Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Theresa's plaque on Tumbledown





A few weeks ago Theresa sent me a photo of her plaque that she wanted mounted on Tumbledown. Well F Coy of the Scots Guards were recently down there and very kindly took the plaque up to the memorial and added it to those already there. They also took some photographs which they passed on to her.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Pictures of Right Flank

As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts I bitterly regret not taking many photographs during the war. It's been sad to have no record of what has been one of the pinacial moments in my life.

Last year one of the many formed Scots Guards I was able to get back in contact with was Right Flanks Company Clerk Dereck Gibb. Dereck and I spent a lot of time together before, during and after the war as his role as Company Clerk and mine as their Pay Clerk meant we often worked together trying to unravel some of the financial mess that young (and old) guardsmen found themselves getting into.

He recently pointed out that I should join the Scots Guards regimental association mailing list on Yahoo http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hielanladdieclubMk2/ which I eventually did and boy am I glad I did. As well as having some nice welcoming emails tucked away in the photograph section are some wonderful photographs of the battalion in 1982.

I first of all have to apologise to anybody if they are upset that I have taken copies and reposted them on my blog. They are however a wonderful window onto a time when we were all younger and less world weary.

Thanks so much Capstar

http://picasaweb.google.com/steve.cocks82/Capstar1982

and Thomas Grieg for making these available.

http://picasaweb.google.com/steve.cocks82/ThomasGreig1982

Alas I didn't find any of myself but there is a cracking one of my Paymaster Captain Denis O'Keefe as well of my best friend Paul Talman. Paul was sadly killed in a car accident in Cyprus in 1984 leaving behind a wife (hi Chris) and 2 smashing kids. I spent many a happy weekend with them at their married quarter.

Also among the photos are a few tantalising hints of the mural that was lost at Ajax Bay. I am still looking for more so if anybody has ANYTHING they think they would like to share please let me know.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Penguin News on Tumbledown

I was sent this just before Christmas by Pete MacInnes (right hand of the 3 pipers you can see in the picture).

This was an article published in the local Penguin News about the ceremony held on Tumbeldown

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

A Chaplain Reflects

I was raised as a Christian.

My brother and I would attend Sunday school on Sunday morning getting picked up by one of the church members who also had children. I have good memories of being driven around in a huge Ford Zephyr having many a laugh as the driver would sometimes "forget" the way home and take us on little drives around my home town. My mother and father would alternate who would cook Sunday lunch which was a very traditional affair of a roast with potatoes, veg and gravy and attend church every Sunday.

As my parents were Christadelphians, which is a lay orginization, we had no clergy so instead brothers and sisters (as they called themselves) would give speeches. Sometimes visitors would come from nieghbouring areas and be a guest speaker and sometimes my father would be a guest speaker somewhere. This meant that at times we would go away for the Sunday and spend the day as guests.

Every year a number of functions were held in the meeting hall. These ranged from showing old Laurel and Hardy movies, party games and a host of social events for us children. It was actually quite fun until I became a teenager and of course rebelled aganist it all.

This happened when I was 14 and my brother 10. Instead of going to Sunday School we would bunk off with our bikes and hang around a playground down town. Of course my parents soon found out about this when they were asked one morning why we no longer attended so of course I had to come clean that I no longer wanted to go. My mother was sympathetic and so we stopped going to Sunday School and shortly after this she also stopped attending church.

On joining the Army I was forced to attend church once a month while I was undergoing my 2 year apprenticeship. Of course this time it was a Church of England service and therefore much more formal. Absconding wasn't an option.

When I was posted to the Scots Guards church attendance wasn't enforced.

On Tumbeldown while being shelled and sniped I considered praying to God to spare me but it was more lip service. I can honestly say that having had an upbringing where I was told to believe in God when it came to the crunch I put more trust in the rock in front of me and the all concealing night. The prayer died on my lips, I found God distinctly missing from the battlefield.

Later I was to act as a guard for 100's of Argentines at Ajax Bay. One of the guard posts was located by the door into the officers area and another at the head of the corridor between the officers and the rest of the prisoners who were held at the back of the building. Every day they held mass though it was for the officers only. At no time did the Argentine padre include other ranks, so I guess in the Argentine Army God was an officer.

I have to admit that the Army Chaplain for the Scots Guards was an extremely popular man and was very well liked in the battalion. He worked tirelessly to provide spiritual solice for those who looked for it and also with the families officer as he always had the welfare for the family at heart.

In 1995 I started practising Buddhism and at last found the medium with which I could satisfy my spiritual side. What attracts me is that there is no belief in God but rather that each of us have it in ourselves to awaken our Buddhist nature. It teaches me, if you reduce it to simple Christian beliefs, is that I have the ability to live a good life and that all my actions will effect other around me. It teaches me that I am responsible for my actions, there is no concept of heaven and hell in the traditional sense and that I will find these concepts in my own life and not waiting for me when I die.

This is the presentation he gave.

Angus Smith

What are the expectations of Chaplaincy in the British Army and how do they dovetail with an organization whose aim is to achieve operational success? When the present Chaplain General held the post of Deputy Chaplain General, he defined these expectations and the dovetailing process in the following way. He focussed first on the needs of the Army. He said.

It is an organization whose raison d’être, indeed whose overall motto, could be defined as “Prepare for War”, and whose aim is to achieve operational success. For this it requires good leadership, teamwork and a caring approach towards, in particular, the Army’s most vital asset — the soldiers. The Army’s core values are courage, commitment, discipline, loyalty, integrity and respect for others. In combat characterized by hardship, fear and the ultimate possibility of self-sacrifice, soldiers are forced to face up to their own mortality. Spiritual values are therefore of great importance, as these can sustain soldiers in combat.
A basic acquaintance with biblical literature will demonstrate how close these core values really are to the values of “faith”. I talk here specifically about the Christian faith, although much relates to core values of other religions and belief systems as well. Without doubt agnostics, humanists and atheists can be proficient soldiers. Many in all three services whose courage and operational successes are not only impressive but also praiseworthy have no religious background or experience. The only call they make on God’s name is in the form of a passionate expletive. Despite their living by their wits and often being just one step ahead of the “law” during their adolescent and pre-service years, one could wish for no better person at one’s side when penetrating closely guarded enemy positions in the crags of Tumbledown or of Mount William in the Falklands.

Yet having said all that, and explained the tradition I come from, I make no apology for saying that those whose lives are shaped by a firm belief in God and in the values of faith already have an appreciation of the core values already referred to. They are aware of the motivation for which these values provide a definite dynamic. Motivation, of course, is also powerfully manifested by the creeds and values displayed by competent commanders such as we had at Tumbledown by unit non-commissioned officers, Guardsmen and soldiers. It can come from Regimental Medical Officers and their staff. How fortunate indeed we were in the Falklands campaign to have Brigadier (then Lieutenant-Colonel) Alan Warsap as our Medical Officer, and then people of the calibre of Morgan O’Connell, the Principal Naval Psychiatrist. Their compassion, advice, wisdom and humanity were invaluable.

