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.

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