Like most of the men on this journey, he didn’t know what to expect. What would the islands be like?
The men had never heard of them before, let alone been there. The answer was the islands were cold. They were desolate. They were empty. They had an enemy dug in the hills that were going to try to kill them.
This was the Falklands War in 1982.
He didn’t know the enemy. Fellow men. Thinking what they were doing was the right thing, just like Vince thought what he was doing was the right thing.
There probably wasn’t going to be a football match like during the First World War. In 1914 there was a Christmas truce. British and German soldiers both came out into no man’s land and kicked a football around together.
Then they went back to their trenches and prepared to kill one another again. Truces like that aren’t seen anymore.
Back to the Falklands.
The men were told they were to take Mount Longdon. After the safe landing, this meant marching. Marching in horrendous weather. It was cold. It was snowing at night.
Their feet were constantly wet.
They were frozen.
It was painful to march, but march they did. Their boots were not up to the job of keeping them dry. Vince would spend a long time banging his feet together to get some feeling back into them. He blocked out the pain.
When he started marching the pain wore off a little. Until they were wet again. Then he was back to square one.
Reaching the Target
It took four hours to reach Mount Longdon from their overnight base. Bramley was fire support for this war. That mean big guns and lots of ammo. It’s heavy stuff to carry. Even more so in these conditions. The enemy was dug in well on Mount Longdon though.
This would be a tough battle to win. Vince and some others headed forward on the flank to try and get a view of enemy positions.
There was an enemy sniper. He had night vision goggles. The Paras didn’t. The sniper was shooting anything that moved which made moving incredibly dangerous.
As they reached a bank they were stuck there. The sniper had them pinned down. Some rockets and guns were set up ready to go heavy on the enemy position. The heavy fire would hopefully let other Paras take the hill.
The enemy was dropping artillery on their positions. Men were dying. Some badly wounded and crying for help. It was hell.
If they put down enough heavy fire at one time they would hopefully get him. Other lads were going to be making an attack for the bunkers.
They fired rockets and opened up with the guns. A massive amount of fire was put down on the enemy positions. Then it was quiet. The sniper still took the odd pot shot though. They hadn’t got him.
It seemed the bunkers were cleared. The men pushed on through a small gap to clear the bunkers.
Hand to Hand Fighting
With bayonets attached, they fought hand to hand with some Argies that survived the onslaught. Bodies were everywhere. Enemy bodies and friendly bodies. His friends. Grenades were thrown into bunkers at close range to kill any remaining enemy. Many were killed with bayonets.
The true horror of what they experienced cannot really be put into words. Bramley tried. He’s written a few books. Excursion to Hell is what I’ve just read and it blew me away.
After the fighting, they were making their way to another location. They were going to be fighting again. Word came in that the Argies had surrendered and a sigh of relief went through the men. Although being hyped up and ready to fight is good, to not have to fight is better. No more lives were to be lost to the enemy.
Marching into Stanley
The men marched into Stanley and set up camp in some houses. There they guarded prisoners who were cleaning the area.
They tried to fix their feet and they rested, having hot food and drinks without the danger of bombs landing on them. Looting some Argie bunkers and positions for food and equipment was high on the list at first. They broke into one shed and saw clothing and food one side and weapons on the other. They didn’t need any weapons so they took the other bits and left.
Turned out there was a huge booby trap bomb rigged to the weapons. If they had lifted a few guns or grenades they probably would’ve been blown to pieces.
He stopped taking risks after that. He didn’t see the need. He spent more time thinking of family. Thinking of the men that had died over the previous days fighting. The men that wouldn’t be going home.
I recommend you read Excursion to Hell if you want to read a story about courage. About danger. About struggle. They’re all heroes. Nobody wants to fight in wars. Not many people anyway. War is hell.