Motivation for the soldier engaged in military operations can also come from the confident awareness that family matters on the home front can reliably be entrusted to the Families Officer and his team. While this need has been identified and provided for in the three main British Services, and I dare say elsewhere, it is salutary to see the official recognition given to such important matters in the Introduction to the 2006 document “Operational Mental Health — A NATO Programme Adopted for the 21st Century”, of which one of the co-authors was Professor Lars Weisth. The document was sent to me by Mike Seear, who had also made various contributions to it based on his Falklands War experiences:

The new conditions have led to a change from a one-sided focus on providing and maintaining manpower, to a more balanced doctrine to preserve combat strength while protecting the mental health of personnel at risk. In contemporary military operations and war a wider spectrum of stressor has been identified. War-related Potential Traumatic Events (PTE) exist as always, but service-related stressors and civilian stressors need to receive more attention.
Under the heading of “Professionalism” the same document quotes from the publication “Stress, Appraisal and Coping” by Lazarus and Folkman. They make the point, which is really self-evident, that professionalism and training can enable personnel to cope more adequately with their tasks. That quotation is prefaced by the following statement:

The before-deployment phase can be a much underrated period in terms of laying a solid foundation for professionalism, in terms of supplying adequate and realistic unit training.
Shortly after receiving notification for our deployment, the newly- constituted 5th Infantry Brigade, in which the infantry components were the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards, and 1st Battalion, 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles, had a preparatory military exercise in Wales. In this exercise an imaginative scenario was planned. Infantry skills and operational requirements were practised. Good leadership at all levels, teamwork and a caring attitude towards its most valuable asset — the soldiers — came into their own. One day, when I visited a company during this exercise, a young officer, who was a convinced and practising Christian, asked me:

“Padre, how are you going to prepare the Battalion spiritually for war?” This really was a question which was never far from my mind but, when posed by this young and thoughtful officer, it became for me a more immediate concern.

Grateful as I was for the many opportunities to address the various companies for character-training periods and regular daily contact with members of the Battalion at all levels, this scenario was to be a new point of departure. If we were to be involved in combat, all ranks had to face up to the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice and be aware of their own mortality. I had by every means possible to give those, for whom I was responsible, some appreciation of the spiritual insights that could sustain them before, during and after combat.

How did I seek to implement this important role? Firstly by my identifying with the Battalion on the widest possible basis by taking part in the various courses on map- reading, radio procedure and first aid. By this time the Medical Officer and I had formed a natural team. Our thinking was so close at so many different levels. We were both, in our different ways, interested in making people “whole” (to quote an Anglican theologian) or in making them as “whole” as we could. Whilst each company was put through a basic first aid course, I was given the task of explaining “Burial Procedure” to each company in terms of our existing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Now the fact that “Burial Procedure” was changed when we got to the Falklands was really irrelevant. What was of importance was that a procedure was adopted which suited our location at the time.

When Headquarters Company came for their first aid course, the Company Commander decreed that the tallest, and possibly the heaviest, soldier in that company should act as the “dead soldier”. Drill- Sergeant Wight was selected — a great character in every sense of the word. Four sweating Guardsmen brought in the Drill-Sergeant on a standard-issue sleeping bag and lowered him down into a temporary grave. Faces were sombre. To defuse the situation I gave a mock “Eulogy” for the Drill-Sergeant. I finished with the words, “OK Drill- Sergeant, you may now join the ranks of the living.”

The Drill-Sergeant then flashed his usual ready smile and remarked, “By God Padre, I hope I will be fully gone when you stand at my grave. It’s an awful thing to be in a grave and see people gathered around it.” Much laughter ensued. His words, however, came back to me when I learned at about 01.45 hours on 14 June 1982 that the good Drill- Sergeant had been killed in the diversionary attack during the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain in the Falklands.

However, I jump ahead of myself, but the “story within the story” had to be told in its entirety. I think at this point of my reflections on events of almost twenty-five years ago it is important, particularly for this kind of audience, for me to say something about my ministry and task as a Chaplain for this venture. In the British Army, indeed in all three services, Chaplains are first and foremost ministers and priests of their Churches. We are non-combatants. We exercise our ministry in the name of our Churches on behalf of the units for which we are responsible. A realistic incarnational theology should expect that we have an intelligent awareness of the ethos, character and role of these units, not least to enable our ministry to “dovetail” into their life and work both on a spiritual and practical basis.

In our Churches, and particularly in the Churches which follow the Reformed Tradition, the expression, proclamation and commendation of faith is based upon the Bible duly interpreted and explained and applied, not only in terms of the historical dimension of faith, but also of its relevance to the contemporary scene in which one is placed. Now it would be strange if, in an audience of this nature, you would all be in total agreement with what I say here, but it is important you should at least be aware of what my thinking about my pastoral role in this scenario was. It should also serve as a useful pointer to the many correlates which undoubtedly there are, on the one hand in that document “Operational Mental Health — A NATO Programme Adopted for the 21st Century” and, on the other hand, in the theological premises on which my spiritual preparation and pastoral care of the Battalion were based. In the final analysis, of course, Professor Lars Weisth is a Psychiatrist and I am/was a Chaplain, but I firmly believe that in future developments of theories and plans in this NATO document, an intelligent dialogue between both these areas of experience would promote even more correlatives to their mutual benefit and enrichment.

Now then, what about the spiritual preparation of the Battalion for war? Did I simply have to proclaim the simple unadulterated Biblical message, and hope that the religious message would somehow underscore the military requirement? That could very well be so. One day, however, during the exercise in Wales, I had a flash of inspiration. Some eighteen years prior to that day, I had read a book which, in a theological sense, gripped us all as students. The book was entitled The Courage to Be and was written by Paul Tillich. The Reverend Professor Paul Tillich was a Professor of Systematic Theology in Germany during the late 1930s. He was one of several German theologians who were forced to leave their posts as a result of the intolerable pressure put on them by the Nazis. Tillich readily found posts at various American Universities, where his teaching flourished and attracted thousands of students.

Why then go back to a book which was printed in the ‘sixties in the search of a measure of light for the spiritual and pastoral task that engaged me in 1982? That certainly is a valid question. However Tillich, as his theological work developed, sought to engage with literature, philosophy, ethics, psychotherapy and several other departments of life. Tillich had, and I believe still has, much to say about our contemporary scene even if, in some respects, the book is undoubtedly dated. He has much to say about courage.

