A history podcast that explores the narratives, turning points and characters that shape conflicts, encompassing a blend of social and military history. Following on from the series on the Falklands War, best-selling military historians Patrick Bishop, and Saul David turn their attention to the war in Ukraine.
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Tue, 02 Aug 2022 01:00
Steve Hoyland, who in 1982 was a parachute-qualified radio operator in the Royal Artillery’s 148 Commando Battery, gives a hair-raising account of his time on operations with the Special Forces during the campaign.
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Hello and welcome to a special bonus episode of Battleground the Faulklands War with me, Saul David and Patrick Bishop. Today we're going to play an extended interview with Steve Hoyland who in 1982 was a parachute qualified radio operator in the Royal Artillery's 148 Commando battery. Okay thanks Steve thanks so much for agreeing to appear on the podcast. So if we can start off with you just telling me your rank and unit in 1982 and then a little bit about how you got down to the Faulklands. 1982 I was a radio operator first class bracket general which means I was a sparker so I was responsible for radio communications as opposed to tactical or flag communications. I'd been in 148 battery since the previous April I'd done the Commando course followed by a lengthy naval gun fire assistant course which included communications, artillery spotter, naval gun fire assistant and artillery signaler. I'd then got on to do peak company in the January of 1982. I actually had my 21st birthday on peak company. Another guy in the battery port and I'd gone down into all the shop with one plastic bag full of trousers, one plastic bag full of shirts, all of them full of mud. We put them into the long dress, went out of the pint, went back put them in the dryer, went back and had another pint and then went back to camp ready for the steeple chase the next morning and that was my 21st birthday. From there straight to Brise Norton on paracourse and then back to pool Friday morning we were due to leave on leave that afternoon so the previous evening we'd opened down the town for a bit of a session as you can imagine and then the duty battery security hardly came in until as we were off to the foreclums and we had to go to the block and be there in the next 20 minutes. We all thought it was a wind up so we all had packed to sleep. He came back about 10 minutes later and said the sound made just as you got to be over there in five minutes. We threw loads of boots at him and that sort of thing and then everybody sort of leaned upon one's shoulder and looked at each other and thought the worst. So we all already got dressed, went across how to breathe from the the sound major that we were all off to the foreclums and we should be prepared to move within hours. In the actual event I didn't leave until I think the middle of the next week on the Percival. We saw from Marchward to Southampton down to Ascension Island. At Ascension Island we were there for I think probably a week or so. We did naval gunfire training with some of the ships just to get their ops teams up to speed because some of them hadn't practiced for quite a while. As you can imagine any sort of gunry or any sort of training is cyclic. Some of them just finished gunry training down at the forest so they were pretty well up to speed. Some of the others had been on other tasks so we needed to get them up to standard. I remember one particular day we went on ancient Santa Lope and it was the final gunry training. I think she did before she went down south but we had a great time on board. We had a great relationship with the guys on board and later on when she was sunk it did have a bit of an impact on us because we knew quite a lot of them very well. Also on Ascension we did the usual sort of ranges, route marches etc to get ourselves up to speed. It was a little bit odd and that Ascension was near the equator. The heat was intense. It was doing a CFT then and then going down south where it was essentially winter was old but yeah I mean we take it one extreme to another. We've been Arctic train. We've been desert trained and jungle trained so it's just another day in the office really. At Ascension we transferred down to fearless or onto fearless rather and then we sailed south to the TZ on fearless. There'd already been some some ingest taking place as we were on route. Obviously South Georgia taking place with one for a battery involved with two to SAS on Pebble Island to take out the airfield there. The news of that and the success of it had already gotten back to us anyway so we were all quite on a high really. It had been the first time in G.S. I think it had been used since probably career but we were all very enthused about it because it had been so effective. On the stories we were getting back or the information rather we were getting back through our party boss. It had been effective. It had been the right place. It had been timely so when it had been asked for it had been the issue surrounded in G.S. and we'll go on to them a bit later on. I'll know about it. Small orbs available. Various things can affect it so C state anything above C state 4 perhaps 5. The gun will probably go out of angles and out of its arcs and won't be able to engage the target necessarily so if it's rough weather it can be a real issue. The availability of the ship itself if it comes under air attack or some other attack it will somewhat sufficiently defend itself before providing fire towards but understandably perhaps but the fact that it had been so successful down there it booded well for what we were going to do later on I think so we were on quite a high. When we got down there we transferred from HMS Fearless to HMS Antrim and Antrim had already done some deception NGS for various other places and she'd been on support I think for some of the retis that had gone in from SF pride to that as well so she was already grounded whereas we were sort of a threshold for both no pun intended. On Antrim everybody shook out we met up with the guys from Poole the SPS guys and a couple of guys from Herrahford who brought along a 50 millimetre mortar which was a and it was a very new thing I think it was actually on trial still but still very useful but yeah we all shook out got all our gear packed we went down to the dining hall where they very kindly put a scale hanging from the deck head so we could weigh our kit everybody out well over a hundred odd pounds just in a bergen and then with your weapon and your weapon on top of that it was it was quite a load to the extent that when we actually gone on to the helicopter and it was Antrim's helicopter we were going to shore in initially which was nicknamed Humphrey I'm flown by left tendon I think at the time Parry we were late to obviously went on to be an admiral but yeah we crowded in it didn't necessarily go according to the the manifest because people were in and out the helicopter literally couldn't get off the deck with seven of us I think in there with all our kit Bernan Martin it's an anti submarine helicopter it's got lots of anti submarine equipment in it already so it was Wessex III as opposed to Wessex V and Wessex V is the Commando variant and is basically a shell so you