Special Guest to our 2012 Reunion Royal Marine and now Cheif Inspector Tony Green
HMS Brilliant RM Detachment 84/85 and 8Trp Zulu Company 45 Commando April 1982
Photograph taken on board HMS Intrpid whilst Razzing with Stromness before landings
Dits from Brilliant 84/85
I recall watching the launch of the Space Shuttle off Florida in 1985 (still have the pics). The USS Iowa doing a fire power demo in the Western Approaches in 85 too. We also got involved in a fight with the local Plods at El Ferrol in Spain in 85, our leaving piss up in Den Helder when the Can Man and half the PO’s Mess squeezed into the barracks and then he barfed into a bucket and the Booties did someting unmentionable with it just to prove a point, as one did in the idiocy of youth!
I recall Captain Geoffrey Biggs, ex submariner, with his t-shirt adorned with the motto “there’s no depth I won’t sink to” as he escorted a young Brazillian lady to his cabin at Belem.
Another memory was the Corp Birthday on the 28th October, 1984, at Rosie Roads, Puerto Rico, when the ships company laid a meal on for their Booties to which the Captain and Jimmy came. Rob Fuller, a Killick RO, marched into the Galley with his guys and delivered a little ditty designed (as ever) to take the piss out of the Royals, and I responded with equal but good natured sarcasm.
The first time we put to sea from Guzz, I think it was Topsy or “Henry” Cooper, the paint store guy, was sat opposite me and deliberately allowed the biggest, greasiest piece of burger, dribbling fat, to hang from his mouth while he stared intently at me. This was as the roll of the ship became more noticeable; I went up on deck for some fresh air after that. The Matelot’s all pissed themselves as I did so.
In the summer of 84 we followed some Soviet warships right up North into the Arctic Circle. During a RAS our RFA tanker collided with our starboard signal deck and totally fucked it. The Navigating Officer was stood on the Bridge Flat looking stupid in front of us telling Biggs he couldn’t possibly go back on the bridge because he felt stupid. This was all happening infront of the RAS party. Eventually, the captain could take no more of his protestations and ordered him back on to the bridge. He then turned to us and said “Stupid Cunt” and wandered off. He wasn’t called Beasty Biggs for nothing
Andy Coles and I (another Booty) went ashore in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a prezzie buying exped, ended up getting totally shit faced and decided that we were going to the party in the PO’s Mess that night. To us it was simple, we cleaned their fucking mess up every day, the least they could do was treat us to a couple of CSB’s. Sadly, it was not to be. We had gone from steely eyed Arctic Warfare trained killers to piss pot jerking in their Mess. The next day, we were summonsed for the bollicking but simply got a slap on the wrist from the PO Cook who was a short rotund (fat) guy with a beard and we all had a laugh about it.
On the way to Canada, over the Grand Banks where the Titanic went down, it was really foggy. The Brilliant suddenly went hard astern, watertight doors were slammed shut and a collision appeared imminent. It turned out we had almost collided with another STANAVFORLANT ship. Out of the mist, the German ship then came up the port side. The RN Commodore said “Here’s the Germans coming to shoot the survivors”.
Stevie Outram was a great guy too and probably posher and wealthier than most of the officers on board with a cut glass English accent nurtured in post colonial Kenya.
Accounts of the Falkalnds
I was a 19 year old Booty in 8 Trp, Zulu Company, 45 Commando, in April, 1982. We were due to go on Easter leave on Friday the 2nd. Instead we got a shake about 04:00 and were told to fall in at Company HQ. Our leave was going to be delayed by several hours but the Bosses expected to get us away later that day in any event. As we know now, that never came to pass!
Zulu Company sailed from Rosyth on the 5th of April on board the RFA Resource and arrived at Ascension Island about 10 days later. I remember looking at the assemblage of British naval might and feeling very proud, very reassured and almost invincible. We then cross decked onto one of the RFA LSL’s, then onto the Canberra and finally onto the Intrepid, allegedly 1000 miles east of Buenes Aries preparatory to the landings.
As we approached the Falklands the action station warnings began and the those nice Matelot chappies used to close the hatches on us, locking us into a potentially watery tomb. Not very reassuring I can tell you. On one air raid we mistakenly believed the chaff launchers going off was the approach of a torpedo / missile. The collective intake of breath was clearly audible as we waited for the impact before we realised what it was.
On the mornings of the landings, we left the Intrepid in landing craft in San Carlos water for Ajax Bay. I was amazed; it was just like being back in Scotland. The papers at home had us all storming the beach firing from the hip. The reality was less exciting. I was carrying my bergen of about 100lbs, a LMG, 23lbs, and 4 mortar bombs, weight unknown but heavy. I waddled ashore.
I then heard the sirens of the assembled ships start up. Where I was brought up, near the docks at Hartlepool, ships sirens meant celebration and, naievely I thought the Argentinians had thought better of taking us on. After all, Royal had arrived and their chances were clearly very slim if none existent. Not quite as it happened.
