Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Falklands War 1982

1st April 1982
Major Mike Norman RM, formally took control ofthe Falklands Garrison, from Major Gary Noott RM.
At 15.30hrs that day the Island Governor Mr Rex Hunt, showed the Officers a message from London - "An Argentine invasion fleet will be off Cape Pembrokeat first light tommorow. It is highly likely they will invade. You are to make appropriate dispositions".

2nd April 1982
At 09.30hrs the Island Governor informed London, that they "Have lots of new friends".
The Invasion force had landed, thousands of troops supported by Naval ships.

Margeret Thatcher organised an urgent meeting of all Forces.
The Falkland Islands would have to be taken back, a large force would have to set sail quickly, but are not expected to fight, as Argentine would back down.
Being 8000 miles away, Air cover would be paramount, the 'Jump Jet' Harriers would serve this purpose well.

There were no standing plans for such an operation, this would be left to ingenuity, flexibility and determination to succeed !!!

At 03.00hrs that morning, Major Roderick Macdonald was phoned to attend an urgent meeting, on arrival he found the room littered with maps of the Falkland Islands.
The Brigadier explained the situation and instructed 59 Indep Cdo Sqn RE to deploy to sea within 72 hours.
59 Cdo Squadron had just returned from Norway, most were home on leave.
All leave was cancelled, men away on trade courses, or at meetings abroad, were all called back.
Vehicles and equipment were still being brought home from Norway.

The next 3 days were frantic, un-packing and re-packing, then un-packing again, to change to containers for loading on ships.
Even at this early stage, it was deemed that normal vehicles would not be able to operate on the Falklands, due to the terrain and boggy grounds.
Each man would have to carry his own personal equipment, plus weapons and stores.

Engineer stores were despatched from Central stores and loaded onto ships - Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, HMS Hermes, MV Elk and Atlantic Conveyor.
Stores were being loaded, even as the ships were making ready to leave.

5th April 1982
The Squadron embarked on Sir Percivale and Sir Lancelot at 14.00hrs iin Southampton.
Sir Galahad left Plymouth with 196 men of the Squadron.

The first few days were to settle-in aboard ship and set-up routines.
The Officers met regularly, to check on latest news available, to organise physical routines, the squadron has to be fit to fight.
More concerting was the lack of transport, men would have to carry massive kit loads and be ready to breach minefields.
Emphasis was placed on the Quarter Master staff to design a fighting order kit to suit each man, giving them the flexibility to operate as Engineers, but also as fighting Infantry as required.
All known types of Mines that Argentine had used in the past, plus a 'crash' course of all types of mine warefare was taught to every man. Along with weapon training and cleaning, getting to know the new Kit layout, nothing was left to chance. Aircraft recognition, Medical training, Weapons, Mine warfare lessons, physical exercise took over and kept the men busy every day.
As the ships sailed into stormy waters, troops fought against sea-sickness, training was important and could save their lives, if they had to fight to take the Falkland Islands back.

Most believed this was a waste of time, the fleet would turn back after a few days, the Argentines would back down. But still the ships sailed on.

Accommodation was very cramped, three tier high bunks, with only 2 feet of head room, only lying down or leaning to oneside was possible. With only 2 feet between each tier of bunks, space was very limited and the temperature was tropical, with so many bodies crammed into such a small area.
Meals were served in metal "doggy" style dishes, main course one side, dessert the other side, perfect, until the sea was rough, causing the flat bottomed ships to roll and pitch, then the treacle sponge pudding, slopped over into the main course, landing on top of the sausage and mash - Oh! well!! it all goes down the same way.

By the 17th / 19th April, the ships had travelled nearly 4000 miles and were closing with Ascension Island, the staging post.
Detailed gridden maps had arrived, including up to date info on the Islands.
Plans had been discussed, on how to attack the islands, which included backing landing ships into Douglas Harbour, on a full frontal attack.
Most plans were scrapped thankfully, due to lack of Artillery support, helicopter availability and Air cover.
The Crucial Landing Plan was still a way off.
So thoughts were put to Cross-decking troops and equipment, each troop of the squadron, would be attached to various Infantry Units, they had to be with these Units on landing, to help with mine warfare and obstacle clearance.