can get more and more troops and equipment in it I think it carries 16 off Tomahead but certainly the the poor Wessex III struggled couldn't get off the deck a couple of guys jumped out with their kit I think he managed a low hover then but I don't think he was particularly happy with it so loved it again I think another guy got off on any end I think there are only four of us went in in the helicopter um later on they must get a Wessex V I think for the fearless and that sort of with that helping it we sort of started to catch up a bit on time but given the initial issues with weight and everything I think we were still quite well behind when we initially landed um as we landed we're about four kilometers from our fun in head on the top of a ridge slightly downside from Port San Carlos so we were to the east purely because we knew the enemy were at Port San Carlos what we didn't want to do was obviously we skydlying to them and be able to be engaged by them from Port San Carlos positions in here there it took quite a while for everybody to get a shore and we had to make more trips them were perhaps necessary but purely because they are available to the aircraft and the delay initially in getting going um as we were going along we were on the the backside of the ridge as I say contouring the ridge down towards funning it and it was um it was quite hard going the ground itself very much like Skull and Dore or you know Penny fan places like that lots of tussic rust baby steds to break your ankles lots of mud peat rocks so it was quite difficult ground and in the darkness um yeah it was a bit of a struggle um we were all in a a commando snake as they call it so they're all in single file you couldn't be too spaced out because you'd lose touch with a guy in front of you and so ordinarily where you know we don't like to be bunched as infantry soldiers but we have to be fairly close to each other it was a tactical decision and it was the right decision I think at the time well we weren't actually really engaging anything on the enemy as far as we knew didn't know we were there yet although they kind of failed to notice the noise from the helicopter going in and up um yeah we we would go perhaps only a few hundred meters and then after I've got a quick rest and if you did sit down it took the two guys next year to haul you back up with all your kit and likewise you know it went on down the chain everybody was the same when we got down to the end of the ridge and we were then on the spur over looking fun in head it started to get quite light um we knew they were there they knew we were there by then I think I can't also remember how it sort of got initiated but I suspect it was probably for a man to him anyway um we we did have a captain Rod Bell with us from the Marines he had a marine with him who was carrying his loud speakers he wanted to go forward to get the Argentine's to surrender uh lawdable but uh in you know in hindsight perhaps not the the best idea if you're going to start a war yet the talk is already been done if you're a sure you know it's just going to happen get on with it and because it was light we were on a very exposed position you couldn't dig in because it was it was just rock um a thin layer of peat and then just rock underneath so yeah it was it wasn't a popular decision I think with anybody that especially the seniors many of them very experienced so uh he went forwards he got no response I don't think anyway um and then there was some sort of desultry firing from from their locations um after that he came back and it was decided that they'd had enough you know we couldn't get them to surrender we observed someone start to move towards us there was nobody with hands up they were trying to move his father him and uh and I can't be 100% to be quiet once but if they weren't tactically uh moving then they were certainly you know not showing themselves to be obviously surrendering um and then started firing then so my boss uh human man has brought down some fire as a demonstration so we aimed off from where they were and it was one of the one of those of our story is demonstration so you don't need to blow everything up or destroy everything you know you can neutralize things this psychological aspect of it this of the harassment aspect of it so destruction isn't always the aim and it's seldom the aim to be honest but um as a demonstration 10 rounds of 4.5 inch going off in the night very loud psychologically intimidating for us and we were on their side but um yeah it's uh and the noise as well reverberating rather rocks and the features it was really really loud Andrew and Cal have been that far away I don't think at the time because the uh the sort of the the crumb from earth firing didn't arrive very much after the crumb of the actual detonations going off um anyway could a long story short we uh we started to get a bit further into the the fly fight they're starting to fly back they're not giving up um they did have some mortars that they were morteners with I don't think they were particularly effective because I don't think they knew exactly where we were um from a perspective of their observation so the guys in front of us obviously knew where they were but getting that message back to the mortars and getting them ranged onto us I think there was uh they may have been an issue or a disconnect there uh having said that coming under fire it's not fun anyway um the guys we had with us the 50 mortar was going uh we have 6 gpm g's with us uh they were all firing and they were all quite closely packed together as well so the sound from that go that was very impressive um obviously we're off to conserve ammunition but we still want to do the uh we still want to to take the effect to the enemy so um yeah there was a lot of fire going down uh eventually it sort of it drizzled out as a fire fire really by that stage uh andramid fired nearly a couple hundred rounds mostly in in some of those of 10 um and mostly fused air bursts so proximity to burst over a target as opposed to um um point detonating if we're 5 point detonating onto the target if we'd hit a rock it would have been great it'd have gone off caused widespread damage if it had gone into the pit and detonated uh then most of the effect would be taken up by the pit and there'd be very little explosive effect very little killing effect so air burst was ideal the ground is pretty waterlogged uh all the rocks are wet anyway so the radar fuse and the proximity round would get a good return so it will almost invert in fact if it doesn't malfunction it will go off and it will go off an appreciable height over the target so the effect is more widespread the splinters travel further and certainly the sounds and the concussive wave is greater as well um yeah it was uh it was very light by then um like I say the fire is sort of the fireflight dissipated out rather than anything else um we were getting very little fire from them if any and then it stopped uh a couple of them came forward and surrendered um one of them was a corporal um we then used him as a guide for the first clearance patrol that went out um i went out with that patrol we went down to the north like on the southeast um corner or fanning head i mean contoured round to the east and then to the north as we went we found one Argentinian um he was seriously wounded at the