Tillich had seen that for the Existentialist School of writers “non- being” was the greatest threat and anxiety of modern man. He defined anxiety as that state in which a being is aware of its possible “non- being”. Now if courage (which Tillich defined as the power of the mind to overcome fear) does not remove the awareness of possible “non- being”, courage can still take the possibility of “non-being” into itself. This in turn enables courage to express itself in affirmation “in spite of”, that is, in spite of the possibility of “non-being”.

If that piece of theory is somewhat “meaty”, let me now explain how I saw one particular example of it in action. As the Battalion made its final preparations in the Assembly Area before going into battle, I went round to each company to wish them well. As I talked to one Lance- Sergeant in his trench, a shell landed fairly close, burying itself fortunately into the peaty soil. The Lance-Sergeant said, “Better come into the trench, padre, in case the next one is closer.” In fact the next shell landed some distance away. The Lance-Sergeant then looked at me and said, “Padre, if your number is on that bullet or shell, there is little you can do about it” Was that simply an expression of fatalism?

Monday, 11 February 2008

2nd Battalion, Scots Guards — The Tumbledown Legacy

Alan Warsap was our medical officer but I am sad to say I have no memories of him. As I wasn't wounded I had no contact with the regimental medical team except for the crash course in battlefield casualty handling that we all got. I do of course remember many of the events he talks about such as staying in the sheep pens immediately after the battle and the time at Ajax Bay where we had time to wind down.

On reflection I think he is right in saying that the Battalion gained a lot from this and certainly I felt at home with the Scots Guards. I had a very hard time 1 year later when I was posted to 1QOH in Ireland as I lost access to to the one group of people who I felt I could relate too.

What I didn't realise is that so many Scots Guards left and that most had no contact with the regiment for decades after like myself. Of all the veterans that I met last year only Alex Allender seemed untouched by the events. I guess a combionation of a long career in the Army and the fact he was in his 30's at the time meant he has been able to adjust and obsorb the memories. For most of us who experienced it at a younger age and then subsequently left the Army and then lost the implicit support offered by being with like people the Falklands has been harder to life with.

Anyway here is what Alan had to say...

Introduction

It is close to twenty-five years since the Falkiands-Malvinas War. My personal, retrospective observations are made not only from the events of 1982, but are influenced by fifty years of involvement with the British Army from 1954 until 2004. This contact has included time as an Army General Practicioner, Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) and, lastly, as the President of an Army Medical Board responsible for examining, grading and sometimes medically discharging many men and women from service. An increasing number of boards involve at least some element of mental ill-health, mainly in men who had served in Bosnia and the Gulf War. Even today, working for The Tribunals Service, I still have contact with the medical and social problems of ex-servicemen.

As for the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards’ medical arrangements and training, I acknowledge the full support received from my Commanding Officer, the then Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Scott, my Medical Senior NonCommissioned Officer, Colour-Sergeant Baird and our Padre, the Reverend Angus Smith. At the time of the Falklands I was, in addition to being the Battalion’s RMO, on the staff of the Royal Army Medical College. The Professor of Military Psychiatry at the College was the then Colonel Peter Abraham. He guided me as to what might be possible with regard to the recognition and management of immediate battle shock casualties. This information I shared with my CO and, having just been warned for Falklands duty, it focussed our minds.

The Falklands

On Tumbledown during the night and morning of 13-14 June 1982, eight Scots Guardsmen and a Royal Engineer were killed or reported missing and forty wounded. Psychological casualties at that stage were virtually invisible, or at least battle-shock had not led to defeat. I recall only three possible battle-shock casualties at this early stage, one not of our unit, and one who recovered so quickly that he was an efficient soldier for the rest of the battle and afterwards. The third cannot be discussed — even now. He did not engage with any part of our unit medical team, but may well have been such a casualty. After post-tour leave I recall one Junior NCO who exhibited classical symptoms of post battle stress adjustment reaction. He declined psychiatric referral — I hope he did well.

Recently I was encouraged to hear from retired Commodore Toby Elliott from the Ex-Servicemen’s Mental Health Society and “Combat Stress” organisation that of the eight hundred servicemen from the Falklands conflict known to him, only four were ex-Scots Guardsmen. However I am now aware that everyone, including myself, probably sustained a highly variable permanent mental scarring. In many this is dormant, but can be activated by life events in the future. What hides this scar is the great variability of individuals to cope with the mental damage sustained. The natural tendency in many to deny or unconsciously suppress the psychological effects of battle trauma is what medical and command authority is unwittingly endorsing (and I understand this). As a result stoicism is mistaken for absence of mental scarring and only manifest psychiatric illness acknowledged. Variability in individual soldiers’ reactions to the same battle trauma is mistakenly seized on to deny that mental scarring has occurred. For example, a heavy mortar round bursts near to and equidistant from two soldiers. One with poor resilience has a life dogged by intermittent mental ill health and dependency, often with a war disability pension to help support him. His comrade may appear at first successfully to have avoided mental scarring only to suffer partially hidden handicaps of suppressed symptoms which may or may not break through into mental ill health later in life. Variability is such that it is not unknown to me that some soldiers claim traumatic events in their careers that they have not witnessed themselves but heard about from comrades. They cannot identify what makes them now feel different but feel altered by their experiences compared to the person they used to be.
I emphasise the great importance attached to the psychotherapeutic benefit gained by everyone in the Battalion from the opportunity to “wind-down” collectively after the battle as the unit rested up in the sheep sheds at Fitzroy. Here, all ranks were jammed together out of the wind for about three days. We then spent long weeks, less closely confined, but still very much together in sub-units on a ship, and then on garrison duty on West Falkland at Port Howard. We travelled back to UK, still all together, by ship to Ascension Island, and then flew back to post-tour leave.

The dominating medical condition we had to deal with after 13-14 June was, for many, the pain and disability of trench foot. All through that time until we returned from leave “sick parade” numbers were very low indeed, apart from the trench foot. There were no psychological casualties at this time — that is, none were evident. Late on 14 June, after the ceasefire, our Regimental Aid Post (RAP) treated some dozen Argentinian soldiers for minor injuries on their way back to a holding facility in Stanley. I saw many acts of spontaneous kindness shown to them by our Guardsmen.

From the RAP on Goat Ridge on the morning of 14 June, during hostilities, elements of the RAP staff and I went forward in a Navy Sea King helicopter to start the casualty pick-up. As we took off we crossed the Gurkha mortar line which was close by and preparing to fire on a forward target, probably Mount William. The mortars erupted, and at least one mortar bomb must have passed through the helicopter’s rotor blade motion. We picked up, I believe, seven or eight Gurkha casualties. All were semi-comatose, sleep deprivation combining with the pain of their wounds. They were typically stoical, and we took them to the 16 Field Ambulance Advanced Dressing Station at Fitzroy. At this point helicopter evacuation formally ceased. Friendly-fire incidents, inevitable in war, take their own special toll — and we had been lucky to escape such a fate on this occasion.