29th April - Ascension Island.
A British possession, 4250 miles from Britain, 3800 miles to the Falklands and 1200 miles from West Africa.
A volcanic outcrop Island, measuring only 62 square miles.
It is known for its Breeding of Sooty Terns, commonly known as "Wideawake".
The Island became known as Wideawake Island and during this Operation, it lived up to its name. The airfield was normally handling 3 flights per week, now it was handling 400 flights per day!!

Troops came ashore to practise Landing under full kit and to use the Firing Ranges. Practise, practise, going down ship cargo nets to the landing craft, then getting ashore quickly.
Weights were adjusted, to find the perfect load capacity and layout, to permit moving distances, fighting all the way.
With no capacity on the Island, for men to stay, they moved back to the ships for meals and sleeping. Some troops never even had a chance to land, they were trapped on-board.

The Island was quickly becoming a massive Stores dump, Food, Equipment and ammunition.

Options for Attacking were constantly being planned and changed, as more news filtered in from the SAS & SBS on the Islands.

Ships were converted to accept helicopters, or have Machiune guns mounted to the railings.
Thousands of sandbags were filled and put on ships for landing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pride of Britain Award 2006

Special Recognition
59 Independent Commando Squadron RE

The widespread devastation and loss of life following the catastrophicearthquake in South Asia in 2005 was enormous.
Up to 75,000 people lost their lives; roads, water and power supplies were obliterated; hundreds of thousands of people from Afhanistan to Western Bangladesh were left homeless.
Among the worst hit areas was Pakistan - administered Kashmir, homes were annilated and the mountain regions were cut-off, whilst they scrambled to find people, bury their dead and ward off hunger and disease.
With the bitter Winter approaching, it was vital that the International Community acted fast.
Among the NGO's and expert teams, 76 members of 59 Indep. Commando Squadron arrived in the Bagh region to bring Aid and help rebuild communities.
With the help of 10 Royal Marines, the team helpedensure local people receivedthe Medical treatment they required, by building 17 Health Centres - including one for the World Health Organisation.
Determined to ensure youngsters could continue their education, they also built 30 large School Shelters, including one to replace a Girls School, 6000 feet above sea level.
Despite the Sub-zero temperatures and high altitude, they distributed food and clothing to remote areas, during the 10 weeks the team were there.
During the return from one Mountain area, the team came across an 11 vehicle Aid convoy, trapped behind a 'jack-knife' lorry, all vehicles were perilously close to the edge of a sheer drop. Using their 4-wheel drive vehicles and their experience, the team moved the Aid vehicles to safety and opened the road, for further Aid vehicles to flow through.
GOAL Chief Executive John O'Shea stated "The assistance of the British Armymeant we could get on with delivering essential supplies, to the most vulnerable in earthquake-ravaged Bagh, we are in-debited to the British Army".
Commander of the Disaster Relief Team in Pakistan - Air Vice Marshall Andrew Walton CBE, stated the Squadron's work was essential in the reconstruction project.
Secretary of State for Defence - Des Browne stated "The outstanding work they did in helping the devasted people of Kashmir, is a shining example of all that is best about our Military".
He further added "The headlines are understandably dominated by stories of our troops dedication and courage in battle - and when called opon to battle, they are un-surpassable. Behind the headlines, our people are even busier saving lives, with the same quiet professionalism and determination".
The actions of 59 Indep. Commando Squadron Engineers, typifies this spirit and reminds us why our Forces make us all so proud.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

59 Squadron converted to 59 Independent Commando Squadron, carrying forward the Squadron Infrastructure.
59 Squadron existed with:
1, 2, & 3 Troops, Support Troop, Squadron Headquarters and REME LAD.

Commando Training was started in 1970, mainly volunteers intially.
By early 1971, an extra Troop was required, to support 45 Commando RM. These were drawn from BAOR volunteers, presently undertaking the Commando training, this troop became Condor Troop. Based in Arbroath with 45 Commando RM.

