As time has gone by, many writings have covered the SAS in the Falklands conflict…but none have mentioned this incident in a patrol that I was part of back in those days of 82.
After parachuting into high seas off the Falkland Islands, after a long journey in the back of a C130, after 2 air refuelings (which was still very much in it’s infancy back then), and having taken off from Ascention Island hours and hours before…we were picked up by small craft from a larger mothercraft as part of the Royal Navy fleet. This was the longest flight in British military history with an operational manned parachute drop at the end of it, followed by the C130’S return journey.
When I hit the water I thought I’d never be picked up. Not only could I not see the small craft there to pick us up, I couldn’t see my buddies or even the mothercraft. The swell was huge, this was no training exercise, otherwise the jump would never take place…this was real and scary stuff. After about 10 to 12 minutes a Lynx helicopter swooped very low over my head, I was rising and sinking in the high swell, close up to the heli one second, then dropping away from it the next…and less than a few minutes later…rescued.
Before we all knew it we were aboard the mothercraft and I was throwing down a large T bone steak, chips, peas…and a piping hot brew, followed by excusing myself from the ship’s crew and my pals and chucking the lot up. Being a salty sea dog on the high seas was never my strong point, even though I was a member of Amphibious Troop.
Anyway, we were a small team of 6 men, with the aim to work up with two great SBS lads (I have to say that, they’re mates, and will be reading this) and an O Class submarine. Then go on and attack the Argentine mainland (it’s all been written about years ago). The idea was that after the work up, we’d go onto the mainland and the SBS coxwains would return the boats to the sub, so that the two boats couldn’t be found by the enemy. Sinking or caching them just wasn’t an option.
During the work up we had been abducted by one of the Squadrons to go on ops with them. As always there is never enough lads to go around, and this op was paramount to a larger multi layered infantry operation. After having our bit of fun, we returned to our work up training. We spent days on the sub (O Class diesel), we’d float on and off with our boats practicing getting onto the narrow casing of the sub, and back off again…splitting the boats up and taking them and the engines and fuel bags on board within the least amount of time. We’d float off, head for a tiny island (some were populated with Argentinian patrols), then call the sub back into us, get out to it, float onto the casing back out at sea, break up the boats and into the sub…all within a few minutes. This was all done at night, sometimes in bad conditions, with very little moon light if any between the clouds.
On one such occasion ( never written about), we’d gone onto a small island. We were waiting on the beach for the submarine to surface, and the SBS coxwains to come in with the 2 Gemini craft.
We were lying on a pebbled beach with sand dunes to our left, right and rear. We lay in a defensive line with one leg linked over the leg of the lad next to us, and so on. The idea being that we would communicate by kicks of the leg to each other.
All of a sudden there’s a kick from the lad to my right…all eyes are on our arcs. A low whisper from my right calls “stand by”…I receive a kick for every time the enemy is seen. One…two…three…four… fuck how many more?
The sea is shimmering, the waves are crashing onto the beach to our front…and the partial moon can be seen periodically between the heavy clouds blowing quite fast above us. So the light fades in an instant, it’s pitch black, followed by the ability to see at least a wee bit.
We’re now up to 14 kicks of the leg and climbing. Shit, an Argie patrol, maybe getting towards platoon size…or maybe even bigger?
We’re going to have to fight our way out of this one for sure!
The wind is on our side, coming from the direction of the enemy grouping.
I hear someone say ” what’s that smell, it’s fuckin stinking?” “Shhh, they’re heading our way!”…another low tone from my right side.
It’s freezing cold, a biting wind…all of a sudden I can see heads, then heads and shoulders, then bodies…lots and lots of bodies heading along the beach, from our right flank and between the sand dunes along the beach…heading straight towards us. Pretty soon they’ll walk straight into us.
My heart is thumping against my dry suit, it’s even thumping against my belt kit and thumping the pebbles on the beach.
“Ha ha ha ha no fuckin waaay!” I hear to my right…”ha ha ha…they’re fuckin penguins…fuckin penguins, ha ha ha!!!!!”
Even the penguins let out that noise like only penguins can do…like they’re now laughing at us!
After rolling around giggling like a group of naughty school kids, we gather ourselves as now the sub is ready!
On we went with our build up training within a war zone.
The evening that we approach the mainland…the Argentinians surrendered. They obviously heard that we were coming.
After the Falklands Conflict, the O Class submarine came into it’s south of England port, proudly flying the “skull and crossbones” to show that it had carried out a handful of SF operations during the campaign.
Many years later, I would see the picture passed around by ex submariners on the internet. They were proud to show it…I was proud to see it, because deep down I know…that if those penguins had ever rumbled us, we would have won the ensuing firefight!