“Fucking Hell, what was that”? “That” was a Skyhawk, or a Mirage; whatever it was it was fast, low and clearly meant business. And so it was was for the next 6 days or so until 45’s Yomp began. In that time I saw the Antelope blow up which was surreal. We were stood too at dusk which is standard military practice. There was a flash of light and I thought we were in for a wet night, mistaking it for lightning. It turned out to be the UXB exploding in her hull and I watched the unbelievable sight of my fellow country men and service colleagues jumping for their lives off the arse end in Once Only suits. She (the Antelope) cracked, burned, exploded and suffered all night. The next morning I watched fascinated as her back broke and she sank emitting massive clouds of steam into the Bay. Her bow and stern stood proud, reminding me of the Invincibles demise at Jutland (my anorak side) before they finally disappeared too. From my perspective I had just watched a British Man o’ War succumb to the enemy and was absolutely amazed. That said, I never doubted for one minute we would win.
One morning we were stood too and I had the LMG stripped when the sirens started up again. I saw 4 or 5 dots appear in formation down the bottom of the valley travelling at tremendous speed toward us. Predictably all hell broke loose and the Matelots were pumping 1000’s of rounds into the air. I can still see it now; a big fuck off Mirage / Dagger, belly up towards our position, contour flying up the hill. port wing down and my foresight a couple of inches in front of it and pumping rounds at it. And then it was gone. Amazingly, I never heard a thing, normally I would have been deafened by the gun but with the adrenalin I just shut down to auto pilot and my no.2 and I just did what the training dictated.
I was there when the Argy was shot down, ejected into the Bay, was rescued and taken to the Fearless. One of our lads was determined to shoot him down as he wafted towards earth in his parachute but was restrained by a SNCO. By that point in mitigation we were getting a bit pissed off with the bombing runs.
The Battle of Two Sisters was the most frightening experience of my life. I have been a copper for over 22 years and seen and done a lot in the police. But that night remains the defining moment of my life.
As we (45 Commando) approached the feature in total darkness the Argentinians were putting up starshell and as the rounds sank to the ground we dropped with them to disguise our presence by minimising our shadows. We could hear our batteries some miles behind us firing, heard the faint whisper of the shells passing over us and then saw them landing on Mount Longdon which by then was well underway. Longdon was silhouetted and the fire fight was awesome to witness. It was our turn soon enough.
We formed up at Murrell Bridge and no sooner had Zulu Company’s advance started up the feature than the FUP was hit by their artillery fire. Lucky or what? As we advanced up the slope I was fully expecting to be wiped out out at any second by concealed machine gun fire. After several minutes of advance we went to ground. I could hear one of the lads whispering he could see an Argentinian and asking permission to kill him. Then a flare was thrown from a machine gun position to the right and about 50yds ahead of me and then it started firing down the hill at us. Our Sergeant shouted to the GPMG gunner to put bursts down. Instinctively the gunner did 3 to 5 round bursts and the sergeant screamed “Fucking bursts” and the gunner responded with 20 /30 round bursts and before long the used spare red hot barrels were mounting up on the ground. At this point we returned a wall of fire. I recall the 50cal tracer rounds passing over us with a thwack, thwack, thwack.
Then we started to get mortared and I was convinced I was about to die. The mortars were landing further across the slope among Zulu Company leaving 2 dead and several seriously wounded. One of our RA Battery guns had gone rogue and the Glamorgan (God Bless Her) started giving us naval gunfire support and was hit with an Exocet for doing so. (I met a former sailor off the Glamorgan in October, shook his hand and thanked him).
Our Troop Commander stood up and shouted “Are we not Zulu” or something similar, someone replied “get down you silly cunt” and then we were off charging up the hill like a bunch of screaming nutters. I was told to throw a grenade at that fucking 50cal which was still tormenting us. It had been the target of an 84 mm and 66mm AT rockets. I took the pin out on my back, whilst still on the ground and was up and down in a nano second. When it exploded the fragments caught my Section Commander and ultimately he was casevacced out having done a superb job. One of the Argies killed at the HMG post was called Gomez according to something I have read since.
We continued the charge and at this point we had all turned into ferocious, aggressive killing machines. I recall standing in the entrance to rock built bunkers and sangers and simply firing into them regardless of the feelings of those inside. Simply put, we were primeval, incredibly violent and I hardly recognised myself.
When we got up on top of the feature we were amazed to see Port Stanley all lit up. We could also see retreating enemy in the valley below with shells landing among them. Zulu Company regrouped under a rock bluff and then moved off. Within seconds the bluff was hit by enemy artillery, the rock face multiplying the shrapnel effect and again our luck held!
Being on the receiving end of shelling, friendly or otherwise is an amazing experience. The shell announces its arrival with a fearsome scream overhead, followed by a seconds silence and then a crack like thunder, mud, rock and with God knows what flying all over the place and landing on us too. I have subsequently read that Two Sisters was hit by 1500 shells that night and even now, all these years on the scarring and cratering is still there.
That nights work on Two Sisters took almost 3 hours and we were meant to go on and attack Tumledown Mountain behind us. Thank fuck that was called off. I was on sentry the next night and heard the attack going in by the Scots Guards. Two Sisters was expected to be the toughest nut to crack of the 3 mountains attacked that night but our CO, Col Whitehead, was master of his trade and ensured he had a superb battle plan which he put to good use.
The next morning I was, for spares, cleaning blood and snot off an LMG from one of the lads wounded in the mortar fire. General Moore arrived and made his way up the hill, he was to my right and about 25 / 30ft away. He stopped and looked at me and I looked back, not defiantly, not with insurbordination, just with interest. I think he recognised I had changed overnight and had become one of his “Vets”.