Lessons Learned

Medical first-aid training for everyone, bolted on to all the preoperational work-up training, was most important. It was realistic and often confrontational, including the practising of burials and watching uncut films of casualties from the Vietnam War. This latter was the idea of the then Captain Tim Spicer, our Operations and Training Officer. With this the men were made first-aid reliant in pairs and small groups. However, it is important to de-select for combat any soldier with unresolved mental health or drugs problems, and also only fair to inform recruits about the full military significance for them of voluntary service in the Army.

Casualty evacuation plans must be very flexible and always a primary command responsibility. Delayed evacuation was inevitable, depending as it did on scarce helicopter availability. Here, the sustaining treatment given by the Pipes and Drums Platoon first-aid trainers was of key importance, embedded as they were in all subunits. The extent of long term mental scarring and acute shell-shock, that is, battle-immediate casualties, is directly related to the number of physical casualties and the intensity and character of the conflict.

Following the initial shock-effects of battle from fear, fatigue, explosions and sights, there follows a degree of ‘post-battle adjustment reaction’ for weeks and months afterwards, characterised by over- arousal feelings, family and social maladjustment, anger and aggressiveness. Our CO warned the Battalion about such difficulties before we all dispersed on leave. It helped us recognise such reactions as almost normal, and to be expected, when irrational anger welled up in the post-battle months. “If you feel angry you have nothing to prove,” I remember the CO saying. After battle and trauma you cannot help but experience irrational extreme irritation to the point of violence with the seemingly trivial concerns of those at home in the United Kingdom.
I now know, years later, that there is further, hitherto hidden mental damage for some to live with when post-battle mental damage leads to a tendency to develop ordinary mental illness in those vulnerable: I mean depression, suicide and even violent and criminal behaviour. Other burdens include alcoholism, drug misuse, family breakdown, nightmares, flashbacks, unemployment and destitution in extreme cases. Long-term, past exposure to battle seems to facilitate the early development of mental ill-health which might, anyway, have surfaced in the fullness of time in some subjects.

I recommend that the way to reduce battle stress in all its forms, short- and long-term, is to be found in the example of 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards: that is, allowing for a wind-down period to be made possible after high intensity warfare, perhaps along the formula of three days’ whole unit close-proximity living, resting, hearing how others got on, how they feel and their worries, talking through guilt and blame together, self-directed and in no way structured. This should be followed by three weeks’ less intensive interaction and debriefing. It would be helpful at this time for officers to brief the whole unit on how the operation or battle worked out (or otherwise) overall. Let everyone view the big picture so that the individual can understand how his contribution fitted in. At the same time, reassure the men that their contribution did help their fellow soldiers.

There should then be a total period of three months away from the end of hostilities, to include post-tour leave, in which soldiers should be relieved of any serious military responsibility and activity. There should be no enforced or organised counselling for all — especially not by non- unit personnel. In any large body of men, closely confined, there are always enough talkers and listeners to guarantee lively discussion and thought.

Long-term

So, long-term, what should be done? Of course, emerging mental ill- health should come under the care of military or veterans’ mental health teams with welfare back-up. For those whose lives are faltering as the result of their mental scarring, value is likely to be had, not from opening the mental wounds of past traumas, but by helping those affected to climb a tower, as it were, above their troubles and be motivated to look out toward a series of personal goals, aiming to relaunch them into stable life.

This type of therapy was first proposed, or something much like it, by Captain Arthur Brock of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was a psychiatrist in the Great War at Craiglockhart, wartime military hospital for officers in Edinburgh. Apparently the building still exists. It had been a Spa Hotel and is now student accommodation. Here were treated officers, most from the Somme era, who were suffering from battle neurasthenia or shell-shock, which was the terminology of the time. This is a key part of the history of battle-induced mental ill-health, and famous among its patients were Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, the Great War Poets. As patients they were visited by Robert Graves, the poet and author, who also had post-war neurasthenia. He finally attempted to put his past on record and behind him when, ten years after the war, he wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, and headed for a new life abroad.

One way to help deal with post-battle mental adjustment once and for all is to write down one’s experiences, good and bad, and one’s reactions, whether in the form of a notebook, tape or book, and, as it were, lock it away in the past before moving on.

As you get older the past has a curious quality of becoming closer to your own life. I can well remember London match-sellers on street corners, often with a crutch and Great War medals; being told that a neighbour had “shell-shock”; being taught to fish by a man who had been gassed on the Western Front. At a recent Parochial Church Council meeting, of the eleven souls present, two had had fathers who survived the Battle of the Somme. With such reminders is it not reasonable in our more psychologically vulnerable age to make long-term military mental health and support provision for those affected by combat?

Practical help must include money. The current compensation for losing a finger in battle is £2,559 (single payment). Soldiers should not receive lump sum payments. They will need the money later in their lives and long-term, regardless, and rightly so, of whether the victim shows his hand proudly to his grandchildren or to the examiner for incapacity benefits. We all cope differently. There is no logic in giving compensation for a little finger and not for mental scarring. The scar must be compensated for, not allowed to develop into some long-term mental illness which the scarring may predispose the soldier to. How do we do this? A war pension based on the number of days in combat and intensity of that combat as judged from measures such as physical casualty rates, death rates, ammunition expenditure, etc? In this way, retrospectively, scores are produced for each day, the worst possible day being 100 points, e.g. the first day on the Somme (but no day will ever equal that). An agreed formula calculation could be arrived at so as to produce a modest pension increment to retirement pay for those exposed to agreed significant battle-trauma.

Practical help might also include regular, if brief, long-term follow-up of those becoming the mental health casualties of battle or those with high “Somme” scores, e.g. by Internet or text, and organised by the Veterans Welfare Organisation with Regimental and British Legion input. This idea was, in part, promoted by a conversation I had with Lieutenant Robert Lawrence, who was very badly wounded in the Tumbledown attack. Robert went furthest forward of any officer before he fell. I know also now that his Company, led by Major Simon Price, carried out an exemplary night attack in mountainous terrain, the worth of which I only recently came to appreciate.

Recently I have had a glimpse of medical advances which indicate a possibly more sound method of diagnosing and treating different types of mental health illness with the help of brain-scanning and imaging. There is hope here for the future casualty. However, I have two postscripts.
What is the Tumbledown legacy of the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards? It is the intense low murmuring roar that was so distinctive and memorable as the Battalion wound-down during the time in the Fitzroy sheep sheds, exchanging their experiences, worries and fears. I shall never forget it and neither should the Army Medical Services. This points the way to bring practical clarity of action to the part-prevention and long-term military medical care and support for those damaged by war.

