Secretary’s Report 8th March 2022

The meeting was opened by Chairman Peter Wilson expressing his horror at the present inhumane onslaught in Ukraine by their Russian neighbours and reminding us of our charitable collection now in progress. Member Neil Ramshaw also drew attention to some alternate charities such as “TYPE ONE STYLE” who have temporarily diverted their whole internet business in diabetic products towards supplying those in need in Ukraine.

On arrival, members were greeted with an intimidating display of army kit, survival supplies, weaponry assembled by one Sergeant Chris Tapster, formerly a member of the 45 Commando Royal Marines. How he got up Otley Road without being stopped by one of those police vans is surprising. By pure chance, he was with us today to recount the events 40 years ago when Argentine forces landed in the Falklands and claimed sovereignty.

Observing Chris from my second-row seat, I was very much reminded of Windsor Davies of “Green Grass of Home” fame. However, my dreams were interrupted by the strident bark of Sergeant Chris testing his vocal chords. Thus reminding me that National Service instills a set of rules, duties and exercises that eventually knock you into the approved shape and fit you out for one on one combat. Such was Chris’ campaign visit to the East Falklands in 1982.

Hostilities began in South Georgia where the UK had stationed 20 Marines. The Argentinians Special Forces attempted to land under the guise of contractors removing a whaling station. The Marines were not taken in by this, took them all prisoner, and then sank their vessel. However, a follow-up by a larger Argentinian force successfully forced a surrender on 3rd April.

At the same time, a heavily armed force of around 100 Argentinians landed near Port Stanley on East Falkland and moved to secure a safe landing area for over 1000 more troops. This battle force then engaged with the 68 resident British Marines who retreated to defend Government House. After several skirmishes, they were ordered to surrender by Gov. Rex Hunt under the sheer force of numbers. So the Argentinians had successfully cemented their long-disputed claim to these South Atlantic islands.

Margaret Thatcher was filled with horror to see British Marines face down in surrender and vowed to return the Falklands to a British Administration at the earliest possible moment. Thus the counter-invasion, Operation Corporate, was put into effect in the UK whilst the Argentinians began to flood the islands with planeloads of fresh troops.

The true watershed event of the Falklands War came on May 21 when Royal Marine Commando Brigades conducted an amphibious landing near the settlement of San Carlos. Encountering only light opposition upon landing, the brigades 4,000 troops moved quickly to expand the beachhead and commence offensive operations. Although that part of the operation went well, Argentine aircraft responded with a series of devastating attacks against the Royal Navy warships supporting the force ashore.

After landing in St Carlos Bay via Ascension Island Sergeant Chris with 45 Commando Brigade began to push-out from the invasion beaches with the ultimate goal of conducting a direct assault against Stanley 50 miles away. With the almost total absence of roads or landmarks, moving the assault force into position around Stanley presented the British with an enormous challenge. The original plan called for the troops to be flown across the island, but almost all of the helicopters that were supposed to do the job went down with the Atlantic Conveyor. There was no alternative but to load up their gear and “Yomp” across the difficult soft terrain in cold and wet conditions.

Sergeant Chris took time out to show us the way he got kitted out for this Yomp. Starting with boots with ankle straps, anoraks with numerous pockets, body belts with pouches stuffed with supplies, back pack with tent, sleeping bag etc etc Carrying everything from ammunition to daggers to rations and first aid, even a condom! (For storing water of course!). Then to the weapons, either an Enfield rifle, a Sterling sub-machine gun, a self-loading rifle (SLR), or a pistol. Altogether, a 40kg load for each man.

Arriving within 3 miles of their objective the force spent almost a week reconnoitering all sides of Two Sisters, a 1000 ft high mountain that was the key to defensive positions around Stanley.  Their patrols frequently engaged with the enemy. But such encounters allowed them to locate their positions and plan the final assault. On 11th and 12th June they fought and won the highly successful and fierce night battle for Two Sisters leading to the swift capitulation of the Argentine forces and the return of the Islands to British Administration.

In thanking the speaker Chris Butterfield expressed his admiration for the courage, resilience and sacrifice of all those involved in this Campaign and for the insight into the Army way of life that his talk had generated.

The meeting closed with the news that the collection by Forum Members had registered a total of £175 for the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal by the Guardian Newspaper.

Next week’s speaker is Douglas Cossar who will help us in “Understanding the Germans”

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