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Open Features: The Falklands War - 2

Former Yorkshire Post chief reporter Derek Hudson, later publishing editor of Writers’ News and Writing Magazine, continues his account of experiences with British troops during the Falklands Campaign which ended on June 14 1982 when Argentine forces on the islands surrendered.

With an Olympia portable typewriter strung round my neck, 200 rounds of
ammunition in one hand and two mortar bombs in the other, I headed down the
ladders of HMS Intrepid into the packed landing craft, carrying A Company,
3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, as an Argentine air attack neared.

The cry went out: "Air Alert Red." Mirages, Skyhawks and Pucaras were
heading our way. We should have gone ashore before daybreak, but delays
meant that we dropped into four feet of chilled water and clawing kelp under
the full spotlight of a bright dawn.

Once ashore, soaked as high as the chest, fleeing Argentine troops shot
down two British Gazelle helicopters, killing three crewmen. Just behind us
skilled, courageous Argentine pilots attacked British vessels in San Carlos
Water, soon known as Bomb Alley, inflicting heavy damage.

The suffering was
not one-sided, and few had gloated earlier at the news that the elderly
Argentine warship General Belgrano had been torpedoed with the loss of 323

Local women served mugs of mutton broth, Michael McLeod, 18, offered troops
the loan of his Suzuki motorbike, his father William, 52, crow-barred some
tin fencing for the roof of my shared slit trench, made more comfortable by
a borrowed patch of red carpet and a sheepskin rug.
With three other other journalists, I found better cover in the Port San
Carlos single men's bunkhouse, and we were soon digging an impressive
air-raid shelter for 15 people in sloping ground behind the flimsy building.
On a return visit three years later, I found the shelter still in good

Then, on May 27, 1982, Brigadier Julian Thompson, commander, 3 Commando
Brigade, ordered a move forward, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hew Pike's 3 Para
crossed 20 miles of difficult terrain to Teal Inlet, a community of 20
people in the middle of 110,000 acres and 22,000 sheep. The 33-hour slog led
to 14 cases of exposure, and one man shot himself in the shoulder with a
"negligent discharge".

I hitched a ride in a helicopter to join them. The men of 45 Commando, who
took a longer route, arrived at Teal later, having suffered a number of
sprained ankles and strained muscles.

As the Marines stumbled towards shelter in a large wool-shed, some dropped
their rucksacks, to be picked up later, but other soldiers and we Pressmen
did this for them, helping those who limped over the last 100 yards.

3 Para's next objective was Estancia House, the home of Tony and Ailsa
Heathman, aged 32 and 23, and their one-year-old daughter, Nyree. As 30
Paras at a time queued to use the bathroom, the peat burning stove was
festooned with drying socks. Three British 105mm guns were soon in action on
Estancia Mountain, overlooking objectives soon to become familiar names back
in Britain: Mount Longden, Mount Harriet, Two Sisters, Tumbledown Mountain,
Wireless Ridge, Sapper Hill and Mount William.

Here I was reminded that enemy fire is challenging enough without facing
so-called friendly fire. Trekking back from a briefing near Estancia's
summit, with a Royal Engineers Officer, and a Para signals corporal, we took
a different route to avoid splashing through a stream, and getting our feet

Two Paras appeared, carrying submachine guns, and one yelled: "For ****'s
sake, keep to the proper path where you can be seen. We thought you were the
******* Argies and you could have been wasted, blown away." Shaken, we
promised them, and each other, we would take better care.

Next stop, Mount Kent, where I learned to recognise incoming 155mm shell
fire and outgoing 105mm, although my instincts were not always spot on
because a Marine captain remarked as I dived behind a rock: "I admire your
agility, Mr Journalist, but that was outgoing fire." Better safe than
splattered, I thought, having mistaken a "whooshy" sound for a "who-eer", or
something like that.

Then a treat, a helicopter visit to HMS Fearless to file a story, enjoy a
shower, a steak dinner with a pint of cold beer and half a bottle of red
before a good night's sleep in a camp bed.
Also crashed out in the wardroom, were other assorted visitors, including
some SAS and SBS (Special Boat Service) types.

Journalists, having the honorary rank of captain, but obviously not wearing
pips, were mostly kitted out in Royal Marines Arctic warfare clothing. When
I popped outside on to the deck for a gulp of fresh air, a diesel submarine,
used to carry special forces ashore, was moored alongside. A voice announced
from the gloom: "Ready for you to board, sir. You can use that hatch."

"Sorry, wrong man, " I mumbled leaving the damp, black night for the cosy

Surely, the submariner had not mistaken a middle-aged hack for a master
warrior. It really was dark out there.

Excursion over, I returned to my "sangar" on Mount Kent, a personal little
fortification of rocks and peat chunks.
Argentine forces were well dug in behind their barricades and rocky outcrops
on a string of hills outside the islands’ little capital of Stanley.

On the night of June 11-12, 1982, the British advanced, and 3 Para's objective was Mount Longden. The Paras fought for more than 10 hours, and lost 23 men killed, with 47 wounded, during the battle and the shelling which followed. Yorkshireman Sergeant Ian McKay, 29, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his valour during a grenade attack on a machine-gun nest.

Our stay at Brigade headquarters on Mount Kent was disturbed by the Fuerza
Aeria Argentina. In their best-selling paperback, Don't Cry For Me Sergeant
Major, Daily Express-man Robert McGowan and ITN reporter Jeremy Hands, both
of whom have since died, described this attack, and I do believe they were
taking the mickey:
"Smoke trails announced the arrival of four Argentine jets. McGowan shouted
out: 'What the ****. Run like hell."Everyone did, just as the terrifying
rattle of the Skyhawks' cannon began. The jets dropped parachute-delayed
1,000lb bombs across the Brigade area as newsmen and troops alike fell on
top of each other in any muddy bolt-hole they could find. After the
warplanes had made their first sweep and were banking for a second, a
plaintive Yorkshire voice cut right through the tension and set half a dozen
trenches rocking with laughter. 'Scuse me, ' said Derek Hudson, in all
seriousness because he alone had apparently thought it improper to dive for
cover without ceremony on top of someone else in a trench. 'Mind if I come

As I said at the time,”Robert, old lad, it was a joke”, an attempt at mock
stiff upper lip humour. Nothing could have kept me out of that refuge.

Troops with Blowpipe missiles or machine guns fired back. Splinters of
metal, rock and peat clumps flew, but the only casualty was a case of
concussion. But Brigade Headquarters had to move, and as the hacks set up
camp on a higher slope, excited Marines hit us with a hail of snowballs and
great news. Hurling snowballs back, we were all swept along by euphoria.

"The Argies are jacking it in. There are white flags flying in Stanley, " an
excited radio operator told us.


This article first appeared in the Yorkshire Post.


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