Finally, about five years after the war I was doing a short locum duty with the United Nations Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Along the camp road I encountered the first Argentinian serviceman I had seen since the war. His unit was newly arrived in Cyprus. I was unsure of his rank and no doubt he felt the same. Each off us saluted early, only to salute exactly together. We were very much on the same side. For me the war was over.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Tumbledown and Mount William

Eduardo Villarraza was the company commander of N company which was the company that gave Left Flank such grief and who were responsible for pinning our group down for such a long time.

Introduction

The 5th Marine Infantry Battalion (5BIM) — and therefore its N Company of which I was the Company Commander — was made up of both enlisted men and conscripts, the latter having been called up after their eighteenth birthday to fulfil the mandatory military duties required by law in the country at the time of these facts. N Company consisted of ten percent enlisted personnel and ninety percent conscripts. The enlisted personnel held the command appointments, except for a few cases in which these were held by outstanding conscripts because of a shortfall in regular military personnel.

In terms of training, N Company had achieved a high standard aided by the fact it was possible to carry out training in different environments and extreme conditions, for Tierra del Fuego is a region with a very cold climate, steppes and mountains, and dense woods and trees of great height. The terrain included large lakes and it is surrounded by sea. N Company also had access and a proximity to different terrains suitable for exercises and the use of ground, airborne and naval artillery. The strong focus of the training plan developed in 1981 called for a large number of out-of-barrack days, with multiple exercises at Battalion level that included all support weapons firing live ammunition, and exercises with naval gunfire support and attack aircraft providing fire support.

Deployment and defence planning

Given the distribution of the units in the proximity of Puerto Argentino and organization of the defensive system, the (Joint) Argentine Command was convinced that the British offensive would come from the sea and there would be landings on the southern coast. This idea was not shared by the Commanding Officer of BIM5, because we knew as Marines that to land on a defended coast is extremely costly, and we were also aware of what it takes to establish a military presence on land starting from zero, and then launch operations afterwards.

Furthermore the CO of SIMS alerted the (Joint) Argentine Command that British troops would seek to land anywhere on Soledad Island (East Falkland) and then execute their attack from their land bridgehead. Indeed the British manoeuvre was developed on this latter concept.
In spite of the addition of regiments — particularly Infantry Regiments the area of responsibility and sectors assigned to BIM5 were never modified, the exception being the role of 0 Company, which was originally deployed onto Mount Longdon. This Company was relieved by the 7th Infantry Regiment, and the Battalion recovered it so as to become a reserve. With the addition of C Company (Fusiliers) of the 3rd Infantry Regiment placed next to M Company at their position between Sapper Hill and Mount William, N Company adopted its final defensive system by occupying Mounts Tumbledown and William with a tactical area of responsibility from the edge of the sea up to Moody Valley.

The final defence organization was 1 Platoon located south-west of Mount William, 2 Platoon north-west of Mount William and south of Tumbledown, and 3 Platoon north-east of Tumbledown. Each of these platoons consisted of three infantry rifle sections of thirteen men each, a nine-men group of machine guns (7.62 mm), with the platoon commander and two to four additional men to man the communications and act, in some cases, as medical assistants. This added up to a total of fifty-two or fifty-four men. In addition there was a 60mm mortar group (three mortars) which consisted of fifteen to eighteen men located in an area to the east of Tumbledown, the 81mm mortar group (six mortars) north-east of Mount William at a location roughly equidistant between the latter and Tumbledown, and N Company Headquarters located on the east end of Tumbledown plus communications, logistics and a medical assistant, and a rocket launcher group (of four men). This latter group was placed under the command of N Company Headquarters and could be used wherever a threat materialised that was suitable for a counter-attack by these weapons.

This disposition was the initial plan set up with organic means, i.e. personnel and weapons. Afterwards, utilising the reinforcements received, weapons and troops were placed in the following sectors. Firstly at Mount William was located a 105mm Recoilless Gun Group (with two tubes), a Bantam Missile Group (two launchers), and a 12.7mm Browning Machine Gun Group. Then at the western end of the Tumbledown was located 4 Platoon, consisting of a well-trained Battalion Scout Group (approximately twelve men), and another group of men commanded by a Sergeant-Major (approximately ten men with limited training because they belonged to the logistics sub-unit.)

Altogether this amounted to about twenty-five men. They carried assault rifles, an automatic rifle (FAP), two 7.62mm general purpose machine guns and one 60mm mortar. Although all personnel were Marines, the composition of the platoon was not organic, and therefore their training had not been systematised or included with the remainder of N Company’s training. There was also a sub-unit of Amphibious Engineers of about twenty-five men who would fight in the infantry role.

The total personnel of N Company plus its reinforcements added up to about two hundred and fifty men. The first tasks implemented were locating the weapons according to their selected main and secondary firing directions, the construction of their positions and, as the final item, the construction of shelters for the men. It is worth pointing out that, for the short time we had available, excellent shelters and positions were built and these were soon to prove their worth once the British attacks and bombings began.

A fact which also needs to be highlighted in the disposition was the communications system at Company level, as well as that of the Battalion, for between landline and radio links we managed virtually to triple the circuits. In N Company alone, seven kilometres of cable were used to establish landline communications. Another important point to emphasize was the amount of ammunition per weapon, calculated at about twenty to twenty-five days supply, dependent on the weapon system. With regard to rations and because of the system adopted, hot food was distributed in the form of three daily meals until noon on 13 June.

Operations Commence

On 1 May the British forces began their operations with air and naval bombing. Since my position was located on one of the relevant heights I was able to observe with absolute clarity the moment when the first warships of the Royal Navy appeared on the horizon from the east, the naval gunfire support they fired from their southern gunline, and the Argentine aircraft raids against them. As of this day (1 May) naval bombardments began systematically, and would take place nightly from then on. Although not effective in relation to the losses they produced, at least within BIM5, the bombardments resulted nonetheless in an understandable mental wearing-down of personnel, for it was impossible to know when these would take place and what area they would target.

On the tactical side, one of my main worries from the beginning up to the end of the operations was the extension of the front assigned to N Company which, if judged by its dimensions and terrain features, should have been occupied by the Battalion. So extensive was this front, that, with the three platoons I had available, it was not only hardly possible to cover it visually, but nor did it allow for the establishment of a minimum reserve force. All this made it extremely difficult to defend. Questions may arise as to why. A logical action would have been to occupy and maintain the main heights, but doing this would have opened very extensive spaces between them. As a result of these, the British troops would have attacked our positions from the rear by placing fixed positions onto the heights and then perform encircling movements, with serious consequences for our troops. On the other hand, we were convinced from the first moment that operations would be carried out during the night. We were not mistaken.