other um a massive leg wound uh and he was gray and we thought he was on his last legs to be quite honest there was a little discussion about well if we're two you're going forward on a patrol we're leaving somebody potentially behind as you can point out where we've gone and so on so forth um it didn't last very long the we radioed from the medic and the the second patrol with the medic came out and looked after him and he did survive a third later which was great um from there we went down to uh the coast uh to the north east of fanning head which overlooked uh forkland sound by this stage we'd seen all the ships coming past and they'd all gone round in port san carlos the landings had already begun there were still ships coming past and coming through um and some of those we could see the matlow's roll at the sort of action stations that began to go on with their anti flashes on so when we came across the mortars then the the 105 recordous rifles at the Argentinians had um we were yeah we were loved to sort of blow them up or any damage in the case just been near them was enough for the the matlow's to sort of engage us um in the end we broke off of entries um and from the mortars they were just dismantled and thrown down from there the patrol carried on a little bit further to the east by then it was obvious that we weren't going to find very much more um we did come across one officer and a couple other guys the the officer it was deemed he should go back uh immediately uh to be questioned so myself and one of the guys from sps jant who was their signaler uh we started off back with the corporal we'd been our guide because he was very very tied at the time um on this officer um as we were going back there was some conflant between the officer and the uh the corporal um we didn't know what it was we didn't understand what he was saying but uh all of a sudden he sort of he made a beliant towards the corporal we know what was going on I dropped down through a bead on him I shouted to jane you know what he doing and uh jamm went forward wave them apart are the officer and basically we'd given the the corporal some dextrose tablets just to keep him going because he was so tired i need his colon miserable uh are the officer and basically demanded them all off him so he demanded he handed them over so uh he didn't get them needed to say um we firmly disabuse him of his position and we carried on back he was handed over question at the end uh what i remembered from there really is the urging times to start around uh in a hotel they were being questioned uh one by one by rod belt uh it was just the basic interior who are you what are you uh i think apart from the officer there wasn't a lot going on um we're not hired white band zon and white bandanas on by then so the powers that were going to come up through our area uh didn't shoot us and you were your friendly forces uh and the only memorable thing from there really that i remember is uh there was a ship out in the the middle of forklands sound by itself uh go keeping and i it would it would be one of the 22s i'm not entirely sure which one but um the sun had just come up at the east which is over my right shoulder i'm looking sort of 11 o clock ahead into the sound at this ship and all of a sudden there was a a white streak of smoke went straight up from the ship and then there was an explosion mid air and it was like a comic book explosion orange flames lots of black smoke lots of debris spinning out with black trails coming off uh the trailer white smoke actually carried on through the explosion and up into the the atmosphere but the the sliver of of sort of mirror that i've been on the top of it was all reduced by half size um obviously an aircraft had been shot down um but yeah it was just it was surreal uh especially given it was you know it was so quiet the light were like conditions beautiful anyway uh and the missile that was on the end of it had caught the storm and just looked like a little sliver of mirror but um yeah it was sad that somebody had been shot down but at the end of the day we've been in air raid warning red almost constantly we'd been looking out for it no aircrafted compasses as far as i remember but um you know that was my first night sure anyway we rustled the prisoners uh we were then ordered to go down to uh partridge valley which is a little reentrant that run down to the left uh as you're looking up fun and head from our position and then from the beach there there was a landing craft that picked up the prisoners and then took them back to i think cambera right you can uh Steve thanks so much for that i wonder if that that ship was well it sounds like it was one of the anti aircraft destroyers doesn't it i mean it was it was either yeah it was one of the 22 frigates uh and they had new guns on them anyway so uh and the one i'm assuming is that the the missile was a sea wolf yeah okay oh you think it was one of the 22s it could have been broadsword i think i mean broadsword was doing a lot of way i think it probably was yeah yeah i think broadsword and maybe butlax with the two that were down there that time yeah great great great great account Steve very pithy and uh you know and um and full of detail thanks so much for that that was great now can you tell me um just just move the story on now where where did you go next and what happened just just some of the more some of the other highlights basically of your time down there good and bad um after that i think the next thing i did was uh so we were on hmas plymoth uh she detached herself down to the south sailed down to the south of uh forkland sound um we were in a uh i think it was a rigid inflatable boat uh which we made a bore from the ship to be quite us but um overloaded we were all in dry bags so diving suits warm clothing underneath uh boots on top we improved smocks on top and a weapon belt on top if you had one with the pouches for for water and that and a day sack we got dropped off from the ship ships out onto the gun line we then made our way just off um the eastern coast of west forkland uh towards the entrance to fox bay doing into fox bay there's a little island called no biland and it's literally a rocky outcrop i think it's probably perhaps 100 meters across if that um but quite high and it's just it's solid rock all the way around the bottom and then above the the waterline it's just tussard grass and it's precariously clean there's no cover um and it's very exposed but we were going to set up our op on there um and then we were going to bring fire down on all the positions around fox bay there was a an airfield of fox bay that we knew the Argentinians had been using um and there was i can't remember if we had hard intelligence but there was a c130 i think there at the time um always suspected there was the positions had been marked out from previous wreckies i think mostly done from the air anyway um from some patrols that had been in the area from from various ssf organizations as we went into fox bay towards no biland uh the only island around there uh surrounded by kelp forest and kelp it's i mean the water's quite deep anyway because in place of the it's like northern stoland the the cliffs just dropped down sheer the for perhaps hundreds of feet and the kelp grows up accordingly so some of the kelp literally the the the stalks or the