2 Troop, which became known as Malta Troop, was the next fully Commando Troop.

Initially, the volunteers who formed the first two troops, had to forsake their original Trades, to cover Combat Engineers roles, to fulfill the Troop quoters.
Later, the Squadron could become more selective in their choices of men and trades.
Filing roles such as Clerks, became difficult.
Those who had served with 59 Fd Sqn and did not want to become Cdo, were posted out.
As more volunteered for the RE Cdo Course, the failure rate on the Beat-up at 29 Cdo RA, became alarmingly high.

There was no set schedule to become Fully Green Beret.
The Squadron moved as fast as possible, to get as many through the Cdo Course.
By December 1973, over 95% of the Squadron was Green Beret, all Blue Beret had been shed and the Squadron went 'light' by the 5%.
Getting REME and ACC through the Cdo course was extremely difficult, so the Squadron had to retain those un-willing to do the Cdo Course.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Seaton Barracks

When Joe Hogan arrived in Plymouth Railway Station, he phoned the Squadron to ask for transport and was promptly told "It is only a short run to the base - DO NOT be late for Parade", he has never forgotten his Welcome to 59 Indep Cdo sqn RE!!

On arrival at Block 6 in Seaton Barracks, he had just enough time to change into his Boots / Denims and Red Vest, leave his kit in the Block entrance and run to the Parade Ground, then straight off on his first run round Looseliegh, accompanied by:

Mick Melia - later a Welder in Sp trp - he died at Goose Green with H. Jones.
Brummy Buchan - later a Driver with MT - he died in a car accident.
Steve (Taff) Stokoe - later 1 Trp
Alan Kearns - later MT in Sp Trp
Chalkie White - later Sp Trp
Joe Stoddart - later 2 Trp - he was WO1 on the course, later Diving School.
Peter Berladyn - later 1 Trp - he died in car accident.
Peter (Jock) Smith - later MT
Ginge ??? - he failed the course
Benyon Stocken - REME Wksps

The Beat-up staff at Crownhill Fort was:

Sgt Jock Gray and L/Cpl Geordie Wilkinson.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Commando Idea was Born


The term Commando originates from the South African War of 1899-1902. The Boers had no regular forces, apart from the Staat Artillery, which was officered by Dutch and Germans and their Police. Consequently they raised bands of men based on electoral districts.
They were called Commandos and each man was responsible for providing his own horse and received no pay or uniform. Commando tactics were marked by lightning strikes on the British Forces, with the Boers fading away into the veldt before the British could react.
Although by October 1900, the British had virtually defeated the Boers in the field, it was the activities of the Commandos, who would not surrender, which would cause the war to drag on for a further 18 months. Little note was taken of the Boer method of fighting, it was merely considered guerrilla warfare, in which regular armies did not indulge.
In 1940 Sir Winston Churchill was concerned that an offensive spirit must be fostered of the already formed independent companies and wrote the following to the Chief of Staff:

The Commando Idea was born.

June 3rd 1940
“The completely defensive habit of mind, which has ruined the French, must not be allowed to ruin all our initiative. It is of the highest consequence to keep the largest numbers of German forces all along the coasts of the Countries that have been conquered, and we should immediately set to work to organise raiding forces on these coasts. Enterprises must be prepared with specially trained troops by the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror first of all on the butcher and bolt policy.
August 25th 1940
“If we are to have any campaign in 1941 it must be amphibious in its character and there will certainly be many opportunities of minor operations all of which will depend on surprise landings of lightly equipped mobile forces accustomed to work like packs of hounds. For every reason therefore we must develop the storm troop or commando idea. I have asked for 5,000 parachutists and we must also have at least 10,000 of these small “bands of brothers” that will be capable of lightning action.
The concept of a ‘Commando’ force, as an integral part of the British Army, was the brainchild of Major J C Holland – Royal Engineers, part of GS(R) in the War Office 1940.
The Commando Units were formed into Independent Companies, consisting of many RE’s.
As the war progressed, the Commando’s specialised in Amphibious operations and lessons learnt from their experiences, provided knowledge for Operation Overlord – Amphibious Assault in Normandy.