An intermediate solution was then chosen with the idea of sharing mutual support between platoons or receiving support from the Battalion. Once the attack of 11-12 June on the Argentine troops located at Mount Harriet and Two Sisters had taken place, I had not the slightest of doubts about the attack continuing immediately onto our positions; neither did I have any doubts that it would take place during the night.

The battle

On the morning of 13 June I gathered my subordinate commanders together. I was sure the enemy would attack that night and that this could possibly be the last time I would see some of my subordinates. But, thanks be to God, this did not happen. I conveyed my message to them saying that the moment had now come to show what we really were, and what we Marines were worth. I also said that a creditable performance was expected in the hours of combat to come. From that evening of 13 June onwards, firing grew more and more intense. I believe that we were attacked in the Mount William-Tumbledown area by several thousand projectiles, since five artillery batteries, two ships and the mortars of the Gurkhas and 42 Commando supported the assault on our positions. According to information collected from different media, some 14,000 rounds of ammunition of high-calibre weapons (mortars, artillery, and naval gunfire support) were fired.

At approximately 22.30 hours (local time) Lieutenant Vázquez of 4 Platoon informed me that they were being attacked by British troops and the situation was confusing because his forces were becoming intermingled with the British. At around 24.00 hours, the Engineer subunit began their withdrawal towards the east, but communications with 4 Platoon to co-ordinate actions between the two sub-units could not be established as planned. Given the intensity of the fight, Lieutenant Vázquez requested friendly fire onto his positions, which was provided by both the Company’s 81mm and 60mm mortars. At approximately 01.30 hours I was informed the fighting had stopped.

Battalion Headquarters was kept permanently informed, and due to developments in the fighting, ordered M Company to prepare for a counter-attack. This was not carried out. At approximately 02.00 hours, a new offensive began on 4 Platoon’s position. The situation became very complicated for them because the British troops had taken positions to their rear. Mortar and artillery rounds were ordered again onto the platoon positions, reinforcements for M Company were required once again, and the Engineer sub-unit was sent away to support them. At this point an Argentine Army sub-unit (of about twenty men) arrived, commanded by Second-Lieutenant Lamadrid. Neither this nor the Engineer sub-unit could make it to the position occupied by 4 Platoon for, after having advanced half the way, they met British troops who stopped them.

Therefore between 02.00 hours and 03.00 hours on 14 June, the situation was that 4 Platoon had been engaged at the eastern end of Tumbledown without being able to break contact. The Engineer sub-unit was still in the Tumbledown and in contact with British troops, but unable to advance. 1 and 2 Platoons were at Mount William, with a limited possibility of being used due to a concrete threat from Mount Harriet and Pony’s Pass after fighting had taken place in that area a few hours before. On the northern flank there were no more Argentine troops, as we had heard on the radio that the 7th Infantry Regiment had fallen back with a great number of personnel heading towards the town. Lastly M Company remained in its position and had not initiated any movement. The conclusion was that the last line of defence towards the west comprised N Company and that this defence was being broken. I took the decision therefore to hold the position for as long as it was possible.

This was the current situation and, at about 06.00 hours, Lieutenant Vãzquez informed me that he could not hold his position anymore and was about to surrender. It was then that I realised we had a short time remaining in the Tumbledown. Meanwhile the Engineers, the Company’s mortar groups and Army sub-unit were engaging British troops. The latter exerted so strong a pressure that they forced our troops to fall back towards the eastern end of Tumbledown. Between 08.00 hours and 08.30 hours, it had already become impossible to hold the Tumbledown and I ordered the withdrawal to begin. This started in a somewhat disorganized way but, after the line of march had advanced a few metres, the commanders were able to regain control over their subunits. At this point we were having problems communicating with 1 and 2 Platoons, which were then ordered from Battalion Headquarters to fall back onto Sapper Hill, this marking therefore the end of N Company’s actions.

Conclusion

From my point of view, the following factors accounted for N Company’s defeat:

  • The front that N Company had been assigned to cover was extremely large when, in fact, that sector should have been the entire Battalion’s responsibility
  • The main effort of the defence was originally pointed towards the southern coast of our area, thus weakening the defensive positions towards the west.
  • The defensive system always gave the initiative to the British troops, therefore everything the Company was called upon to do only, in reality, amounted to just sitting and waiting.
  • The defensive system was, in general terms, static. We lacked mobility and this, in practical terms, prevented any offensive operations from being carried out, especially counter-attacks.
On the other hand, I believe the following to have been positive aspects of the defence:

  • The high degree of training the Battalion had achieved during the previous years and its ability to operate in cold weather.
  • As a result of this training, there was a significant confidence which permeated throughout the chain of command, with superiors and subordinates trusting each other in the roles to which each had been appointed.
  • The construction of effective defensive positions.
  • The guidance which platoon commanders, at all levels, exerted over their personnel.
  • The excellent communications system which allowed the continuous exercise of appropriate leadership over sub-units on the basis of precise and timely information.

As a conclusion, it might be stated that although ninety percent of the Battalion’s troops were conscript Marines, their performance demonstrates that effective combat-ready units can be achieved through suitable training in techniques, tactics and use of weapons, and, most importantly, with the appropriate leadership.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Plaque for Clark Mitchell


Theresa recently sent me a photo of the plaque she is having erected on Tumbledown for her husbnand Clark. The memorial on top of Tumbledown consists of a cross erected by the Battalion with a brass plaque with the names of the Scots Guards who died on June 13/14. This is supplemented by an ammunition box in which are some materials for polishing the brass plus numerous personal momentos left by visiting veterans.


Theresa felt that she wanted something lasting to be left that would reflect on how she feels 25 years down the road and had this made. The words are her own.

The Close-Quarter Battle

Major Simon Price was my company commander during the Falklands and as the CO of Right Flank he was responsible for leading the attack on the final 1/3rd of Tumbledown.

I vividly remember the events just prior to the attack going in. We had at last moved up through Left Flanks positions which were still being cleared, in fact as I crouched down behind rocks a grenade went off among the Left Flank wounded. Dawn was approaching and there was a sense of urgency as a daylight attack across the exposed mountainside was the last thing any of us wanted.

Rapid plans were made with 1 Platoon climbing into the rocks to the left so as to provide covering fire for 2 and 3 platoon who were going to sweep around to the right. CSM Ian Amos was rushing around making sure ammunition was placed in piles and pointing them out. I was one of the team who was going to be supplying the GPMG's and my mouth was dry, this was it.

Just as we were about to attack the magazine on his SLR went ping and rounds went flying everywhere. Ian muttered a string of oaths and for some reason insideme the tension slipped away.

The commands were given and the night erupted with the sounds of small arms and shouting. Right Flank threw themselves into the attack.