trunks were as thick as a man's thigh or thicker uh and they're absolutely dense so as we went in some of this kelp had wrapped itself around the propeller shaft uh or on the propeller other and then it actually comes to such an abrupt halt it had snapped the propeller shaft so it wasn't a question of it it streamed the blades or you know we could untangle it or anything regardless of whether we got it all untangled the the propeller shaft itself had snapped um because we'd been so overloaded uh we didn't have a second engine so there was no second engine as we got to no biland we managed to sort of keep the boat nose on to to no biland i jumped off over the bow of the nose and luckily i know that the the lifeline on the side because i went straight down and i was completely submerged under the water with my arm i'm nothing below my feet but kelp because we'd come up against just a rocky ledge and the the bow of the boat had bumped on that the guy who jumped out was holding the battle was lucky and like he was just on the edge of the ledge i didn't realise he wasn't either did he so when i jumped out i just went straight down the side of it but it's lucky i had hold of the lifeline because i'd just gone down with the burger on the back um managed to get up anyway when lana's and i made our way around to the north west side of the island and we just contoured around trying to keep in cover beyond the grass everything was pitch black and we got set up the radio would become waterlogged it's supposed to be waterproof down to one meter it never is and i put it down to my own inexperience to be quiet once that i should have waterproofed it better i should have bagged it up in a couple of waterproof bags bin liners whatever i could find but the result was that water had gone into it and we couldn't make it work so the sp guys out with us they had a vhf radio and we might have gotten touched with a ship on that again that that had water ingress in it between the batteries being wet everybody being sodden it'd been incredibly cold on the wind howling as well um we saw our mice to get some fire missions down from well from the boat the reason we'd uh with a band of nobile was because without the the the hf rather we didn't have the range to necessarily get to the ship with the the three three five one vhf because it's purely liners sighting and has a range of a few kilometers but in my plymoth's tens of kilometers away on the gun line we were never going to get there so from nobile and where we were there was no line of sight we're on the wrong side of the feature anyway to the ship so we're on the the northwest side of the island and the ships off to the south east on the gun line with the island between us so there was no way we could get caught from the island so decision was made back in the boat we'll go back uh it's start to get light as it usually does anyway and trying to get out against the wind and the current was going to be a real issue for us so back in the boat we're going to do fire missions from the boat which we did we carried out quite a few um everybody's taking turns paddling absolutely it was quite rough but it was incredibly cold everybody on hands like you know bags of broken eagle beaks it was you just couldn't feel your hands and they it had gone from from just being cold and uncomfortable to to genuine pain but not been able to to actually control you at your extremities we were struggling to get out like I say against the tide coming in so people were sat on the tubes the outside of the tubes paddling like a Y5O uh we managed to rig a poncho as a sort of kind of sail uh it was particularly effective because the wind wasn't really coming in the right direction for it but um in the end plimuth dropped off one of her boats she came in took us into even with that boat going full pelt and everybody else paddling it was still walking pace getting out of there obviously lights coming up plimuth should have been well off the gun light by then because obviously there was a great danger of air attack and a single ship by itself was going to be a particular interest um the type I think she's a type 16 plimuth but they had sea cat which was a very ineffective anti aircraft weapon I mean it was it was first generation really so not very effective at all the mark six guns that she had they're very good at anti aircraft but again you know multiple attacks rather exoscent missiles I'm not sure the guns would have been able to take out an exoscent missile so she she was in real risk but still remained behind to pick herself well past the time when she should have been off the gun line um because we wouldn't have gone out without that I don't think we'd have survived as she hadn't uh and I think her uh captain was was commended for it and and he certainly has our appreciation still but um back on board plimuth managed to get up to scrambled nets um taking down we low changed into to dry clothing that we left on board and then I don't remember anything else apart from waking up on the mess floor in one of that I think was the P.O.s mess uh because literally people are just dropped from exhaustion when we got back I suspect quite a few has probably had hyperfirmier as well but um even with the dry bags on the water still gets in you obviously got perspiration underneath which is essentially the same thing so um but yeah it was just it was an incredibly hard evening and hard night um for probably I'm not entirely sure we had a great effect I think we did hit a lecture on the uh the 130 taking off um whether that was because we were bombarded I'd like to think so but I couldn't swear to uh the Argentine's had engaged us but they believed I think we were an arrow p because every all their fires seemed to go high and wide yeah for sure also grateful okay and uh moving on to the to to the next one uh moving on then uh there was various sort of buckles and forwards between the ships because uh everybody needed a base to jump from to to go do various things various ships have been uh engaged damage or sunk um so there was lots of movement all the time with the helicopters in the Atlantic conveyor um going down it was obviously a great sort of restriction on what could be a complete air wise so the Wessex fives on the ships um integral helicopter as well excuse me were uh were well overworked I think uh and probably went past all their manufacturers regions and hours and the pilots and air crew likewise um landing craft work were always in the water there was always somebody going somewhere the forkland sound was probably the busiest seaport in the world at that time I think there was a group there's just never nothing going on added to which there was also uh air attacks coming on all the time uh we'd get limited warning as well because they come from uh the west from Argentina so they'd have the bulk of west forkland before they got to forkland sound um I know there was some sf further over there but from them being able to see these aircraft and reporting them to them actually arrive in on task or on site very little time the radar's um from the ships likewise limited just by the geographical features you know between them and the enemy coming in and the enemy were coming in really low I mean you can't doubt their airmanship and admire it to a certain extent but um yeah we were I think we went back to