Our Lieutenant would take us on long walks around the hills surrounding Stanley, to see the battle fields and minefields left by the Argentineans. Most minefields by then were fenced off and only the carcasses of dead sheep, who would get under or past the wire fences and wander aimlessly across the minefield, until the leader was launched skywards by a mine. They would freeze, Baa, and then move forwards, until the next was launched skywards and so on, until they moved out of the field again. Twats. Now I have committed some stupid acts, but none so stupid as our Lieutenant, who along with a few of the others, decided where the throwing of heavy objects (rocks) would be enough to set off a mine!! Honestly, they threw rocks until I think our Sgt spotted them and had a discreet word in the Lt’s ear. Twats!! Times 2.
Port Stanley was a bit of a shit hole back then, apart from the one shop, and the hotel there was bugger all to do. The islanders had welcomed the British Forces rapturously and well deserved that welcome was, but some 18months in, the welcome was wearing a bit thin, as drunken squaddies were eventually banned from the town in the evenings (too noisy and rude) and unwelcome to a great extent in town during daylight hours as well. The islanders had been named “Benny’s” after the character of Benny from the ITV Soap Opera Crossroads, for those non British readers; basically Benny was thick, large and smelly looking. This links shows a quick movie clip of him.
After a few weeks of unloading ships full of construction gear, loading helicopters with the same and endless days of boredom, the “exciting” news came through that Jim Davidson, a British stand up comedian, was coming down for a series of shows. The Coastel had a large Gym in the roof space and this was to be the theatre. Jim was coming down accompanied by female dancers (woohoo), Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog.
I was walking back to the Coastel one afternoon and Jim was being dropped off so I saluted him and he saluted me right back, gosh I was proud!! The Argentineans’ had left all sorts of kit when they were kicked off the islands, amongst the crap were jeeps made by Mercedes Benz, which knocked the spots off the Army Land Rovers, so anyone who was anyone (officer types) were driven around in those and the good old Land Rovers were left to the rest of us. After a while, jeep parts became a problem, so the higher your rank, the better your chance of keeping your Merc, as your driver would cannibalise the Jeeps of the lower ranked Officers.
We flew to Goose Green for a few weeks working on a helicopter refuelling depot. We lived in porta-cabins and used large earthmoving diggers to excavate earthworks which we lined with plastic and then dropped huge rubber bladders which were filled with air-fuel. They invariably leaked and we stank of kerosene for days at a time. Nights were spent lying in our sleeping bags listening to Sony Walkmans and playing cards.
In the battle for Goose Green and number of the Parachute Regiment lost their lives. The picture here is the memorial and grave site where these brave men are buried, among them Colonel H Jones.
One light moment was when we challenged the RAF boys to a game of soccer. I have attached some photos of this game, hope they come out!
The pitch was marked out and we played a great game, with our guys doing really well, until some twat decided that it was a good place to land his helicopter, right in the centre circle! Staff Sgt Gallagher walked up to the copter and enquired what the guy thought he was doing? Apparently, our pitch was the helicopter landing area and we had to stop our game whilst the pilot and some bigwigs marched off into Goose Green for meeting with the Stills. Game resumed after an hour or so and we won I recall. Just up from the pitch and across a dirt track (the motorway between San Carlos and Goose Green) was an airfield with grass runways. Littered around one end were 2 Pucara’ Ground Attack Aircraft, anti aircraft ground to air rocket launchers and machine guns and various bits of kit. We had a fine time clambering all over it, again see the attached pics.
We went back to Port Stanley and played annoy the Benny (Still) and after a month of such fun, we were told we were to board the Landing Ship Logistic (LSG) Sir Geraint (they were all named after King Arthurs Round Table Knights, Galahad and Lancelot etc).
We sailed off and after 2 days were at anchor outside the somewhat inappropriately named (seeing as there were no women anywhere) Shag Cove. We were airlifted off the ship along with our kit to a disused and pretty decrepit old sheep farmers holding, which consisted of a farmhouse a couple of outhouses, a well and a paddock or two. Our task, as tradesmen, was to renovate the whole lot into liveable accommodation for future groups of squaddies to use as an R&R base (Rest and Recuperation). Basically, this would consist of being dropped off with enough food and beer to last 2 days and left to your own devices. There was an almost landlocked bay (Shag Cove) about 300 metres away and plenty of good hills to walk! How fun! In fact the cove was about 400 metres across and 800 metres long. The water was so shallow you could walk across it and it actually looked as if you were walking on water.
