a most uncomfortable night, I can tell you, but the boss was happy again. We also had to endure, the odd shell burst of 155mm coming over. Sporadic harassing fire. I don’t think it actually caused any casualties, but it was fucking annoying. I think it started, around the time the CVRT’s turned up. Everybody went across to say hello to the crew. Not because we were feeling polite, or in a hospitable mood. It was so we could stand on the engine decks, to dry our boots out.
We were up for the attack on Wireless Ridge. It was to be a silent attack, (they had all started as silent attacks), with direct support from our own guns, and possibly from the navy. If the ship could get their gun to work. It was, unfortunately, not very reliable, due to mechanical problems.Definitely not for the want of trying, on behalf of it’s gun crew.
The attack on Wireless Ridge, had been put off a couple of times now. We were beginning to get a bit pissed off, for we knew that it was only over a couple of hills.(Stanley that was).The final RV. The main objective. Get there, and get home. The last but one, of the briefings, had informed us, that the position was held by Marines, PARAs, and Special Forces. That they were also going to fight tooth and nail, due to having nowhere else to go.
Once over the ridge, Stanley lay beyond. Since we hadn’t seen any of their Tanks, or LVPT 7’s, Stanley was where they were. Obviously dug in, and well camouflaged. We never received the final briefing about the minefields. Even the CO knew, that enough was enough. No point in causing any further doom and gloom. He couldn’t do fuck all about them anyway.
Minefields were an obstacle, that only fate/chance, decided whether you lived, or died. We didn’t have the time, on this occasion, to clear routes. Any way, most of them were in exposed choke points, overlooked by enemy positions. The fire plans had been passed to the guns, and we set off in the dark, forming up on the start line, with the lead section. I thought at first, the orange nylon cord that I was lying on, had been put out by Recce, to mark the start line. I was to later find out, that it was an Argentine marker. It was the start of one of the mine fields that we had to cross.
With a “stick close”, the boss was off, and moving. He caught me quite by surprise, and had a bit of a lead on me. You get to know the outline of people in the dark, and the body language. How they move, maybe the shape their webbing makes, it’s usually the only way you have, of knowing who you’re next to in the dark. Even the lowest of conversations, travelled a hell of a long way. Carried along, by those everyday, near gale force, winds. On exercises, you could sometimes smell just the hint, of after shave, or tooth paste. Unfortunately, for some strange reason, everybody down here, now smelt the same.
I had almost caught up with him, when I fell into some kind of ditch, or small stream gully, knocking the wind out of me. I was comparatively lucky. One of the grunts, had managed to fall into an Argy latrine. You could definitely smell him, it nearly made you spew, just thinking about it. Any way, there were helping hands to pull me up, and I happily followed my rescuer for a couple of feet, ’till I could get a glimpse of the boss again.
The problem with concentrating on catching someone, is, that you can sometimes forget your surroundings. And, I had, momentarily. The guy I was following, suddenly disappeared. Then I realised, he had stopped, and was crouching down, in front of me. So I stopped too. Crouching down directly behind him, I was watching back down the slope we’d just climbed. I turned and tried to look over his shoulder. Lucky I did. I came face to face, (you may say), with the arse end, of a LAW 66 mm. Which, he was just about to fire into a trench, about fifty metres to our front.
I threw myself to his right, as he fired. Catching a couple of bits of propellant on the side of my face, which burned my ear slightly. I pushed myself up onto my knees, swearing, lifting my SMG up, to smack him on the back of the head, for not giving me any warning. Before I could do anything else though, I had to push my helmet back, so I could see. He had managed to take out the trench okay, but, we were kneeling beside another one, literally, a couple of feet away. His firing of the 66, had alerted them, to our previously unknown presence. I flicked the safety off, and squeezed the trigger.
We were up and running, firing from the hip.Then, we were past it, and the trench fell silent. I was praying that my new found friend, didn’t have any grenades, dodging the 66, had been bad enough. I had put nearly a full mag, into the mouth of the trench. It was built into the rocks, and some of the rounds ricocheted off the grey granite. This, set off my unknown friend, swearing at me for a change. I had to find the boss, and quick.
I could only keep going up, and hope to find him soon. At least, before they decided that artillery support was required, after all, I was carrying the radio. My presence, would most certainly be required. I came across a small group, of about five blokes. It was Coy HQ, they had been on my left, at the start line, so the boss, should be round to the right, somewhere.
I moved further across, and found the boss, with the next group, against an earthen bank. I dropped down beside him, and he asked for a sitrep. No, “where the fuck have you been?, or, nice to see you finally got here”. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed, that I wasn’t behind him all the way!. I told him, it all seemed to be going according to the schedule.
I could, in fact, hear the battery Commander, asking the FOO party with B Coy for a sitrep, as they hadn’t been heard from, for some time now. Capt. Bob Ash’s signaller came up on the net, and said, that at present, they couldn’t see anything. The BC asked if it was due to bad light, battlefield obscuration or what. It was due to the bank, came the reply. Bank!, what fucking bank?!, screamed the radio. The one we’re hiding behind, came the reply. The radio fell silent for a few moments.
Finally, there came a very controlled response from the BC. “If you would like to stick your head up above the bank and take a look, I really would like a sitrep”, To which, the reply was, “No, difficult. Say again, over”. A general cop out, and a polite radio response, meaning , “fuck off, you must be joking”.
We started to dig in, or rather, the boss did. He threw a little bit of a speed wobbly, in fact. Digging the whole trench by himself. He had just completed it, when the CO, and “uncle tom cobbly and all” arrived. Every bastard and his dog, seemed to home in on our trench. The boss went for a recce of our current position, with the CO, and Farrah Hockley, the Coy Cmdr.
I sat in the bottom of the trench, with Blacky, the CO’s signaller, smoking a Bensons. They were still shelling us. Both with 105mms, and mortars. Lots of small arms fire, mixed with 50 cals, and the odd round, from a 105mm recoilless rifle. I was getting break-through on the net from some bring f****** Argy signaller. He kept counting from one to five, then screaming down his mike, “You gonna f****** die, British b******”.
I ignored him for quite a while. Working through him, relaying fire mission orders, for the odd c/s who needed it. Then I got pissed off with his voice. After he had counted to five, I would say six . After a couple of times, someone else joined in, and said seven. He cracked before we did, and after a torrent of abuse, he stopped transmitting.
We were now acting as an, Anchor OP, as we had quite a view, due to our dominating position. We could see the whole length of Wireless Ridge, and the lights of Stanley beyond. Not much of a blackout in effect there. The boss came back from his walk, and I got out of the trench, so he could jump in. He wasn’t quick enough, the CO, and Coy Comdr., beat him to it. He resorted to copying me, and lay along the edge of the trench.
He asked Blacky and me for a cigarette. We told him to fuck off, and enquired as to whether he had been hit in the head, or something, ’cause he didn’t smoke. He had never smoked. He explained he was freezing . The two of us sitting there smoking. It looked like it was warming us up. He’d just like to try one, please.
After much protest, and threats not to repeat the exercise, we gave him a cigarette. He inhaled it too. When he finished it, he admitted that it had made him feel good, and had warmed him up slightly. We told him we didn’t give a shit, he wasn’t getting another.