fearless um when we're on fearless fearless had HMS arrow parked next to it so she was off a starboard quarter the ramp was down and fearless was she was docked up at the time I remember but the ramp was still down an arrow airing warning red came in arrow started firing the four five gun on the front four five gun reasonably designed as an anti aircraft weapon anyway very effective at it very low flat trajectory um but she was pumping out rounds one every couple of seconds all of you's there burst all of a sudden there was no mighty crum from from beyond the bow um an arrow basically it's um I think fearless had fired one of her sea wolves a big panor sea cats towards this incoming Argentine aircraft the aircraft had sort of tried to steer out the wave but then stood straight into the gun line of arrows gun and basically blew himself up um I'm only laughing because sea cat was so ineffective it was like watching fireworks on the fifth of November you know and you're in more danger from sea cat when you were assured than any aircraft was is it just run out of fuel and then it would just go but also um sea cat was lying of sight so the operators focused on the aircraft and as each trying to guide the missile onto the aircraft you know the aircraft might fly past under the ship the sea cats never gonna catch it anyway but all of a sudden there's an enormous ship in the way and I know the Nolen had a very narrow escape from a sea cat going over a stern I think but um yeah all sorts going on air raid one in reds all the time whenever there wasn't airway air raid one in red everybody would grab small arms and go up on on the top deck because every little help as far as we were concerned and also nobody went to me down below anywhere if ships were getting bombed and sunk um I was a battle over the air raid and I've already done three years on agent was bullwalk so I was quite familiar with ships and quite comfortable on them for me it was more the fact that you could go up and potentially do something as opposed to just sitting down below and not being able to do anything yeah and I think a lot of people felt like that as well agent was Klymouth yeah same sort of thing she'd come under air attack and again one would been on her coming back uh after we'd been picked up one morning if there was an air raid one in red everybody took their small arms up so it was a universal thing any ground troops out well on board went above but went on the top decks with their weapons um we did spend a couple of days on Lancelot I think next and Lancelot was the the SF um support ship at that time so they were they were hosting many SF patrols we went on board and the place was had already been bombed so as you went down the um the main passage way to the the dining hall there was a big bomb hole up on one side to the bulkhead and a corresponding bomb hole lower down on the other side of the bulkhead and it obviously passed through the passage that was quite amusing um yeah it didn't go off that bomb did it fortunately no it didn't no it didn't when Lancelot when it came under air attack was was bizarre he probably won the most protectorships I think because with all the SF on there they are stingers um GP and G's all sorts of weapons so you were fighting for room at the guardrail if there was an air raid one in red then you have to make sure that you know you won't still be on somebody with a stinger and then you had a two boaf as a flight deck likewise so yeah she bristled like a headshot Lancelot if there was an air raid I think from there we went to operation brewers arms next um by this time everybody had pushed forward um and Stanley was essentially ringed I think by that stage what we didn't need was the Argentines interfering as we were heading west on the main axis of advance uh the Argentines interfering from the north or the south I think the south had been cleared uh anyway um since the debark with Tristan I think SF had cleared the south anyway so we correspondingly went to clear the north so north of Stanley north of Barkley Sound which is a huge waterway up sticks into east walk and from the east there was supposed to be a radar station up there a nonsevation post and there was supposed to be another side and I can't remember what kind of side it was we were dropped off by sea kings we made our way to an LUP and I couldn't honestly say where it was but it was somewhere to the north of Barkley Sound anyway it's a huge blank area you'll see on the map if you have one from there patrols were put out um to clear the area whatever the positions the Argentines had there and it was obviously that they had them there they'd been withdrawn by then so it was it was probably as they were drawing back and consolidating in Stanley they'd moved about from there so essentially I think we spent about six days of there about a week um and the patrols didn't come across any live enemy anywhere only evidence of them having been there in the past that was quite a long bore in time to be quiet on where there was particularly bad not know it's memorable uh in my mind only for a couple of things one of which was I think the Argentines knew we were up there um we were using HF at the time which I think they were already listening to anyway we were using codes so the information they were going to get we'd have been gone by the time they had managed to decode it if they did we were communicating back to fearless as they had quadrushyp um bearing in mind we're now on the the east side of east forklund she's still on the western side of east forklund so she's 40 50 kilometers away and we're trying we're trying to go you know contact her via HF via whips um because there's no well literally you could put up a wire antenna or a skywave antenna um so it was quite difficult voice became so difficult at one stage that um I became the signaler because I was the only one who could do most quick enough and we actually resorted back to morse so we send in morse code messages to fearless as opposed to voice um but it did it got through and it worked um the reason morse works is because voice takes up a bandwidth uh which I think is something i've won point six kilos from our remember uh for a single side band and three killers for a double side band which is usually you um UHF but morse morse is just an interruption of the actual carry wave so it's on off on off so you've got all the power behind that one tiny bandwidth as opposed to trying to push out voice at this bandwidth which obviously take course point in power so by virtue of that morse will go further so the sb signal could do morse but been a sailor i could do more so much much faster that was the reason i was doing it um by myself the sb commander uh humic man as my boss and the sb signaler were all in a tent dug into a a peed bank and surrounded and calmed out and when we took the tent down at the end it was actually sat in a couple of inches of water so we were quite lucky that the ground sheet was actually waterproof prior to that uh we'd all been separated a couple of huge peed bank features i don't if you've been to the foreklands or not if you if you're cognizant of the topography yeah i know yeah it's um it's very similar to northern scotland um slightly different in that there's a lot more sort of peed outcropping so uh it's almost as if you've got some flat ground and