The Close-Quarter Battle: Right Flank Company, 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards on Tumbledown Mountain — 13-14 June 1982

Simon Price

General
Close-quarter fighting at night is amongst the most challenging of tasks that an infantry sub-unit can be called upon to undertake in war. Add to that the immensely difficult terrain of the Tumbledown and, in particular, the crag and rock terrain of its eastern summit, combined with poor communications and lack of training in night attacks, then all these factors resulted in a task that confronted the Guardsmen of 2nd Battalion, the Scots Guards as being one of gargantuan proportions. The difficulties were further compounded on that 13-14 June night of the Scots Guards’ assault by a most inhospitable austral winter climate of a force six wind with snow and temperature of minus six degrees centigrade which, when combined, meant soldiers were being exposed to a dangerous chill factor of minus twenty-two degrees centigrade.

What then were the factors that enabled the Battalion to be so successful in its night attack against the Argentine 5th Marine Infantry Battalion and some other sub-units of the Argentine Army? Using the story of Right Flank Company’s deliberate third and final phase attack of the Battalion’s difficult night battle, some of the key ingredients will be identified that led to an eventually successful outcome to the operation after brutal fighting.

Clear orders
At night the unexpected invariably occurs in a close-quarter battle. A tactical system is essential to overcome this problem and enable more junior commanders at platoon and section level to work around apparently insurmountable obstacles and then be able to exploit the ensuing opportunities. Today all these procedures are encapsulated in the British Army’s concept of “Mission Command”. Back in 1982 such a concept was not as clearly articulated. In Right Flank Company’s night battle the final objective could not be viewed from the Scots Guards’ positions near Mount Harriet area because it was in complete dead ground to the observer. The consequence was that a final assault plan could not be presented at the formal Right Flank Company Orders Group for this particular deliberate company night attack prior to the Battalion’s tactical advance to battle on the entire Tumbledown feature. To obviate this potentially damaging shortfall, a much fuller than normal “Concept of Operations” was given out which stipulated, unless countermanded later during the battle, what the Company Commander expected from each platoon commander and his platoon on arrival at the Company’s final objective on the eastern end of the Tumbledown.

Decisive leadership
Uncertainty in battle is one condition that any commander, whether it be at battalion, company, platoon or section level simply cannot afford to have within his unit or sub-unit. It is, by far, better to do something, even if it is wrong or perhaps unconventional at the time and in the unbelievably noisy chaos of an infantry night battle, than to be indecisive and do nothing at all. This was personified by Sergeant Robert Jackson’s individual hand-grenade attack on an enemy machine- gun nest perched high in the rocks. The senior NCO discarded his Self- Loading Rifle and climbed up a rock pinnacle to a position that overlooked this enemy position so as to throw a number of grenades with some accuracy onto it and thus neutralise its effectiveness. Right Flank Company’s battle provided a number of other outstanding examples in which such leadership, at all levels, enabled difficult obstacles to be overcome and ensuing situations exploited to the best possible advantage.

Surprise
Surprise during any battle, whether it takes place during daylight or at night, is quoted often as being a “battle-winning factor”. It is believed that Right Flank Company’s battle produced one such example when the Royal Artillery’s gunfire support that had been promised for the Company’s assault became unexpectedly unavailable at a crucial point in the fighting. The resulting action, to the best of my knowledge, led to the Company having to conduct the only British infantry assault on an enemy Argentine objective without any higher-level supporting fire of any type in the entire Falklands War. Paradoxically this, in turn, resulted in the enemy being taken completely by surprise as to exactly when the company’s final assault would take place.

Maintenance of the momentum
This key principle was amply demonstrated during Right Flank Company’s battle. During the initial lodgement onto the objective, and when the Company’s momentum became stalled due to cleverly located Argentine defensive placements, the Company Commander had to intervene personally on the first of three such occasions so as to restore momentum to the Company’s attack. If this had not been done then Right Flank’s attack might well have continued to stall throughout the valuable remaining limited time of darkness available. Obviously the latter is a key advantage to any attacking unit that wishes to maintain an effective assault on the enemy. The arrival of first light and then subsequent gradual increase of daylight would have probably started to work in the enemy’s favour.

The Company Commander’s intervention was required a second time when 2 Platoon became pinned down by a small group of the enemy in the central group of crags within the final objective. Then, when Lieutenant Robert Lawrence received a serious head wound from an enemy sniper bullet as he led his platoon in a decisive right-flanking attack on enemy Marine positions, the third and final Company Commander intervention was needed in order to resolve this difficult situation and, once more, regain the all-important sub-unit’s momentum of their assault.

Teamwork
At night, and during the noise and chaos of close-quarter battle, when vision is restricted to a bare couple of metres, both teamwork and confidence in your fellow soldiers, junior commanders and more senior commanders is absolutely essential for success. This final phase of the Battalion’s battle was eventually reduced to pairs of men carrying out basic infantry fire and movement attacks on enemy dug-in defensive positions. Such a tactic was loosely, but successfully, controlled by both Section and Platoon Commanders. Effective teamwork and confidence in each other’s abilities enabled such dispersed action to succeed against enemy bunker positions which had been prepared thoroughly by the Argentine Marines for sixty-seven days prior to the Scots Guards’ assault. Such were the strength of these enemy bunkers that the Argentine casualties from the Royal Navy and Royal Artillery bombardments and British Harrier aircraft air strikes as from 1 May were exceptionally limited prior to the Battalion’s assault in the final twenty-four hours of the campaign

Trained commanders
Primarily due to its traditional ceremonial role of London Public Duties, the Household Division also has had an accompanying tradition of obeying orders quickly and accurately. This stood the Battalion and Right Flank Company in good stead during the Tumbledown battle. When this asset is combined with properly trained and highly-capable junior officers and non-commissioned officers, then the result is that Guardsmen are capable of applying their basic skills to areas they are either not well-versed in, or have not been trained to tackle. The Battle of Tumbledown was just such an occasion when the Battalion, including Right Flank, had never been trained for or carried out such a conventional and complex Battalion night attack. However, because the unit had confidence in its commanders at all levels, all sub-units were most effective when the moment of truth arrived and they were put through a gruelling test of stamina and courage.