Our group consisted of electricians, bricklayers, carpenters, painters, plumbers, basically all the artisan trades required and within a few days, timber, boarding, bricks, paint, nails, pipes, you name, turned up. Staff Sergeant Gallagher was our senior NCO and we bedded down in the rooms we would later be doing up. Things swiftly moved on and it was decided that the main room in the building would be the bar and lounge and would be called the Skulls Room. This was down to the fact that the area all around was littered with the bones of dead sheep and the odd pony. The skulls were taken back to the house, painted white; bulbs fitted into the eye sockets and hung up on the walls. Class.........
As the work approached its final two or three weeks, (we’d dug the well out again and got the wind pump working) a delivery of beer (loads of it) turned up by helicopter. The copters were mainly run by Bristow’s, a civilian contractor, but there were plenty of military copters buzzing around as well. The Bristow’s would ferry men and mail around the islands and in our case, shed loads of beer. To celebrate a game of indoor rugby was commenced. That was once everyone was truly drunk and up for a fight in most cases. The ball was a load of black tape wound around paper to resemble a rugby ball. The game rules were, beat the fuck out of each other before someone beat the fuck out of you. There were no “goals” to put the ball in, all you had to do was hold onto the ball and avoid a serious twatting. Being (as my Mum would say) of a sensitive disposition, I aimed to avoid the ball, and fists, by gamely circling the ensuing melee’ and occasionally leaping onto bodies, slapping someone and then quickly withdrawing, lest I be clouted. This tactic worked well, until the bloke I was sat astride of rolled over and I lay flat on my back, but worse, I was somehow holding the ball. Bollocks!
I sat up and threw the ball away, but both my legs were straight out in front of me, my feet pointing upwards towards the ceiling. One of the larger members of the group decided to launch himself at me but was sideswiped by another and they fell across my feet, pushing the toes of the right foot back towards my shin and therefore stretching the tendons and more flimsy content of my foot to breaking point. The pain was of a sort I had yet to experience and I yelled out for them to “get the fuck off” and tried to pull myself backwards across the floor. More bodies piled in to the scrum and I was left screaming like a girl as time and again my toes met shin. Try it sometime. It’s not good.
I eventually managed to manoeuvre myself away and called over Sgt Gallagher and in between tears told him what had happened. I was picked up and carried to my sleeping bag, on the floor of another room and a few of my mates came in to see me. My foot was killing me and Sgt Gallagher said he thought it was broken. Now these words were slurred as he was more pissed then most and I had quickly sobered up. Sarge decided to check for breaks by asking the guys to move aside, he took hold of my foot and proceeded to move it back and forth, side to side. He stopped as soon as I smacked him in the mouth (where I got the bravery to do that I don’t know) and said “yep, that’s a break”. I was bought coffee and cigarettes and made comfortable. There was no morphine or pain killer of any type in the first aid bag, but hey, we did have our rifles and ammunition, just in case the Argies attacked again, so basically we could fight the buggers off, but were we to be wounded, we were screwed.
I tried to sleep, but occasionally some pissed up squaddie would try to climb over me to get into his pit, kick me and receive a verbal and a slap for good measure. Come the morning, a call was made to Port Stanley on the radio for a Casualty Evacuation and a Puma turned up mid-afternoon and flew me back to Stanley. The “hospital” (a collection of tents) was next to the heli-port and I was taken on a stretcher into A&E. X-rays revealed no breaks but torn ligaments and tendons, so I was given light duties, a pair of crutches and some strapping and sent down to the Coastel.
The one thing good to come of this was that I was no longer able to run around, mending roads, clearing up and generally getting in the shit, so I was assigned to the CSB (Combat Support Boat Section), which was as easy a number as one could hope for. See Picture of me outside my new home.
Having passed the course anyway it seemed stupid to me that I was not assigned there anyway, until told that the competition to get into that section was huge and I could expect not to join at anytime, by the CSM (Company Sgt Major). So he was not too impressed at being told to assign me to the CSB team.
So, my roommates were on another island, I was onto a cushy number, had no one to bother me, could sleep in most days and was getting tons of mail from Tina, back in Chatham, who was including plenty of saucy photos, to keep me going. In charge of the CSB Section, was one Corporal Farmer or Flapper Farmer to everyone who knew him better. Flapper was so laid back and easy going (from the West Country, so that may explain it) it was ridiculous. He gave not one shit for anyone higher ranking than he and to top it off, would get gloriously drunk at any time and given any opportunity.
Needless to say, he and I would get along famously and so well in fact that the next blog will be almost entirely dedicated to our exploits down South!