then a part of it's just been lifted up a meter or two so it's vertical around the side the same grass on the top as is in the surrounded area but it's just like a peak cliff if you like surrounded it uh be like raw rain but smaller um sounds like the shetland islands to me um as you say northern scotland yeah yes yes similar to that but um yeah i'm the easiest way to sort of dig yourself in is just to go straight into the bank leave as much of the top in place as possible and then just have a little sort of cubby hole or shelf and just get yourself in there and then the stuff that's overhang will take you from there you can put you could a couple of peed blocks from elsewhere and stick them in front and you're invisible um i'd done this once uh we never operated during the day so it was only at night we got out tamed it all up again if we needed to took out the uh the stuff that had blim blown away or dried out put new stuff there just made sure it was still invisible before first light and then you were stuck in there for the day again um but at one one day uh one of the SP guys walked straight over the top of mine and fell through it and we only it was getting light of that very little time to patch it up but um it was uh yeah that was quite memorable because i'm lying in my sleeping bag he's on top of me for his whole peet everywhere and all times up in the come that was like what are you doing oh so you knew i was out been in the same place always like three or four days anyway give me out to patch you know it was no dub it's done but yeah that was quite funny um yeah and it was to be honest it was just a relief to get out of there because it was a long boring time after fanning head and fox bay it wasn't even welcome relief it was because with fanning heads and fox bay uh and i hope it doesn't sound warm hungry because it's not but you wanted to be doing something and you wanted to be you want you wanted some action and excited if you i'm allowed you i'm in naiv to to still enjoy it but the long periods of boredom that people were often remarkled in in combat that was definitely one of those you were always sort of um you're always on on tentacles because you never sure you know where the enemy are if they're going to come and find you and certainly i know one of the sp positions as a helicopter hovered over it which blew quite a lot of its cam off luckily the aircrew didn't see it and moved off but um yeah i mean you weren't involved in anything but you still not switched off if you see one of me yeah how long did uh operation bruise arms uh i was about a week from i remember yeah one a week okay so we're getting close to the end now obviously uh Steve what what what what any other any other dramatic moments um we went to from there we went to um the last uh op that we were on which was bigel ridge yeah a bigel ridge is a feature it's about six kilometers north of Stanley uh we had overwatch off Stanley so by this stage we're closing in there's a rigging steel if you like around around Stanley, month and two sisters that they've all been done, Sanpa Hill I think tumble down probably been done by then as well or close towards yeah we had overwatch of Stanley and we were using various ships over what was supposed to have been a six day period but in actual fact ended up as ten days um yeah basically engaging Argentine positions around Stanley so on bigel ridge itself bigel ridge is a long narrow ridge of rocky outcrops perhaps 80 meters wide uh and perhaps two two hundred meters long something like that, difficult to judge because it's one ridge you know there's a saddle case onto another ridge and so on so forth so to actually delineate a particular area has been that is bigel ridge but um certainly within that area there were I think most of C squadron esps there was a part of G squadron I think or D squadron came up halfway through and they were in there and then we were in there as well so you have something like well over a hundred odd people all SF or attached all in that one tiny area which is mostly rock and all completely visible to anybody it was um looking back on it now it was they were the epitome of sort of SF soldiers if you like nobody operated during the day apart from the OP and the OP was sheltered and and calmed out and had to because obviously we're engaging targets but um anywhere else during the day you could walk straight through the middle of that position and you wouldn't see anything at all it was it was great um and certainly we were learning all the time and that's still bitterly bitterly cold frost on in the ground all the time and the wind in the foglands is is almost constant even when it's sunny you can still be cold much like scolan sheltered like you say um for the wind is almost incessant um we had an LUP uh down in the middle of the the ridge between a couple of the sort of um between a couple of the rocky outcrops um I was with Tim Bedford we were side by side squeezed together through necessity not because we were at the very close um desnixin was basically where my feet ended was where his head was and again we've got partial rock outcrop in Stanley's this side so we'll protect him from any fire coming that way as well the OP likewise uh I do have some pictures of the OP and various other places well but the OP likewise was between two narrow rock features looking out over Stanley we did at one stage half counter battery fire uh they knew we were there anyway and it didn't help that uh one of the um the orders in the sack uh basically asked us uh if we were still north of the settlement but in the mind that Stanley was the only settlement that was in Argentine hands um yeah the next thing was some one five fives are a wicking in our way we're very well protected we're on the backslope from Stanley anyway I did find lots of big splinters there some years later when I went back so we worked quite lucky because he's running a few meters away from the OP and from where we were um but mostly it was just the noise and the reverberation uh and a couple of rickishays you could hear but nothing major um Stanley yeah a bigel ridge we were supposed to be up there for six days so we'd take him rations for six days and then emergency rations obviously for another 24 uh in the end we're up there for 10 days um packing a bovral powder you know you're the soldier sister for it because everybody was starving at the end and we couldn't get a resupply because with the the final push on Stanley everything was involved in that um so yeah we were people that have little things are they've forgotten about the bottom of their pouch you know a sachet and milk powder or something like that but basically I don't think we had anything to eat for the last two or three days almost. Stanley it's off the one five five positions were uh down at the the old race course uh to the west of Stanley uh we engaged those a couple of times and um I'm not saying it's amusing but one of the things that sticks out is that the the Argentines would man their guns um begin firing we would then engage the guns with NGS fuse VT high again so proximity um the gun crews had all run away perhaps not as many as were there initially um the firing would then cease they would go back and run their guns we'd fire on them again uh and there was no way that they could actually counter battery fire the ships