Artillery
The effective use of artillery is essential in limiting ones own side’s casualties and, on the other hand, unbalancing and thereby neutralising an enemy located in their defensive positions. Lack of artillery, when initially requested on the Tumbledown by Right Flank Company, triggered a major alteration in the Company’s battle plan. Also there was uncalled for, or misdirected, British artillery fire that almost caused a major “blue-on-blue” incident and significant own Right Flank casualties. On the credit side, however, the failure of effective Argentine artillery made our troops’ tasks infinitely easier. As a final point, the effective use of accurately controlled artillery fire from Right Flank’s newly won defensive positions onto the Moody Valley area immediately west of the Falklands’ capital, Port Stanley, contributed to bringing the war to a rapid conclusion. It also probably saved many lives — both British and Argentine.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Summary of the Actions of the 5th Marine Infantry Battalion (BIM5) in the Malvinas Conflict

This is the presentation given by Carlos Hugo Robacio Commanding Officer of BIM5

Once the Malvinas were re-taken by the Amphibious Task Force, the Landing Force returned immediately to the mainland, leaving behind a small garrison of the Argentine Army. Meanwhile the national government began handling the crisis with the clear intention of discussing seriously and through diplomatic channels the litigation of sovereignty between both contenders. Sadly the British Government put all its effort into recovering the archipelago through force of arms. This required the reinforcement of the garrison that had been left behind, for which the 5th Marine Infantry Battalion (BIM5) was deployed in addition to other units belonging to the Army, Air Force and the Navy.

The unit arrived on 8 April 1982 and, with the purpose of providing direct support to BIM5, B Battery of the BIAC and a platoon of Amphibious Engineers were added later, as was a 12.7mm Machine Gun Company of which a single platoon was assigned. On 16 April, the definitive defence order was distributed to the unit, assigning responsibility over Mounts Tumbledown and William, and Sapper Hill. O (-) Company was constituted as a reserve and prepared for counterattacks on these features. The positions were occupied from the first day of arrival, given the capacity of the British Task Force for executing large incursions.

The baptism of fire began at dawn on 1 May 1982, and there was one fatality and five wounded on Sapper Hill from naval support fire. From 15 May, naval bombardments and naval aircraft attacks grew more intense, with ground-based shelling being added later. The logistic suffocation of the unit increased because both sea and air were in possession of the attacking naval force. The landing at San Carlos took place on 21 May 1982 and the duel between patrols from each side began. As elements of the coastal defence, and to raise morale by acquiring firepower to respond to the enemy’s bombing, an Exocet launching ramp was incorporated, as well as 155mm Sofma guns.

On 5 June as the Battalion’s area of responsibility was increased, 0 (-) Company was detached forward to the area of Pony’s Pass to set up a delaying battle to interdict the line of approach through Mount Harriet and Sapper Hill into the town (of Puerto Argentino). During the night of 11 June, the first phase began on the heights of Mount Harriet, Two Sisters and Mount Longdon, all of which were attacked by the Royal Marine Brigade and 3 Para.

BIM5 was then in the front line as the remaining troops fell back to Puerto Argentino and only some men voluntarily joined the Battalion, as was the case of Army Second-Lieutenant Silva and five conscripts, who would fight alongside 4 Platoon in the Tumbledown. Attention has to be drawn to an inexplicable diversionary attack in the direction of Mount William which was against the pattern of doing this at night. Performed during last light on 13 June, the attacking sub-unit was (according to us) practically annihilated by fire from our defensive locations.

It is worth mentioning that BIM5 both integrated and directed supporting fire from the two Army Artillery Battalions who provided total and indiscriminate support at critical moments of the battle. On the other hand, B Company of 6th Infantry Regiment, which linked the rear of Two Sisters with the troops on Longdon, and should have fallen back to the Tumbledown’s western salient, unfortunately did this some kilometres to the east, thus weakening the anticipated plan for the defence of Mount Tumbledown which had already been co-ordinated and laid out. Nothing was done by higher command to correct this error, leaving those troops to cover Moody Valley.

During the night of 13-14 June the attacking forces set out on their final offensive from the south-west at approximately 22.15 hours. On the one hand they did it straddling the road running south of Mount Harriet that leads directly to Puerto Argentino, and on the other they did it going directly over the Tumbledown where it coincided with the positions of 4 Platoon, N Company, BIM5. Initially the attack was repulsed and restrained by bloody and intensive fighting with well- coordinated fire support on the attacking sub-units and determined action from the men of O (-) Company — until finally the latter was ordered to initiate a withdrawal and re-group in the proximity of the Battalion’s command post, thereby allowing freedom to M Company, BIM5 and permitting us to carry out all our efforts on the Tumbledown. This was possible since C (-) Company of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment — which had been put under BIM5’s command — flanked the access to the attacking forces that straddled the road.

Meanwhile 4 Platoon was being attacked in the Tumbledown by the Scot Guards and managed to repulse the latter’s first attack. Combat at this position would, within hours, acquire a totally epic meaning for both contenders. There was long and fierce fighting there. The Scots Guards Battalion assaulted and then retreated time and time again, concentrating their effort on the heroic 4 Platoon. They fought hand to hand with grenades and using everything that was available. Fire support from both sides was accurate. 4 Platoon was still resisting, their men would shout out victory and challenging words as they repulsed the first attacks. At dawn the assault continued with the Scots Guards pouring over our positions and beyond. The platoon commander called for friendly shelling onto his positions to stop the advancing attack, and requested a counter-attack to restore his position. Troops from another Argentine Marine platoon and one from the Army were thrown in, without achieving the success expected due to the prevailing situation. The attitude and aptitude of this platoon commander, as well as those of his men, turned them into role models. The commander, for leading his men in combat, personally engaging in the greater risks and contributing with his fighting spirit, made his subordinates fight decisively. These men are an example that the Marines must treasure with pride.

To the North, across the Moody Brook, the attack of 2 Para had neutralised the remaining positions of the 7th Infantry Regiment, thus threatening — along with 3 Para — our logistics area and command post.

At about 03.00 hours a counter-attack was considered using M and O (-) Companies. This possibility was refused by order of our higher command, thus preventing our last possibility for breaking the assault. At about 05.00 hours the assault was re-initiated in an intense and brutal way in spite of the shelling of our own positions. This was interrupted when 4 Platoon exhausted its ammunition and lost part of its force. Once the Scots Guards held on fast in the Tumbledown, the 7th Gurkhas climbed to attack Mount William and take the 81mm mortars.

At 06.15 hours on 14 June, the Battalion received the order to fall back to Puerto Argentino. It did not do this. Relevant orders were issued to cease combat and fall back on Sapper Hill to establish — given the remaining ammunition of M Company/BIM5 — the last defence. This was achieved approximately at 11.00 hours when new intentions to surrender were received from higher command. This happened at around 13.00/14.00 hours. The Battalion entered Puerto Argentino, marching past with arms at the shoulder, leaving a sixteen-strong rearguard on Sapper Hill with two general purpose machine guns (MAG) and a 12.7 mm Browning heavy machine gun. These made contact with an enemy wave of approximately six helicopters, and such were the circumstances in which the final combat took place.

Thus ended the action of a unit which — although trained to attack — had to fight in the heart of the defence at the Battle for Puerto Argentino.

Ever wondered in which order to wear your medals?

Well wonder no more, I had this website pointed out to me as I have wondered which way around I should wear my 2 medals...

http://www.honours.gov.uk/honours/wear.aspx