because the ships are obviously mobile the ships are a well off to the east um they were in range of a one five five but there's no way you're going to hit a moving target like that so the ships were they were safe at least from counter battery fire not from things like Exisset and the were ground or land launched Exisset available to Stanley um and certainly I think Lomorgan was engaged and she took uh I think uh an Exisset yeah um anyway the uh yeah we would just we would engage uh all the various Argentine positions there at the airfield and various other positions around Stanley the one five one oh five's from two nine command arrangement are also uh online by this stage they're in close support usually to the troops are advancing from the west so although we did fire them on occasion most of the time we spent firing the ships um for comparison the market gun um which was the the predominant gun down there it was on all the 21s and it was on all the 42s um so that was originally an anti aircraft weapon the shell weighs 46 pounds uh versus a 105 shell which is 35 pounds the rate of fire of the market is nominally at least if it works because it's a fully automatic gun the rate of fire is 24 rounds a minute so what you've been putting down is is 1100 pounds of explosive ordnance on a target per minute six guns in a 105 battery with a 35 pound shell if they were firing on rate five one around every ten or so seconds which is actually quite fast for a gun position the normal rate of fire of a 105 battery is rate three so rate five is when you step it up uh and they by can put would essentially produce the same amount on the ground i think there's a slightly less ours was 1104 pounds for the naval ship and 1150 pounds for the 105 battery um it's not an exact comparison because the naval shells are thicker walls and have slightly less explosive content but they have a greater range so the 105s can fire for uh past 20 one and a half kilometers will think where the naval guns will stretch out to to 27 an absolute maximum so um both very effective both different in their own ways gun position obviously fixed ship able to maneuver and one of the the big advantages of a ship is that you can fire from a flank when you don't actually possess any any real estate and that was one of the great things about the four guns was because they were islands and surrounded by sea you could literally deploy a ship overnight and be on the opposite side of the tz to do destruction or harassment or a demonstration or spiteful psychological warfare yeah so for as a weapon system um less for aircraft probably the most effective weapon system down there for for utility i think was probably the the NGS and the ships obviously carry uh you know with their anti aircraft armament they were invaluable and certainly we learned a lot of lessons down there how to use it what not to do but you're only as good as your last war you know a lot of those lessons that they've been lost as they usually are great staff Steve um so so coming well obviously we were virtually at the end as i had it how did the how did the operts um that final operat on Beagle Ridge End we could uh well we're looking at um sapa hill which is just outside stally to the east uh i'm not sure who was a soldier i think it might be in the gerkers but we could see from our perspective uh we could see troops moving up the the right hand flank as we're looking at it and the Argentines we're treating down the left hand flank so that was because sapa hill from from where looking we're looking from the north is almost like a conical feature we could literally say people go up one side and other people going down the other the other notable things i think were uh again it was the powers that were coming around to the north to to where we were so again the the white arm bands and white bandanas came out looking on stally we we find an awful lot of ammunition from a lot of ships and it was every single night so the Argentines and i'd say the civilian population bless them but the Argentines were suffering they knew it was you know the end game if you like but there was no respite from them and it didn't matter where they were by that stage because stally's right on the coast the ships can reach anywhere so the only danger really uh towards the end was we couldn't engage the western most targets because we'd be firing directly towards our own forces coming from the west so the targets towards the end we had to move towards the airfield end of stally so the eastern end of stally and targets to the south yeah south east because our own troops were advancing on stally from the west so our far we had to move the coordinate the four five gun as a low flap trajectory so accordingly on the ground it's beaten zone is that much longer so with artillery mortars you can effectively use an artillery gun as a howitzer which will fire in a high angle and come down and the the actual error probability is small like a circle whereas the naval gun it's a single charge so you can't reduce the charge at all it's always firing on charge super so you're always going to get the maximum beaten zone on the ground so therefore you've got to move your targets further away from your own troops wasn't an issue at that stage because the 105's from 29 commander were there they're supporting all the guys doing the final attack so we can engage targets elsewhere to make sure nobody else interferes or they're not reinforced from elsewhere so the utility still lasts until the end when we're on bigel ridge we did see some some argined tine aircraft they were coming from the west we radioed in as an air raid warning red I think there were four mirages came over from these they flew to the west towards the fleet I don't know if we were the first people to warn the fleet of it or not but um about 15 minutes later something like that one of them flew back I don't know after the other three but we were all hoping that you know we'd scored so yeah there was some in valuing us been there because we gave eyes over Stanley to the rest of the fleet that weren't no that weren't necessarily available to the guys off to the west because they're looking at Stanley's a long low town it's a linear town along an estuary so as they're looking at it along the long access and we're looking at it from the side if you like so we can see much more than they can as well so intervisibility wise we had more eyes or we could see more of Stanley than anybody else could and obviously we we were there covertly so we're not having to watch out for the enemy as well and give ourselves away by exposing ourselves or anything well you Steve at this time you're aware of the there was apparently there was an Arab made by one of the ships and in in its gunfire and it actually killed three three civilians in in or around Port Stanley do you remember that incident or anything about that? I remember the boss who really shook up about it afterwards I'm not sure it was an error by the ship to be quite honest I think it was just as I'm telling you about the the low flak trajectory and the long beaten zone of the weapon yeah from memory and I might be rocking check but from memory we were firing somewhere down by the gun position to the west of Stanley so the rounds were actually going over Stanley or over part of Stanley the nickname the artillery of the drop short as you probably know so I think on this occasion it was just unlucky in that wall around landed a little bit short yeah and it killed three civilians including I think the vet's wife we knew about this when we got picked up from Beagle Ridge and we were back on board the boss he went in his cabin he was he wasn't inconsolable but he was obviously deeply affected by it you know we couldn't really console him but I don't think it was an Arab by the ship or it was an Arab by the boss it was just the characteristic of the weapon system I think you got it's not something you can describe blame to I don't think because the nature of indirect fire is that it's indirect and therefore it's it's subject to so many variables you know differences in air pressure the ship is actually moving in 3D I mean a gun platform that's moving in 3D is synchronized fair enough but it's still firing at a fixed target you know 20 miles away or 10 miles away rather it's yeah it's just one of those things what we found out about you we were affected by it yeah but by that stage I think you just very pragmatic about it you know it's really unfortunate would we have filed on that particular target if we'd known they were I don't even know where they were in relation to the target to be quite honest and the civilian population you know where they are on the ballot I don't honestly know but the fact that there were three casualties among civilians yeah deeply affected especially the boss it didn't take the gloss off but you know we would have had those three lives back rather than anything else we'd done yeah we we would take it all back just just have those three people yeah yeah yeah okay thanks Stephen and when you talk about the boss of course you're talking about human manners aren't you yeah yeah he's a yeah he's a great guy he's a bit of a musician at the moment and plays in the band he's got all sorts of jethro told him he's got a no longer a hair the big gray beard you know can't we wish yeah I mean I'm a child of the eighty so I'm more you know disco and stuff but yeah I'm sure some people like joy yeah any any other last yeah the last thoughts um Steve I don't know get you from there we we essentially we were picked up from there and went back to I think fearless we were hoping because we'd been we'd basically been attached to to C squad and throughout that we'd go back with them because they were flying back special means special so they were flying back from four guns in the end we got put on camera and we sailed the back now so that wasn't popular but um yeah nothing nothing related to the four guns from then I don't think the um when we got back on fearless everybody had bought their own kit I don't know if you're aware but lots of people have their own kit so people had go down army navy stores the people had had some stuff that they'd managed to cobble together or keep from various Arctic training I thought it'd be a good idea to buy a pair of dutch paraboot because they were fleece lined and high leg uh this is in the days when we were still putties and short ankle boots um in the end they were absolutely terrible because as soon as they got wet they just turned into potsables yeah we went back uh I think we went back on landslok but um so we went back to landslok from there uh we decided that uh we'd go ashore off to uh to Ajax Bay because we'd heard that there was a couple of warehouses there that had lots of margit them so we were going to um I was going to get a new pair of boots um when ashore the uh the boot neck provis for there they wouldn't let anybody in I showed them you know my masking taped two cups on my boots no still can't get in there you know you're looters and you'd be shot and all right you know you've been sat on board ship somewhere you've just arrived and there was a bit of resentment there because they were they were obviously wrenf's and they were they seemed to be big up in it you know this is our time now and we're it just didn't rub with us so um we were getting a little bit sort of uh well I was getting a little bit aggravated so um we decided to know with uh we'd see if there was somewhere else we could go we remembered that Fox Bay had a lot of people there um obviously we'd been there in a previous occasion so we decided we'll go down the LS um see the the LS officer and see if we get in the helicopter to go to Fox Bay we told the boss we only got a couple hundred yards to eight juxtapace so we thought we'd better keep it quiet when don't see the um the guy there he said uh I've got nothing going to Fox Bay but I've got a shinnook going to Stanley in a minute so he said yeah well can we get three places on there he said yeah you can but you love to help out with all the stores and they were taking boxes of ten mun rations to Stanley so we loaded up the shinnook and it was loaded more or less you couldn't squeeze in uh we managed to squeeze in round the side of it with a couple other people took off landed at the race course we then unloaded all the rations and then we went down through Stanley for a bit of a wander by this stage the powers were in Stanley with bundinooka bundinooka a couple of people that had met on p company actually so that was quite nice um then we went round all the positions see what we could find um lots of weapons everywhere everybody picking bayonets and you know helmets that sort of thing there was a HQ building that they'd uh put in a garage in the middle of Stanley and the engineers were slowly going forward because the Argentines had actually set booby traps on some of the things um this place was full of new kit and lots of crates of Argentine stuff so we were at the door when one of the sappers called us back said don't go in there as we're cleared desnix and went up there was an Argentine helmet on the floor and he just kicked it as far as he could across the the warehouse and he said well looks alright to me anyway the engineer buggered off because he wanted nothing to do with it we got a load of helmets and stuff then we went down by the airports picked up a couple other stuff a couple other bits of pieces um I got an Argentine commando berry an Argentine green commando berry with a commando shield on it which I've still got and from that made our way back to the race course we picked up a couple of Argentine kit bands with stuff and full of weapons and helmets and baynets and took them back to guys on board and the boss um when we got on the to the uh to the race course LS told him where we wanted to go and they said there's a west six coming in a minute that can take you as far as eight jacks bait so we thought fair enough we'll pick our boot up um in the end when we got on there we had a word with the air crew and we said look you know you've got a fly pass fearless is there any chance of a touchdown and we can jump out so you did you organize that pilot to a standoff fearless we went back on board went saw the boss give him his booty uh he was still I think visibly affected uh and he was very much keeping himself to himself at that state um after that we just cleaned up got everything sorted handed out some of the presents some of the gizzards and then transferred to camera for the trip well that was Steve holland giving an extraordinary personal testimony have his time on operations with special forces in the faultlands goodbye